Computer auditing pioneer
Carol Hall failed one of the first computer auditing exams she ever took, miserably.
But it did not stop her from going on to establish a career in auditing and also co-found the Bermuda chapter of the computer auditing educational group, Isaca.
She took that first exam through Isaca, which will tomorrow stage its Going Digital conference at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club.
Ms Hall was working in the operational audit department at Butterfield Bank at the time.
“It was multiple choice, but the answers were so close, you had to really know what you were doing or just guess,” she said.
She had to take the exam again, which was a real nuisance because it wasn't offered in Bermuda. “You had to go up to Boston,” she said.
Taking the exam meant plane and hotel expenses, and was also time consuming.
When she returned home she engaged a colleague, Onesimus Nzabalinda, to help her set up an Isaca Bermuda chapter, which launched in January 1997.
The aim was to sponsor local educational seminars and workshops, conduct regular chapter meetings, and help to further promote and elevate the visibility of the IS audit, control and security profession throughout the region.
Having a chapter on the island also meant exams could be taken locally.
“We did lunchtime classes, bringing in other business professionals to give us some information on computer work,” she said. “I basically got the LED machine. Everyone brought their lunch.”
Ms Hall always preferred to be in the background with Isaca, organising things.
She did much better the next time she took the exam, but missed passing by two points.
The outcome convinced her she was ready for a change. She left auditing altogether and became administrative secretary of the Bermuda Girl Guiding Association, a charity she has been deeply devoted to for 14 years.
“The first thing I did was computerise the office,” Ms Hall said cheerfully.
Meanwhile the organisation she helped to found has since grown from 14 members to 80.
Ms Hall first got into computer auditing when she entered the operational audit department at Butterfield Bank in 1981. She loved the job.
“I got to drive around to all the different bank branches,” she said.
Her job was to ferret out operational problems, glitches and deficiencies.
“No one wanted to see auditors coming, but we dealt fairly with people,” she said. “We gave them a fair report and treated them respectfully because we knew we had to go back the following year.”
She'd come into operational auditing after nine years in Butterfield's programming department where she'd learnt computer languages such as cobalt and basic assembly language.
“They were using these big mainframe computers at that time,” she said, “and punch cards”.
At the time, the bank's computer systems were generally audited by outside agencies.
When she entered operational audit, she asked her supervisor if she and another staff member with computer experience, Sarath Wikramanayake, could incorporate computer auditing into their operational function.
Regular in-house computer audits gave the bank more control.
“You could stop things from going wrong,” she said. “You could stop collusion or whatever. You could put in basic controls, and you could also dig a little deeper.”
It was here that she had her first contact with Isaca. She and her colleague reached out to them for computer programmes to use in the audit.
“We had booklets and all sorts of things to write computer programmes,” she said. “So when we went auditing, we knew what to look for. We knew all the little tricks of the trade that programmers used.”
She and Mr Wikramanayake started training the other operational staff to be able to spot problems in the computer system.
Ms Hall never found any million-dollar errors, but she did once spot a problem with an investment interest calculation.
“I didn't understand it, and went to the financial section of our auditing department and they went through it and found there was a problem,” she said.
Isaca's Going Digital conference will be held tomorrow between 8.30am and 5.30pm. David Burt, the Premier, will speak at the conference.
• Admission is $300 for members, and $350 for non-members. Student admission is $100. Tickets can be purchased at www.ptix.bm or by contacting programs@Isacabermuda.com to pay by wire transfer