Thinh Nguyen

Thinh Nguyen has gained a lot in his year as a Graduate Auditor at QAO—from auditing knowledge and skills, to personal skills like confidence in managing meetings. Following a varied year, working on financial, performance, and information systems audits, we asked Thinh to share his experiences, challenges and advice.

What drew you to audit?

I studied commerce, with a major in accounting and minor in tax. I wanted a career with a lot of variety and had heard that audit opens many doors. So, when I attended an employment opportunities night and met the representatives from QAO, I was really interested in the program. I did some more research online, as I didn’t know anything about auditing in government, and decided to apply.

What’s starting the graduate program like?

I’ll admit that I was worried about starting a job and being thrown into the deep end. But the two weeks of block training that we had right at the start was great and after that I felt ready to go. It settled my nerves, because you’re there for two weeks with the other graduates and they’re all going through the same thing as you are.

During those first two weeks I spent a couple of days with my buddy and my manager working on an audit. I went with them to the client site, and they would go through each step of the testing with me. It was a bite-sized piece of insight into what working on an audit would be like, and really put me at ease.

I love that although I studied accounting and work as an auditor, I’m part of an organisation where I can also use my skills to do something different and contribute to the public sector in varied ways. We are given such a wide range of experiences at QAO.

Are there further training and learning opportunities?

It didn’t feel like our training was over after the first two weeks. We had graduate forums each month, which were a great place to debrief with the graduate cohort. And when I had questions, I could chat to my buddy, manager, the training facilitators or the other graduates easily and quickly through Skype or in person. I was supported throughout the whole year.

I was given further training opportunities as well, especially when working with different teams in the office. Everyone is very open to having you join their team and teaching you something new. I was able to go to Sydney for performance audit training and worked with a team on one of the performance audits. I also did some work in information systems audit, looking at all different information systems and their security. Both were great opportunities for me to build my investigative and analytical skills and audit experience, as they were very different to auditing financial statements.

I love that although I studied accounting and work as an auditor, I’m part of an organisation where I can also use my skills to do something different and contribute to the public sector in varied ways. We are given such a wide range of experiences at QAO.

What do you do each day as an auditor?

I thought as an auditor that I would be working on things as an individual and I was nervous about that before I started. But you do work in a team most of the time—you’re usually out at a client site with your team, working through your allocations of what needs to be done that day, and interacting with the client. 

Sometimes the level of responsibility was surprising, but not in a bad way; they put a lot of trust in you. I assumed that I would be doing menial jobs at the start, but I was out on an audit early on and interacting with the client. However, there was always a manager there I could ask for support if I needed it.

The level of expectation and responsibility I was given was always suitable to my skill level. I’ve never felt like I’ve been given too much. Of course, there are times when you’re busy and you ask your teammates for help, and they’ll do the same with you.  

Looking back now, it’s much less daunting going onto big audit engagements. I’m actually hoping I get put on some of the same audits next year, because I have set out a plan for myself on what I can do better and get done quicker.

What do you enjoy most about being an auditor?

The variety in our office—not just of the clients and sectors that we audit, but also the opportunities to work on different audits and engagements like performance audit, information systems audit or data analytics. Before I started, I thought I would be working a desk job all day and doing the same thing most of the time.

I have also learned a lot about the public sector. I’ve worked on some of the big state government departments and I had no idea how they got their revenue until now. It’s not something you really think about—how organisations get their money and how they spend it, and it’s fascinating to learn about all these processes.

I would definitely recommend working at QAO. You’ll get a huge variety of work, contribute to the public sector, have so much exposure to different clients, and learn a lot on every audit.

What have you gained?

Career-wise, I have progressed a lot in the past year. I’ve gained audit skills and soft skills because I’ve been out talking to different clients so often and managing a lot of different tasks. I’ve also really improved in scheduling my work and time management.

Three different experiences stick out in my mind from the past year. Firstly, working on the certificate for one of Brisbane’s large hospitals because that was the first big piece of work I got to own. Secondly, having the opportunity to work on a performance audit and learn different skills. Thirdly, attending the performance audit training in Sydney. All these experiences have been different from each other, and they’re not all accounting related. It’s rare to be able to get all that experience in one organisation.

One challenge I faced was engaging in client meetings, especially if the person I was meeting was senior in the organisation. Throughout my graduate year I received plenty of experience in client meetings as an observer, before having the opportunity to lead meetings on my own. My manager was a big help and gave me a plan—researching the background information before going to the meeting—and helped me work on my soft skills. The clients were never scary, I just had that image in my mind. I’m already comfortable with it now, and I wouldn’t have thought that I would be at the start of my graduate year. 

I would definitely recommend working at QAO. You’ll get a huge variety of work, contribute to the public sector, have so much exposure to different clients, and learn a lot on every audit. I’ve worked on departments, hospitals, and the education sector in my graduate year and that’s just a small sample of what I could be doing.

Any advice for someone starting QAO’s graduate program?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I first started, I didn’t realise there would be so many people there to help you. You can ask anyone, and even if they aren’t on that job at the time. People are always willing to help out.

From the exposure to clients, to the variety of work, and the wonderful people, QAO is a great place to work. I’ve made a lot of good friends in the graduate program. So don’t be daunted by the job or applying!