A lifetime of opportunities.

Author:Wszelaki, John W.

JOHN WSZELAKI's career has been anything but dull. From traveling the world to working for an agency that runs 348 liguor stores and collaborates with law enforcement, his newest role is serving as chairman of The IIA's North American Board.

IN MY MORE THAN 35 YEARS AS AN INTERNAL AUDIT PRACTITIONER, I have encountered very few auditors who say their ambition when they were young was to become an internal auditor. Most end up in the position by chance and only later discover the many opportunities and benefits the profession offers. My journey to internal audit began when I was offered the choice between two positions at American Greetings Corp.--a budget analyst or a staff auditor. I chose the staff auditor position because I could not see myself doing the same tasks day in and day out, and the audit assignment offered an ever-changing work environment.

I was fortunate to spend 22 years with American Greetings, as it afforded me the opportunity to travel and work on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. I was exposed to a variety of cultures, business practices, and, most importantly people. I had the opportunity to learn a business from all aspects and perform reviews in all areas of operations, including procurement, distribution, logistics, IT, human resources, risk management, and compliance. I learned that my work priorities could change daily and how to get up to speed quickly on issues, the environment, culture, language, and people.

These skills proved useful when, 15 years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to launch the Internal Audit Division at the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (VABC) in Richmond. Since taking the job, my priorities have changed daily, and I appreciate the diversity of our operations and the vast array of projects we undertake.


Fifteen years ago, Richmond was one of the few cities I had not visited. I quickly learned that the VABC's mission is "to control the distribution of alcoholic beverages; operate efficient, conveniently located retail outlets; enforce the laws of the commonwealth pertaining to alcoholic beverages and youth access to tobacco products; and provide excellent customer service, a reliable source of revenue, and effective public safety." The Board operates 348 stores in Virginia and has contributed more than US $ 1.7 billion to the commonwealth in the past five years. Our Enforcement Division has more than 100 special agents who are sworn and certified police officers, and we oversee more than 16,000 establishments licensed to sell alcohol. We work closely with the Virginia State Police; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and many local jurisdictions on law enforcement and security issues. The VABC is involved with numerous outreach efforts in the community, including Alcohol and Aging, Military Outreach, Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse...

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