Career Center: Just Starting Out
Dora Gomez, CFE
Global Fraud Officer
Jersey City, N.J.
This native New Yorker began an early passion for travel, thanks to her parents, and was even a DJ during college. But it was Dora Gomez's passion for fighting fraud that led her to her current position as Global Fraud Officer at AXA Tech. She says, "It’s vital for the company to have strong ethical principles where employees feel empowered to speak up when something seems wrong." In that regard, she investigates all whistleblower reports and fraud in the company, conducts anti-fraud training for employees and is a member of AXA Tech's corporate Compliance, Risk, and Security team. "Working to make sure we stay aligned with a strong ethical culture is fundamental and my priority," Dora Gomez, CFE, says.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, a first-generation American to Ecuadorian parents. I grew up in a multi-cultural neighborhood, which taught me to build friendships with people of other ethnicities. I also learned to love an array of international foods, which I appreciate to this day. At heart, I am still a true New Yorker.
What were your favorite activities and hobbies growing up?
To this day I am an avid traveler, which you can say started at a very young age. My parents planned long summer trips, some of which included driving all over the U.S., Canada, and even Mexico! We also visited South America and the Caribbean, but it wasn’t until my first full-time job that I visited Europe.
As a young adolescent I was involved in track and then Student Council, which helped me learn about leadership. I also loved listening to the radio for hours and recording music from it. It was the beginning of my “disc jockey” practice. Little did I know that I would be a DJ for four years at Pace University on the NYC campus while I pursued my Public Accounting degree.
What steps led you to your current position?
After making Internal Audit Director at AXA Tech, I was additionally assigned the role of Global Fraud Officer. My experience as an auditor exposed me to a few fraud cases and analyzing fraud risks, not just operational and financial risks. I also managed projects at AXA, such as the global SOX program, that enhanced my knowledge and skills in risk and control systems and the COSO framework.
Prior to the AXA Group I worked for a public accounting company whose clients were predominantly brokerage firms.
Did you always plan to pursue the role you are currently in?
Not really. My degree in public accounting was a steppingstone to the internal audit world after working in a CPA firm when I graduated from Pace. The first time I ever took part in a fraud investigation was at a summer job in a brokerage firm. I was hired to help the accounting department but a fraud investigation was just beginning on a former executive who embezzled funds. My job was to go through reams of paperwork, reviewing payments, receipts, approvals, etc., to analyze how the fraud was perpetrated and what the total damages amounted to. There were no automated tools back then so it was all hands on. This was probably the first time I had an interest in the fraud area that I eventually pursued in my audit career.
What does your current role as Global Fraud Officer entail?
I am responsible for investigating all fraud and whistleblower incidents throughout the company. I also provide fraud awareness training at various levels and for specific operational areas, evaluate fraud risk assessments and stay abreast of fraud-related industry updates. I am part of the corporate Compliance, Risk, and Security team and work on various objectives on emerging risks and regulations that can impact our company.
AXA Technology Services is a global company with almost 4,000 employees in 14 countries (part of the AXA Group family) so it is also important to liaison with our operational companies on the anti-fraud topic as well.
A strong ethical culture in the company and "tone at the top" speaks volumes to employees, and this helps strengthen our principles in the workplace, not just fraud. Working to make sure we stay aligned with a strong ethical culture is fundamental and my priority.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I think I always had the "bug" inside of me to fight fraud. When I worked in public accounting and internal audit I was exposed to some cases of fraud and learned how to spot the signs of fraud. It’s vital for the company to have strong ethical principles where employees feel empowered to speak up when something seems wrong. It’s not just about the company’s reputation, it also about working for a company we feel proud to be a part of.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on?
We had a contract employee that had worked in different areas within the company that was able to take advantage of some segregation of duty gaps between these functions. This was a huge eye opener for our management team who was too trusting and confident that controls were in place, when in fact there were some major trans-functional gaps when viewed from a higher level. Verification of key controls is essential and requires appropriate and consistent follow-up.
What are some of the best lessons you have learned from working those cases?
When you have a good relationship with the people you work with and treat people with respect, your job is much easier. I have always lived by this philosophy because I want to be treated and respected in the same way.
What is your personal motto?
Take risks in life, be confident, and don’t underestimate yourself.
I learned that during an expat assignment in Paris. Not only was it an eye opener to learn how the company functioned at the headquarter level, but I also learned about the French culture and those of other European countries. I overcame obstacles (not speaking French, making new friends, working with new colleagues, etc.) but tackled them and learned from that experience. The only constants that I brought with me were my 2 small dogs … that also learned to bark in French!
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
I don’t know if I can actually name one great achievement. I think I did pretty well in my career and personal life for a middle-class "kid" from Brooklyn, NY. Let’s face it, being a minority and a woman has its challenges and tackling them requires persistence and determination. I have overcome many obstacles in life (both personal and work related), and I am proud and happy with the person I am today.
What career advice do you have for those just starting out in the fraud-fighting field?
Network, network, network … and stay abreast of the fraud field. Get involved in industry groups, be active in anti-fraud organizations, and keep your lines of communication open with your peers. Make getting your CFE a priority in your career. Invest in educating yourself to enhance your skills, knowledge and take risks — otherwise you will never know "what could have been."
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a thrill seeker and will try new and exciting activities, which is how I discovered and now appreciate "trapeze." Flying high on a bar is very addictive and incredibly exciting! Rollercoasters are my favorite rides at amusement parks – the higher and steeper, the better!
Dancing and cooking are two of my favorite pastimes with family and friends. Traveling is something I wish I could do more often for fun but I have been to more than 25 countries and still counting.
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