6 Things You Should Know About Auditors from Healthfirst’s Director of Internal Controls, Donna Marie Paul
When Donna Marie Paul was in elementary school, she had a clear vision for her future.
“I knew I’d be the woman with her heels and her briefcase going into the office, dealing with numbers,” she said.
While she no longer goes into the office every day, her young self wasn’t far off.
After building a long career in auditing that sent Donna Marie around the world, including several years managing a team in China, she came back to Brooklyn, where she grew up, and took a role supporting the evolving and developing not-for-profit healthcare company Healthfirst’s controls function. Now, as Director of Internal Controls, she partners with various business units around the company to help them achieve their goals.
“There’s sometimes a negative connotation when people think of auditors because they think, ‘They’re here to get me.’ But our role is to help manage, oversee, and monitor everything that we do as a company,” says Donna Marie. “It’s about understanding the business, then finding the best ways to drive process improvement and actually bring something back to the table. It’s not just, ‘Hey, you did this wrong.’”
We sat down with Donna Marie to unpack more about what life in audit is like — and how her curiosity about people and the world has influenced her life and work.
That vision Donna Marie had as a kid included a Wall Street office. “I was always very good at math and calculations, and I knew I wanted to deal with numbers,” she says. She pursued that interest through high school, college, and into her first internships.
“Whenever I was visiting banks or financial institutions with my mom, I didn’t see a lot of people like me in power or being called upon,” says Donna Marie, who was born in Trinidad before moving to Brooklyn with her family as a child. “I knew I wanted to be a person that could open that door and show other girls like me that they’re smart, and that we can do it, too.”
Donna Marie was especially motivated to make her mother proud. “She sacrificed so much for my siblings and me, and I didn’t want her to think that the effort was wasted.”
And even though Donna Marie didn’t end up on Wall Street after her internships convinced her that she didn’t actually want a niched-down finance role, but a broader view of the business (which led her to audit), she knows her mom is, indeed, proud.
Adapting to Different Corporate Cultures
Until COVID hit, Donna Marie built her career in audit at Nokia. She’d started out in a management training program at Lucent Technologies, a telecommunications company that was later bought by the telecom giant. Years later, she was managing a team in China. That experience came to an end in 2019 and she moved back to the U.S.
After four years in China, Donna Marie felt ready for a new experience. She wanted to work in an environment that was driven by collaboration and discussion. And she wanted to explore a new industry and type of company.
She knew she wanted to find a job where she could be closer to the business and where she could see more clearly her impact. When Healthfirst reached out, she was thrilled about the chance to make an impact in what is literally her neighborhood and community.
“When you come from a public company, the dollars and cents drive a lot of the decision making. When you come to a not-for-profit health insurer that’s really focused on members, it’s the people. It’s about how we really make a difference,” she says. “I’ll meet our members when I’m out and about and listen to their experience and say, ‘Hey, I work for Healthfirst, how are we doing?’ I never did that when I was at Nokia.”
6 Things You Should Know About Auditors, Per Donna Marie
Digging into a business’s processes and figuring out how to make them better interests Donna Marie for the same reason living abroad did: she’s curious about how things work and loves to challenge herself.
“Auditing is the perfect balance for me. I love the opportunity to learn and to see where we can do better,” she says.
With the goal of sharing her love of the field with our readers, we asked her for insight on what people might not know—but should—about auditing:
- External and internal auditors do very different things. External auditors focus on numbers. “They’re about the financials and their accuracy,” she says. “Internal auditors are strategists. We’re here for the business, and while we do review the numbers, it’s coupled with the process around how we get to those numbers.”
- Compliance and audit aren’t the same, but similar. Compliance drives policies and procedures, and audit makes sure the business is adhering to them. “We work together — we scrutinize, pressure test, and identify gaps in how we’re doing against what compliance has laid out,” says Donna Marie.
- Audit at a fast-growing startup is all about reprioritization. “It’s always hard to optimize modernization and automation when companies grow quickly,” says Donna Marie, who is helping Healthfirst audit team implement a governance, risk, and compliance tool that allows internal teams to use a centralized database to automate alerts, tasks, and information.
- Auditors are there to learn. Her team is not considered experts about everything they need to know about a given department or process at the start, points out Donna Marie. “We’re here to help and use those learnings to bring value-added recommendations to the organization. We are here to ask questions, to understand, and to be vulnerable about that. With assistance, we can learn how to make things better.”
