Rick Avent began his career as an engineer. After a decade of working in software development, he decided to go back to school for his MBA and pivot his career into consulting. Rick joined Protiviti Dallas as a Sr. Consultant in the IT Audit practice in 2005, eventually leaving as a Sr. Manager in 2011. He is now a Sr. Manager of IT Audit at Raytheon. Connect with Rick on LinkedIn.
What had the biggest impact on you at Protiviti?
Protiviti really taught me how to be a consultant. I learned how to deal with clients and in particular, to be able to talk to leadership at companies. I learned how to be professional and I learned skills as simple as how to present and how to lead meetings effectively.
It wasn’t like they sat me down and gave me a seminar; it was done through experience and opportunities. That experience has served me well ever since.
Being able to talk to leadership intelligently and being able to persuade them to do something is obviously a key factor in being successful. I credit Protiviti with teaching me that skill.
What did you learn at Protiviti that you took with you to your next role?
I learned the proper way to audit. That had never been taught to me before and Protiviti has really well-defined methodologies for audits. Since my time at Protiviti, I’ve noticed that all the good audit shops use a similar methodology. It’s that defined step-by-step kind of methodology that has really served me well in doing effective audits.
What do you do at Raytheon?
I started as a manager primarily managing IT audits. Now, as a senior manager, I get to manage more of the overall function of IT audit. I’m responsible for identifying and understanding risk, communicating with senior leadership and getting their perspective on risk in problem areas. It’s an enjoyable role because I get to shape and determine the type of audits we do, rather than just execute them.
Sometimes, even though no audit is planned, management will reach out to my team for advice on how best to remedy a risk problem or to ask a question about how to comply with one of the numerous government regulations that apply to defense contractors. This is very satisfying because, when this happens, you know you have gone beyond just being an auditor and are seen as a business partner by management.
What’s it like working for an almost 100 year-old defense company?
I love it. It’s what I was looking for. I spent a lot of my time at Protiviti helping clients establish processes. And that was fun, but eventually I wanted to join a more mature company with mature IT processes.
I think because we’re such an established company, the public perception of us, and other organizations in the defense industry, is that we’re a large manufacturing company. Yes, we’ve been around a long time and we are very large, but we really deal in technology. We are a high tech company with cutting edge technology. And that’s exciting.
Where do you see the future of IT assurance and security moving?
As we become more and more dependent on technology, IT Audit will become even more important than it is today.
If you look at even just one segment of industry – take transportation, for example. Even antiquated modes of transportation, like shipping or trains, have been fitted with digital electronics. But more automation and more information gathering means even more opportunity for bad actors to steal information or – even worse – to take control of something for a bad purpose.
IT auditors will play a role in finding those vulnerabilities before bad actors can. A lot of what we do is highly sensitive, so I can’t go into detail, but I am thinking about IT security daily.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I wish I had started at Protiviti earlier than I had! I think Protiviti is a great first career for anyone. When I talk to people in school, I always direct them to Protiviti. It’s a great place to launch your career because you will learn best practices and the professional business skills you need to communicate to leadership, present well and present yourself well. And, you’ll learn about how business leadership thinks about things. You can’t get that at many companies.
I would always use Protiviti if I were in a position to buy consulting services. The people Protiviti hires are really stars. Protiviti goes all out to develop their staff and invest in their people and it shows.
What’s been the most satisfying part of your career?
The most satisfying part of my career has been when I have run into old work colleagues or people I managed at one time, and they have thanked me for something I did to help them – such as advice I gave them or something they learned from me that has helped them to be more successful. It’s usually something small, not really earth shattering, but it means a lot to me to know that in some small way I contributed to someone’s success. It also has made me more appreciative of mentors, colleagues and managers I have had in the past who took time to help me be more effective at my job – and to thank them.
We all know that success in business is built on relationships, but sometimes we focus on customer relationships and not really enough on fostering relationships with those we work with or manage. But it’s the latter that pays off more in the long run.
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