WoA Interview with Tülay Kahraman: Auditing, a World Full of Opportunities

This article is based on an interview performed with Tülay Kahraman, co-founder of World of Auditing, which will be delivered in three parts.

World of Auditing

Would you please let us know how you discovered the audit profession?

Tülay Kahraman

After graduation, I started working for a local Institution. My job had two main components. First, visit food manufacturers and assess their compliance with GMPs. Second, test their products against relevant product standards. As part of my development, the first training I received was ISO 9001 Lead Auditor Training. I remember enjoying it a lot.

After a few years, I began working in the food industry with various responsibilities and tasks. Auditing was a part of me for most of my career, whether as a practitioner or at the receiving end.

World of Auditing

What kind of jobs have you done in the food industry?

Tülay Kahraman

From production to quality assurance, environment, health and safety, research and development, and auditing, I have had various operational and strategic roles at the country, regional and global levels.

Specific to auditing, I managed teams of auditors for more than seven years in two large multinational companies. I also had experience sitting on the other side of the table for several years. My team and I were subject to internal and external audits when I was leading QEHS teams. I must confess that I learned a lot from both experiences.

World of Auditing

When did you decide to co-found the World of Auditing, and what was its motivation?

Tülay Kahraman

After 25 years in the food and beverage industry, I decided it was time to start my own company in 2019.

Beginning in 2020, I received a call from Marc Cwikowski, an ex-colleague and soon-to-be co-founder of World of Auditing. It was a wet and cold winter day in İstanbul, where we met and sowed the first seeds for World of Auditing.

World of Auditing SRL was founded with the motivation to help audit organizations significantly increase their value to the business.

World of Auditing

What challenges did you encounter early on in your auditing career and later?

Tülay Kahraman

There were quite a few of them, and I don’t consider them as challenges but as opportunities to learn and grow.

The most challenging part was indeed the tough discussions where both sides cannot come to an agreement. These discussions happened to be mainly about the ratings. As an auditor, you are responsible for assisting the auditee in understanding the level of risk associated with that finding. However, you cannot do it forever. Both sides should agree to disagree after some time, which is perfectly fine.

Here the most important thing is to have all the findings be supported by objective evidence while explaining the situation and the scale of the risks clearly. Report writing is a critical skill for an auditor. It is equally important to master your skills in communication through the entire process.

One other challenge was traveling and being exposed to different cultures. The manufacturing plants were not always in fancy locations. You had to drive after landing. I have been to more than 250 locations in the world. Maybe more. You lose count after a certain point. Back in 2000, GPS devices were not widely used. As part of the audit preparation, I printed the route from Google Maps and followed the directions from a piece of paper. I remember getting lost on a few occasions in the middle of nowhere. The only hotel in town was not always the best place to be. Different cultures meant exploring and adapting new ways of communication, which was not easy in the first place. Now I believe I can start a life from scratch anywhere in the world thanks to those years spent in auditing.

World of Auditing

What were the best aspects of being an auditor?

Tülay Kahraman

Oh, there are loads of them. Let me try to summarise those in three groups.

On the technical side, auditing is the richest experience, particularly if you have an unsatisfied hunger for learning. One of the misconceptions is that auditing is a set of routine tasks. Yes, there is a standardized process together with tools to use. However, every audit is an entirely new experience. You see different technologies, products, and ways to manage operations. This enlarges your technical knowledge, which would be impossible if you spent your entire life in a single plant. You may not become a specialist, but this experience broadens your thinking, which will then be a great asset when you go back to the shop floor to lead an operational function.

On the professional side, auditing will give you direct access to the organization’s senior management. The interaction is limited in terms of time and scope, mainly during the closing meetings, but this experience is priceless. There are three things worth mentioning here. Access to senior management helps you get recognized at the higher level of the organization, which is an immediate impact. Second and most probably the most important thing for your professional growth is that you learn how the business works from the senior managers. What are the strategic objectives and direction of the company? What are the priorities? What information are they looking for in terms of understanding the risks associated with those? Interactions with senior managers broaden your sense of critical thinking and understanding of the issues in the business context. An auditor is successful to the extent he/she can complete her assessment on both operational and organizational levels providing a clear link to the business objectives. This is a great way to deliver the highest value through audits. Last but not least, having conversations with senior management stretches you in many different ways and helps you improve and adapt your communication skills.

The benefits on the personal side are countless too. Visiting new locations, being exposed to different cultures, and eating food you never tasted is fun. You also create strong bonds with your colleagues. Audits are not a job with defined working hours. You usually spend hours in the evening discussing the findings and writing the reports, which may take you to the early hours of the following day. If you are on-site with a team of auditors, this would mean spending 18 hours daily.

On a couple of occasions, I remember one of my team members being sick and another one on site willing to cover for him without anyone asking him to do so. This meant a much longer list of questions to be covered, not an easy task to take voluntarily. This creates massive trust, an essential component of a high-performing team.

World of Auditing

So you think auditing can be a significant career step? Is that right?

Tülay Kahraman

Indeed, auditing is a great career step, mainly if you are the kind of person who is willing to stretch yourself to grow. However, we observe that the appetite is getting low, and it is becoming to find the right talent. There are a couple of practical concerns that need to be addressed.

The most popular one is that auditing is a routine job that becomes boring in the longer run. As mentioned earlier, every audit is a brand new experience, yes,  there are lots of challenges, but also learnings you can acquire from every single one.

One of the other concerns is that auditing requires intense traveling, which is correct. It is not the kind of job most people would like to do forever. But it gives people flexibility in many aspects. Depending on the organization and its needs, you can be located anywhere in the world, remote working is always an option, and flexible working hours fit the nature of the job when not traveling for audits.

The most important value that an auditing career gives individuals is that the entire experience prepares them for future roles. Many food and beverage companies are using their full-time auditor pool as the pipeline for their critical roles within the organization.

Auditing is indeed a world full of opportunities.

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