Career Center: Just Starting Out
Sunshine Pineda, CFE, CIA, CPA
Lindquist, von Husen & Joyce LLP
San Francisco, Calif.
Some people hear about the CFE credential from a colleague or friend; some read about it in Fraud Magazine or other publications. Sunshine Pineda, CFE, CIA, CPA, Senior Associate at PKF International in Singapore, discovered the ACFE and the CFE credential while searching the Internet for tools to help in her first fraud investigation. "It was my second year in the profession when I was assigned my first fraud investigation," Pineda said. "I did extensive research on the Internet and in the library to prepare myself and be more confident to do the job. Then I came across the CFE credential and was challenged to give it a try. I was studying for exams while doing the fraud engagement. I studied at night and applied what I learned during the day."
Please describe your function (a day in the life).
I am working in a professional service firm, which offers auditing, accounting and consulting. My assignments are usually financial audit, internal audit and fraud investigation. The challenges in each job vary according to the nature of engagement, industry and business operation. But there is one common factor that I apply to any assignment: professional skepticism.
How has earning the CFE credential benefited you in your career?
My objective in taking the exam was to learn the basic theories and fundamentals of fraud investigation in order to add value to my team. I later realized that it is also an effective qualification whenever we provide our services to clients. But the CFE credential is not just what you put on your resume; it is also a responsibility. We educate our clients about fraud awareness and its impact on the organization. Being a CFE adds more credibility and confidence to the professional.
What were some of the more challenging tasks you've faced as a CFE?
Whenever there is a fraud in a company, the first question that pops into people's minds is, "Why didn't the auditors find the fraud?" With all these high-profile financial scandals, the public is not convinced that auditors are just testing on a sample basis. Auditing based on the management's representation and designing internal controls are management's responsibilities. As auditors, it is a challenge and professional responsibility to be skeptical at all times and phases of audit. The education and training of being a CFE makes me more skeptical in identifying red flags whenever I perform an audit.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing young CFEs new to the profession? What role does networking play in your professional career?
Earning the CFE credential is just a beginning when you go to the battlefield. The real challenge is how to keep ourselves updated with the latest trends. Fraudsters are getting smarter and more creative with their styles. We should continuously equip ourselves with anti-fraud tools and resources through reading news, researching best practices and attending trainings. When I need advice and resources, I ask my network contacts for their insights, which helps me to do my job more effectively.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow a similar career path?
Make a difference by being a person with a vision and value. Join the anti-fraud community. Get the CFE credential and continue acquiring skills and knowledge through training programs.
What do you consider your greatest career achievement?
It actually depends how a person defines "achievement." I just started my career a couple of years ago and there is still a long journey ahead of me. I excelled in the classroom, won in school competitions, passed the board exams and was promoted at work just like anyone else. But those are just ordinary things that anyone could have accomplished. I know many people who have achieved even bigger and greater things than that.
For me, an achievement is something different. It is extraordinary and significant to the person. Each morning when I wake up, there is always a strong drive to work and learn because I am inspired and motivated. When I moved from Manila and began working in Singapore, my goal was to work hard and save money so I could buy a car for my dad and house for my mom. My parents experienced a business bankruptcy during the early 2000s and had lost several properties and savings. It is like a "riches-to-rags" story. I have seen them struggle with other businesses, but fail. After almost nine years, I bought my dad his own car. He does not need to take public transportation anymore, which for many years has been inconvenient for him. And just this year, we have a new house. It is small, but at least it is a house to finally call our own.
I just turned 25, and sometimes I feel like I am older than my age because of my family responsibilities. But I know my sacrifices because of being the eldest in the family are all worth it. I followed my dreams and fought hard for them. That is my greatest accomplishment so far. Not just in my career, but in my life as well.
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