By Amy C. Waninger
About the series: See It to Be It is an interview series highlighting professional role models in a variety of industries. The goal of this series to draw attention to the vast array of possibilities available to emerging and aspiring professionals, with particular attention paid to support systems available for people of color within the industry.
This interview features Uso Sayers.
Uso is a Principal in Johnson Lambert’s Business Advisory Services (BAS) Practice. She has over 14 years of experience in the IT Services industry, including nine years in the Risk Assurance Services Practice at PwC prior to joining Johnson Lambert in 2013. Uso works with insurance companies that continue to pioneer the importance of cybersecurity, from voluntary implementation of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to mandatory compliance with the more recent New York Department of Financial Services Cybersecurity Regulations. With the increasing prevalence of cyber crimes, cybersecurity considerations now underpin nearly all aspects of her work, including internal and external financial audit support services, Sarbanes-Oxley, cybersecurity governance assessments, system implementation reviews and application audits.
Uso also frequently serves as the IT Specialist for IT Reviews conducted as part of statutory financial examinations of insurers, on behalf of various State Departments of Insurance. In addition to her client responsibilities, Uso serves as the Internal Audit Services and Quality Leader for the BAS Practice. These roles allow her to opportunities to pursue her passions, whereby she recruits, supervises, trains, and mentors staff on IT audit and consulting processes.
Outside of the office, she serves on several non-profit boards, including the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. and Morning Star Urban Development, Inc. Throughout all of her professional and personal endeavors, Uso strives to be a selfless volunteer that exemplifies leadership by example. Uso currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Nigel, their two adorable children, Christian (9) and Elyse (6), and an Italian Mastiff that outweighs both children at over 130 pounds!
LC: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in public accounting and what about it appealed to you?
US: I’ve to say I happened upon it. I was an honors graduate in accounting, and I was in grad school studying Finance. Given that I had an accounting background, I figured, Finance would be a good supplement and complement to my accounting degree. But I started doing that and I realized I really didn’t like Finance. So I added Information Systems as a second major. But doing that opened up a lot of opportunity, because this was back in 2002 to 2004 when Enron was happening. Arthur Anderson was going down. So Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) became a big thing.
LC: You’re speaking about the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation that sought to put protections in place for consumers because companies were behaving very badly.
US: Exactly. Most companies, especially large companies, were required to have audits performed. They have financial controls that they’ve implemented to prevent fraudulent activities, and those controls need to be independently validated. So, that’s how I got into audit. Fast forward 15 years, and I’m still doing it because I absolutely love it. I love learning about companies and understanding their control structures. Then I figure out how we can help them, provide recommendations they can implement, and so on.
LC: It seems like this is a sector that is ripe with opportunity for people just coming out of college or maybe even looking for a career change. What would you say to someone who’s interested in learning more about whether or not they might be a fit for this industry? What kinds of resources are available to them to learn more?
US: This is tricky because I wish schools would do more. I think some schools are getting it. Ideally the colleges will be providing guidance in this area, because there are so many career opportunities in the IT fields, even in public accounting. So even the traditional role of accountant or auditor is different now. For the financial audit teams, they’re adding data scientists and data analysts. Those are fields that didn’t exist five to ten years ago.
Google is probably the best place to start because that usually has the most updated information. When you look up careers in auditing or IT auditing, you’ll see that it’s no longer traditional roles like controls management. There are more risk management roles, security roles, data roles. Like I said, the data roles are becoming more and more important because of big data. You know, companies have all this data, and somebody has to analyze that data and assess it and determine how we can use it.
LC: Could you talk a little bit about your thoughts on the current or future talent needs in your industry?
LC: What are some organizations that exist to help POC feel supported and connected within the public accounting and IT audit field?
US: It’s still pretty traditional, old white male, but I’ve noticed the IT audit side is very diverse. It’s very interesting because I think it’s one of those areas where — yes, politics play a part — but your skill set is needed, and your skill set is valued and respected. There are a number of resources. Most of the bigger firms have affinity groups. And then outside of the firms, there are also various groups that serve similar functions. There’s Women in Technology, National Association of Black Accountants, National Society of Black Engineers.
So there are a number of affinity groups that are out there that they focus on helping minorities, one, connect with each other and to be exposed to the resources and the development that they need in order to progress in their organizations. When I started in public accounting, I was a member of the National Association of Black Accountants. I felt like that really helped me to understand what it takes to be a professional. It helped me to expand my network because I got to meet not only people in my firm, but also people from different audit firms. I got to meet professionals at my level, professionals that where higher up than me, professionals that were my gender and my race, and also outside of that. And that really helped me to have a wider point of view and different points of view as I progressed through my career.