Taxicab Confessions

On the cab ride to the Seattle airport last week I had one of those cabbies who was a great conversationalist. He was not the type who forced his conversation on his fare, and he was not the type who babbled non-stop. There were pauses, there was give and take, there was recognition that we were both willfully engaging in the exchange – it was a conversation. 

We had roamed amongst topics – comparisons of our cities (there is much to compare and contrast between Phoenix and Seattle), the health and vitality of our parents, a little bit about politics (not enough to start any fights), the conditions of the roads. Then, three-quarters of the way through this pleasant passing of time on the rain-soaked roads of Seattle (are there any other kind) he asked me, “What do you do for a living?”

And here is my taxicab confession. After the pleasant exchanging of our lives, for some reason, I was ashamed to admit I was an internal auditor.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt a similar hesitation before. I have great pride in the profession and great pride in what I’ve achieved during my career. Very often, the question of what I do for a living is a jumping off point for an even better conversation. But there was something about this gentleman that made me think he would think less of me because of my profession. And, because it had been a good conversation, I cared what he thought of me.

I equivocated in my response, until I regained my footing and explained that internal audit was indeed a passion of mine. That, indeed, there was no way anyone should work in a profession for 28 years if they didn’t enjoy and believe in it. But there was that moment.

And I’ve been thinking about that reaction for quite a while.  I just don’t understand it. Everything I told him is true. I believe in internal audit.   I believe it is an important profession providing incredible value to the company. It is (dare I use the phrase) a passion of mine. If I did not care passionately about my role as an internal auditor I would be doing something else.

Yet, there was that moment...

I’m over it now. I am still happy to tell people my profession, and more than happy to tell them why it is important and how much I love the work I do. But, for a few seconds, there was a chink in the armor. 

Having made my confession, it’s time for yours. When asked, do you proudly indicate you work for internal audit? Have you ever wanted to shy away from that admission? How is it you explain what being an internal auditor really means? (By the way, we’ll be back to explore that last question next week.)

Posted on Jan 24, 2011 by Mike Jacka

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  1. Yeah I'll happily claim to be an internal auditor. Sometimes I'll add on a kind of a joke, like "Y'know, one of the FUN guys" with a smile. If the conversation goes deeper I like to point out that I'm not really in the 'policeman role' but see myself as someone who can really help management by providing an independent objective opinion. I think people easily see value in the latter.

  1. I am always hesitant to admit that I am an internal auditor for the simple reason that no one likes auditors; it is kind of a buzz kill.  

  1. C.F. - A friend of mine (Allen, if you're listening, tell the story) has made the same kind of comment to me.  His worst case scenario was when he was sitting next to a fighter pilot.  Guess to whom the conversation gravitated.  However, as penno indicates, if you can get past that first buzz kill (and that usually means talking quickly - "I'm an internal auditor and let me tell you what that means...") the conversations can get pretty good.  Unless you're next to a fighter pilot.

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