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There’s a widely held stereotype that accounting is boring—which isn’t helped by the way the media generally portrays the profession. A classic Monty Python sketch, for example, portrays Michael Palin as a chartered accountant determined to become a lion tamer. When his vocational guidance counselor suggests that accountancy is exciting, he protests, “No it’s not. . . My God it’s dull, it’s so desperately dull and tedious and stuffy and boring and desperately dull.” To which the counselor replies, “But you see, your report here says that you are an extremely dull person.”
Julio Flores, vice president for internal audit at electronic design automation company Synopsys, begs to differ. It is, in fact, the broad scope of his team’s work in-house that keeps it interesting, he says. “We can be doing an assessment anywhere where there may be significant inherent risk. We are all over the company: working with different departments and different people each day.”
Flores’ career path was “strongly encouraged,” he says, by his college professors. He originally majored in criminal justice, and then veered in the direction of sociology. “I wanted to work with troubled youth,” he says.
Flores initially attended junior college at night while working a full-time job with an insurance company (this work ethic was inspired by his mother, a Mexican immigrant who raised him while working several jobs, including as a seamstress and a house cleaner). When he made the jump to Cal State Northridge, he switched to business management, for which he had to take an entry-level accounting class.
“That’s when I was turned on to accounting,” he says. “The professors there were adamant about opening our eyes to the possibilities and opportunities in accounting. One of them brought in a video of the New York Jets’ CFO, the message being, ‘You can have a job with the NFL!” Sometime during that semester, I decided to change to accounting.”
What drew Flores to accounting, in part, was the clarity of having something concrete to do with his education. “It’s not vague,” he says. “A selling point was the long-term opportunity. This is one of those professions for which there is continued demand. Even in down times, people still need accountants.”
There’s a widespread misperception that accountancy is a bookkeeping job. “It’s not,” Flores explains. “There are different types of jobs that fall under this broader umbrella. It’s not only a niche area. You’re dealing with very high-level people in different departments. You can learn a ton. And you can move up quickly; it’s a fast-paced environment.”
Synopsys is at the forefront of Smart Everything, with advanced technologies for chip design, verification, IP integration, and software security and quality testing. Flores is coming up on his sixth year with the company. He previously worked at PwC as a director of internal audit services, as well as KPMG. At Synopsys, he is charged with leading an independent corporate audit department whose role is to “kick the tires” and test all the policies, processes, and controls to make sure they are working as intended to mitigate risk, such as helping ensure that intellectual property is appropriately safeguarded.
“Because our job is to protect our company against a broad set of risks, we get into all sorts of interesting operational areas that may impact us from an operational, reputational, legal and compliance perspective, not just the financial sides of things,” Flores says.
Two other priorities for Flores and Synopsys are innovation and diversity and inclusion efforts. Flores built his department’s data science team from scratch, which he considers “foundational.” “We use it at every stage of our projects: planning, execution and reporting,” he says. “Now they can’t imagine not using it.” Flores also serves as the executive sponsor for Synopsys’ Latinx employee resource group, La Comunidad, which he and other leaders within the company helped launch.
One of Flores’ most treasured partnerships is his more than twenty years with the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). He has served in several chapter leadership roles. He currently hosts ALPFA events at Synopsys as a sponsor.
“When I worked at KPMG, they were a big sponsor and supporter of ALPFA,” he says. “They invited me to an annual conference, and it opened my eyes to the organization. I met all sorts of great people and participated in networking events. I got hooked. Twenty years later, I’m still an active member. My only regret is that I did not get involved earlier, as I had many friends that got involved during college, which helped them land jobs before many others.
Reflecting on the mentors who guided him on his journey, one piece of advice stands out to Flores: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” He explains that when he was a new manager who was responsible for looking for errors from his team, his mentor told him that if he found one minor mistake, but nearly everything else was done correctly, he should focus on what was done well instead of the minor item that wasn’t—a very different message than focusing on the minor item.
“Julio is always looking for ways to improve his team, their internal audit approach, and his own leadership and technical skills. He provides strong direction, but he lets his teams drive their areas of responsibility. He is not content to simply do what might have been done previously and challenges us to constantly improve. His strong leadership and humility make him the type of person you don’t want to let down.”
—Vince Hayes, Partner