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Chrysti Ziegler is remarkably honest about her journey to internal audit—especially considering that right out of college she had no idea where she’d land. “Accounting students were advised that there were three paths open: general accounting, financial audit, or you could do tax,” Ziegler remembers. “I wasn’t interested in any of those, and my grades were 100 percent representative of that.”
For every lawyer inspired to go into law after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, there are those successful and motivated people without a collective clue about which path to take. Ziegler’s initiative is not only a testament to the importance she places on self-reflection but also her unwillingness to give up on finding her own sweet spot. From a young woman who was afraid to speak up to the general auditor of an oil and gas refiner, Ziegler understands that her journey remains valuable because of what she discovered along the way.
After graduating college, Ziegler ended up in a role that would define her future by accident. She was accepted for grad school at Texas A&M Corpus Christi—where she says her grades fared far, far better—then took a day job at the university as an internal auditor. “I thought ‘staff auditor’ was just another financial audit position,” Ziegler admits. “It wasn’t until I started researching the job I had already accepted that I realized it was going to be an entirely different position.” Fortunately, the difference was crucial to its appeal.
“Internal audit is much more process-based auditing than just looking at financial statements,” Ziegler explains. “That’s the part that really made me fall in love with the job.”
“You can be respectful but still speak your mind. I won’t lie, it’s not something that comes natural to me, but it’s something I’ve overcome to reach my goals.”
Ziegler moved to Houston in 2000 after taking a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she accumulated eight years of extensive oil and gas industry experience before moving on to NiSource, a natural gas transportation company. Those two opportunities set Ziegler up for a position as chief internal auditor at Genesis Energy, where she encountered some unique challenges that contributed to her expertise in auditing and growth as a leader—both of which have set her apart from other candidates in the field.
Part of Ziegler’s appeal is the frankness with which she talks about the oft-demonized idea of the lateral move. Coming to NiSource didn’t include a promotion, and Ziegler heard alarm bells at the prospect of having a resumé that included ownership of a new position without a promotion. “At the time, I just wasn’t getting the traction that I wanted, and as a person who is constantly looking for challenges, I ended up ultimately choosing a lateral move for the betterment of my career.”
Chrysti Ziegler is proud to be the president of the Houston chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)—and for good reason. The chapter has contributed over $40,000 to scholarships and won the global organization’s “Chapter of the Year” designation the last two times it was eligible for the award (once a chapter wins, there is a five-year deferment). “I really feel fortunate that I became a part of this organization and, as president, have continued the momentum of the highest level of quality and output from our chapter,” Ziegler says.
It proved to be the right one; the experience provided Ziegler more pipeline experience that would make her the ideal candidate for the promotion she received in going to Genesis.
As Ziegler has risen in her career, she says she eventually had to confront an aspect of her upbringing that was having unintended career consequences. “Growing up in a Hispanic household and family environment, there was always the idea that I shouldn’t challenge my elders—it’s just seen as disrespectful,” Ziegler explains. “I think I really internalized that and when I began my career, it was very tough for me to challenge the perspective of someone with more experience.”
It was only when Ziegler was able to recognize her reticence that she was able to tackle it. “You can be respectful but still speak your mind,” she says. “I won’t lie, it’s not something that comes natural to me, but it’s something I’ve overcome to reach my goals.”
Ziegler’s own leadership isn’t based on challenging, but rather enabling the effectiveness of her entire group. The internal audit team is one that performs together or not at all—and Ziegler will continue to promote that mentality as she transitions from Genesis to her new position as general auditor at a large oil and gas refiner. “Success requires constant communication with my team, and I want my people to know how valued they are. But individual success isn’t what’s necessarily important here. Our goal is to move together with a shared goal.”
Internal audit is often about having a larger perspective of more task-oriented departments, and when the audit team is able to find ways to make those tasks more streamlined and jobs prospectively a little bit easier, it equals a win for the whole company.
Protiviti congratulates Chrysti Ziegler on this well-deserved recognition. Protiviti is a global consulting firm that delivers deep expertise, objective insights, a tailored approach and unparalleled collaboration to help leaders confidently face the future. www.protiviti.com
KPMG LLP is the independent U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”). KPMG International’s independent member firms have 207,000 professionals in 153 countries and territories. Learn more at www.kpmg.com/us.