Certification Corner - The Institute Of Internal Auditors  


1st Quarter
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Sharon T. Grant Sharon T. Grant, CIA, CRMA, CPA
Managing Director of Corporate Audits
United Airlines in Chicago, Illinois
President, The Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation 
  1. What prompted you to become a CIA? If you have other audit related certifications, why did you get the CIA and why is it different?  

    Having started in public accounting, I was already a CPA. My desire to attain the CIA was a combination of working in the internal audit function for a few years and my CAE, Steve Goepfert, leading by example as he sat for the exam and encouraging me to invest in the mark of excellence that would show the world that I valued my work enough that I would show proficiency in the profession.

    During this time, it was also the encouragement of the former IIA president, Bill Bishop  who spoke so emphatically at an IIA event about his passion for internal auditing and his encouragement for all of us to stand and say “I am proud to be an internal auditor.” And that we should show our commitment with the three letters, CIA. 
  2. How did you prepare for the exam? Did your organization fund your exam fees or preparation materials?

    I took the exam back when it was offered twice a year so I set a firm study regimen to pass the exam within a year. Starting two months prior to the exam, my colleagues and I gave up going out to lunch four days a week and sat quietly in a conference room to prepare using computer-based study guides and taking practice tests. 

    Yes, my organization’s corporate culture sets expectations for leadership in our fields and supports the investment in and attainment of the certification as well as our continuing education development. As such, I advise all internal auditors to take the time to invest in themselves and become a CIA because it is a reflection of excellence that represents our proficiency in our field. This brings confidence and credibility to our management and stakeholders of our competency in The IIA’s principles and standards. 
  3. How many of your colleagues are certified? 

    Ninety percent of our team is certified with either a CIA, CPA, or CISA. 
  4. What do you require for your staff in the way of certification, and why? 

    Yes, we expect our staff to actively pursue certification for all the reasons I’ve already stated. I share with my team that it is not just a requirement for our team but for their own personal growth and development. I firmly believe the discipline and rigor that the study of CIA requires helps define and shape the staff into stronger, more focused internal audit professionals. It also brings forth a heightened level of pride in themselves and in the profession which shows in their daily work.
  5. What motivated you to acquire the CRMA designation? 

    This is an exciting time to be in the internal audit profession, and a key driver of our role is assessing and evaluating risk. I felt acquiring the CRMA provides a level of assurance to our management, audit committee, and other stakeholders that affirms my experience and proficiency in this area. It was important for me to proactively acquire the designation through the Professional Experience Recognition period as it is bringing awareness to the depth of the value that we provide. 
  6. What value do you see in the CRMA, and would you recommend your team or others take the CRMA exam?

    Absolutely! I would recommend that audit professionals take the CRMA exam when it becomes available in July. I am a firm believer in being a lifelong learner and continually striving to elevate. As part of that elevation, the new Certification in Risk Management Assurance is a vital component that as internal auditors we remain reliable and relevant.

Sharon is the managing director of corporate audits at United Airlines, responsible for financial and operational audits. She joined Continental Airlines, which eventually merged with United, in 1993. She began her professional career at Coopers & Lybrand. Sharon is actively involved with The IIA at the international level, currently serving on the executive committee of the Board and President of The IIA Research Foundation. She has also served on the Academic Relations Committee and Professional Conferences Committee, along with various leadership roles at the chapter level. Sharon is a frequent speaker and trainer at various IIA, MIS and industry group conferences, roundtables and symposiums. Sharon also serves on the International Association of Airline Internal Auditors (IAAIA) Executive Committee and the DePaul University Internal Audit Education Program Advisory Board.