Once a quarter we will be discussing the wonders of the world of auditing with (you guessed it) actual auditors! Our Spooooky Halloween Season (aka, Autumn) Spotlight fell on Jamie Ralls, one of the Principal Auditors with the Oregon Audits Division.

How long have you been an auditor, and what led you to auditing?

I started working here fresh out of college about 15 years ago. I was 22 and interning at Willamette Valley Vineyards, evaluating why sales were down. This included performing site visits, meeting with salespeople, and ultimately preparing a report with findings and recommendations for improvement. It was an interesting internship. About 6 months after I presented my findings to the director and sales team I heard back from them- some of my suggestions had been implemented, which had contributed to a 50% increase in sales.

Around that time, I met a representative from this office at a career fair- I was not very familiar with auditing, but in speaking to that person it sounded a lot like the internship I was working on and sparked my interest. I applied and was hired not long after that.

Many people, upon hearing the word ‘auditing,’ may assume that the job is just deadly dull. What are your thoughts?

I have done performance and financial auditing, dabbled in IT auditing, and work on the fraud team. Particularly with performance auditing, I have felt like my work can and does have a big, visible impact. This job makes big changes that can be felt across the state.

Individually, it’s also a great opportunity to learn about things you never knew you would learn about. I’ve learned about how big trucks get weighed. I was there to see the early stages of JJIS (Juvenile Justice Information System). The job has never been stagnant, never boring. I’ve developed some areas of expertise, but I continue to learn and build upon my knowledge base.

Any auditing horror stories?

I worked with the OSP (Oregon State Police) on a fraud investigation a few years ago. It was a case of embezzlement on the part of a state fair employee. I was invited to go with the OSP to the home of the suspect. I was in a suit, surrounded by police wearing full gear and bullet proof vests, wondering why I was the one knocking on the front door… The husband answered the door. We informed him that a search warrant was being served on his wife. He responded with, “That’s fine. Can you take me to work?”

The house itself was overrun with evidence of the presence of many cats. When I stepped in the door and stepped inside, I wasn’t sure which caught my attention first: the fact that my foot went ‘squish’ on the carpet, or the overpowering smell of… well, cats. The woman was also a hoarder. There were stacks of mail everywhere, in the backseat of the car, in the kitchen cupboards… as though she had just given up on her life and shut down. Ultimately, she was convicted of embezzling a large amount of money. As for me- I went home and took a shower.

Speaking of things spooky and scary… Are you dressing up for Halloween, or hiding out in your PJs?

Dressing up! My husband and our four kids are going to a Halloween party and trick-or-treating. I haven’t decided on a costume yet, but might go as Glinda the Good Witch. My son and one of my daughters are going as soccer zombies- you know, with half a soccer ball glued onto their midsections, some fake blood, soccer uniforms. My youngest daughter is going as some kind of princess- we haven’t decided which princess- and the eldest daughter hasn’t made up her mind yet what she is going to be.

Which would you least prefer to run into, and why: ghosts, zombies, or former auditors?

Definitely former auditors! They know enough to be dangerous, if they work for another agency now. But, they can also be very helpful and informative. They can be good or bad- they know our ways.

If you were a ghost, which state government building would you haunt, and why?

It would have to be DHS. I’ve spent a large portion of my 15 years auditing there, so I could have some fun haunting them a bit!

What else do you do when you’re not auditing?

I have four kids. That requires quite a bit of time right there. All four of them are involved in sports, especially soccer and swimming during the summer. On the weekends we go camping and do a lot of family stuff.

I have also started two nonprofits. One, called Lydia’s Love, throws birthday parties at two local homeless shelters each month. The other, Connor’s Chance, helps homeless kids participate in sports and other activities.

Any final thoughts or words of advice for new auditors? How about new-to-the-afterlife auditors?

Be open to doing audits in different places. You will learn the connections between different databases, and will begin to identify similarities in how different systems function that will help you understand new systems you encounter. The knowledge and experience builds upon itself; don’t hesitate to apply that knowledge to future audits.

As for afterlife auditors- I assume you mean second career auditors! I would tell them to communicate thoroughly to their in charge and audit team their background and experience, as they have a lot of expertise to bring to an audit. We all gain from that contribution.