Once a quarter we will be discussing the wonders of the world of auditing with (you guessed it) actual auditors! For this installment we talked with staff auditor Nicole Barrett, an eight-year veteran of the Secretary of State Audits Division. She loved performance auditing so much, after a brief hiatus in California she returned to the Secretary of State’s office to do more great work!
What is your professional background?
I graduated college with a theater degree and worked in theater for seven years. There was a point that I felt that I needed more. I looked around for graduate degrees that focused on nonprofit management, because I thought that was where I wanted to be. At the time, most nonprofit degrees were connected to Public Administration programs.
What got you into performance auditing?
I took a Policy and Process course in grad school at Portland State University where we traveled to Washington D.C. to learn about the work that public government employees do in different federal agencies. On that trip we visited the Government Accountability Office. I came out of that meeting, thinking, “That’s what I want to do!” This was my first exposure to performance auditing. I liked that this profession could affect change–auditors work to make government better. From there on, I shifted from my goal of pursuing a career in nonprofit management to working for the government.
A classmate told me that there is an agency, the Secretary of State that does similar work to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Oregon. I interned in fall 2002. April 2003 I was hired as a Staff Auditor 1. I left in 2009 for family reasons, but returned in 2015 because I loved the work and the work environment at the Secretary of State’s office.
What do you love about performance auditing?
In our office we have a structure to our audits that I like. We are very team oriented. We can separately do parts of the audit work and then come together. I am an external processor so a team environment really works for me. And, things are constantly changing. There is a constant flow of new and different task. . In this office you get experience doing a lot of different aspects of auditing. The work that we do challenges me—it stretches and grows my mind. My husband says I get really energized from my work and I think that is true.
On the other hand, for me the scoping phase can be a challenge because at times it feels undefined and is less structured. Reading administrative rules and statutes is not my favorite part—I don’t have the legal mind for it. Other people on my team really enjoy these types of aspects, so that is helpful.
What is one audit that really stands out for you and why?
I really liked the cell phone audit I did years ago. It was a multi-agency audit. We did some interesting work with data. It identified and brought areas of both under-utilization and overuse to the agencies’ attention. And, that audit had a good impact.
What is it that excites you about working for the government?
I believe for the most part, people are drawn to government work because they want to serve. That really resonates with me. Time and time again I see good people doing good things in government—their heart is in it.
When you are not in the office, how do you like to spend your time?
I love being with my friends, drinking coffee…going on walks, with friends to drink coffee. Seriously though, my husband and I enjoy seeing plays in Ashland and the Portland area, as well as attend lectures.