- Auditing is a skill you can learn on the job. “No one comes in and says, ‘I know it all,’” says Donna Marie, who points out that her background was in banking and finance, sales and use tax, and system implementation and project management. Being a successful auditor requires curiosity, inquisitiveness, and the open mindedness to ask questions, challenge the status quo, and maintain flexibility in what and how we learn. “The only way to be successful if you’re making that kind of leap is to work hard and trust your instinct.”
- The more diverse an audit team, the better. “The diversity of the team helps us to think differently. To think bigger. To challenge the norm. We were put in place to leverage our various skill sets to achieve the overall organizational and company objectives,” she says.
Chainalysis’s Ashley Vaughan on Why She Finds Cybersecurity So Meaningful, and How More Women Can Find Their Niche in the Industry
How much money do criminals control today, and where is it?
These are some of the many questions that Ashley Vaughan, Senior Solutions Architect at blockchain data platform Chainalysis, spends her days working to answer.
“You learn more about a situation or problem by following the money than from any other resource or piece of information,” she explains. “Money doesn't lie. People can lie in text messages or other means, but the path of the money leads you to what you're trying to accomplish.”
Though Ashley always knew she wanted to work with computers, she found her way into roles in cybersecurity, and then specifically blockchain security, through networking and exposure — not by setting out to do so.
We sat down to talk about her career journey, as well as what advice she has for other women looking to make their mark in these burgeoning fields.
Resilience and Curiosity
Ashley doesn’t often give up, and credits some of that attitude to an obsession with soccer as a kid.
“Playing sports makes you a more resilient person, I think. You learn failure and risk, which are very applicable to my job and my career path,” she says.
That resiliency was a good thing, notes Ashley, because as a young girl, she wasn’t always encouraged to pursue what she was most interested in: math and science. A teacher early on had told her that she wasn’t good at math, and Ashley believed that narrative until high school.
“We really shouldn’t put those ideas in children’s minds, because it affects them for much longer than you might think,” she says of the experience. “But I’m the kind of person that when someone tells me I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it even more, and do it better.”
Finding out in advanced high school math classes that she actually was good at math turned into choosing a computer engineering major when she got to college.
Graduating during a recession in 2010 meant Ashley didn’t have the job market of her dreams, but after working in IT, she networked her way into a role in the cybersecurity department of a prominent DC law firm.
“They were getting hit left and right from social engineering and phishing attempts,” says Ashley. “Due to the sensitive nature of the work they dealt with, I was exposed to the darker realities of the digital era, and I began to see a new side to the world—one of real significance to national security.”
Specializing in Cybersecurity — and Finding a Home in the Private Sector
Inspired by what she was working on at the law firm, Ashley pursued a master’s in cybersecurity with a focus on counterterrorism.
“I wanted to help protect our country,” she explains. “I have a lot of family members who are former military, so that was a natural step for me.”
That led to her taking a contract role specializing in offensive security at a government agency that frequently worked with Chainalysis. After working with Chainalysis folks onsite, she was sold and started pursuing a position with the company.
“I wanted to help make sense of blockchain data for a bigger purpose, like assisting in the continued threat of ransomware activity against American interests,” she explains.
Although she credits her public sector work with providing a solid foundation in blockchain security, the private sector turned out to be a better fit for her.
“What I love about Chainalysis is that my colleagues are really happy people, and I’ve always felt welcome and not scared to ask questions,” says Ashley. “In past jobs, where I was one of five women in a group of 150, I felt a lot of pressure. I didn’t ever want to make a mistake. I felt as if I had to be a chameleon to match the social environment of my male counterparts.”
Blockchains are all about democratizing data, and Ashley likes working with a team of people of all backgrounds to help support that mission. At Chainalysis, Ashley works with internal product and engineering to show customers how Chainalysis data can help them use complex blockchain solutions to solve data problems — and catch bad guys.
“Sometimes we’re following a bad actor who’s tied to child sex trafficking. Being part of a coordinated operation to put a stop to things like that is really fulfilling,” she says.
3 Tips for Women Who Want to Find Their Place in Cybersecurity
For a long time, reflects Ashley, she just wanted to come into work, do her job, and feel supported, without feeling like she didn’t fit in or was representing her entire gender. Fortunately, she found what she wanted — and she hopes other women will find that, too. They can start their search by:
- Knowing they’re not alone in having tough experiences. “Everyone has different definitions for how you’re supposed to act or supposed to handle your emotions as a woman at work, and it’s exhausting. It’s like, ‘This is just me.’ I can’t repeat enough how tiring that is,” she says.
- Prioritizing self-directed learning. Although Ashley completed a master’s in cybersecurity, she emphasizes that there are many other routes into the industry, including self-study. Whether you get involved in programs like Girls Who Code or do self-paced learning through platforms like Udemy or Coursera, the important thing is that you pursue independent learning about topics that interest you, she says.
- Creating and maintaining relationships. “Really talking to people is almost a lost art,” says Ashley. “Getting together with someone who has the same sort of mindset and leveraging their knowledge, and making sure you keep in touch with people who help further your career, is a good move. Most of the places I got to professionally were based on my human connections.”
Nowadays at Chainalysis, Ashley is no longer one of five women in the office, and is excited to start paying it forward so that more people with backgrounds like hers can pursue their own professional success.
“We tend to feel more comfortable talking to people who might have our same gender or educational background, and being open and vulnerable with them,” she says. “Being a visible role model is really important to me.”
Check out Chainalysis’ open roles here!
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
💎 “What are you passionate about?” In an interview, you may have to answer this and other personal questions. Watch the video to the end to succeed in your job interview at Ribbon.
📼If asked “what are you passionate about?” in an interview you need to show how your passion can make you a good candidate for a job position. Ryan Key, Talent Partner at Ribbon, shares some tips and tricks for you to stand out!
📼Answering what are you passionate about in an interview is not the only thing you need to know how to do to succeed. You should try to make sure that you express your experience in a way that shows your interest in Ribbon’s mission. Also, prove that you did your research and demonstrate to the recruiter that you understand exactly how your role affects Ribbon’s purposes. Don’t forget to share some ideas on how you intend to fulfill the company’s mission!
📼 You are asked what are you passionate about in an interview, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t ask as well. You should feel empowered to ask any question you want during your interview process. It may be helpful to save certain questions for certain people. If you're in an interview with your potential manager, you should take that time to ask about their assessment metrics for the role and their management style. If you're speaking with a potential peer, this would be a great time to ask about their experience during training and to learn a little more about the team and culture.
What Are You Passionate About? Show In Your Interview That You Are Aligned With Ribbon's Values
The mission at Ribbon is to make homeownership achievable for everyone, especially communities traditionally left out of the homeownership story. One way Ribbon addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is through its support of employee resource groups. Remember to show that your passion is aligned with these core values!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Ribbon? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Ryan Key
If you are interested in a career at Ribbon, you can connect with Ryan Key on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Ribbon
Ribbon is a first-of-its-kind real estate technology company transforming the real estate transaction by delivering certainty, transparency, and joy to the home buying process. Consumers and realtors deserve a better experience, and they have designed an open platform that welcomes everyone in the ecosystem to participate.
💎 Partnerships in remote environments is one of the most important aspects to construct in a company. Watch the video to the end to get good tips on how to do it successfully.
📼Wondering how to create partnerships in remote environments? Play this video to get three top tips that will help you to achieve it. You'll hear from Olga Shvets, HR Business Partner, and Viktoriia Litvinchuk, People Team Operations at Unstoppable Domains, who will explain the essentials of this process.
📼How to build partnerships in remote environments? Tip #1: Communicate Effectively. Communication is the key to enabling your remote team to be successful. Choose the channel that works best. For this, chat with your employees and see what they use to communicate, that's how you find the best solution. Also, make sure your team is on board with your internal tools and they know what, how, and where they need to use them.
📼A requisite for building partnerships in remote environments is Tip #2: Show appreciation. Appreciation is shown through your actions. Let your employees know that you value everything they do for the company. Create a special gratitude channel where everyone can share their appreciation for their colleagues for some contribution. Celebrate some wins, promotions, and everything that is important for the company. If you appreciate the employees, employees do the same for the company.
Create Partnerships In Remote Environments Using Trust - Tip #3: Give Honest Feedback
Use engagement surveys! They are a quick and effective way to receive honest feedback from your team and you can see what's working well and what needs to be improved. Your main priority is to create spaces where managers and employees can share honest, relevant feedback.
📨 Are you interested in joining Unstoppable Domains? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Olga Shvets
If you are interested in a career at Unstoppable Domains, you can connect with Olga on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Unstoppable Domains
Unstoppable Domains is bringing user-controlled identity to 3 billion+ internet users by issuing domain names on the blockchain. These domains allow users to replace cryptocurrency addresses with human-readable names, host decentralized websites, and much more.
By selling these domains direct to consumers for a one-time fee, the company is making a product that will change cryptocurrency and shape the future of the decentralized web by providing users control over their identity and data.