KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 26, 2020
As a successful information technology auditor for Atlanta-based Rausch Advisory Services, Megan Beeston Panella says that the professional mentorship she received at Kennesaw State University was critical in helping her choose a career path. Now, four years after graduating a second time, Beeston Panella continues to return to campus to offer that same mentorship to others.
Beeston Panella, who has earned undergraduate and graduate accounting degrees from the Michael J. Coles College of Business and is currently a manager of business advisory services with Rausch, recently wrapped up her third speaking appearance at Fred Masci’s undergraduate internal auditing course.
For Beeston Panella, the experience has been a chance to give back.
“I’m only where I am today because of the people who have taken an interest in me and have invested in my success,” she said. “All of the professors, mentors, and other people I’ve met along the way have provided me countless opportunities to grow. I want to be that person for someone else.”
One moment where mentorship shaped Beeston Panella’s career was during her orientation for the Master of Accounting (MAcc) program. Professor Rich Clune, director of the Internal Audit Center, spoke to her class about careers in internal audit. Afterwards, Beeston Panella reached out to Clune to learn more, coming away from the conversation intrigued with the new idea of a career in internal audit.
Beeston Panella went on to participate in the Internal Auditing Education Partnership (IAEP) Leadership & Network Retreat’s International Case Competition in Florida and competed in the Institute of Internal Auditors Atlanta Chapter’s statewide case competition. She got her first job in internal audit in January 2016 after meeting with CPA & advisory firm Frazier & Deeter (FD), where she worked until joining Rausch in July 2020.
“KSU has done so much for my career,” Beeston Panella said. “Every step I’ve taken was made possible by opportunities provided by my mentors, Rich Clune and Bill Mulcahy [founding chairman of the IAC], and my employers and colleges at Rausch and FD, all of which are connected with KSU.”
Masci, an instructor in the Coles College School of Accountancy, first met Panella during the IIA case competition, which he founded in his role as the IIA Atlanta Chapter’s academic relations chair. Since then, Masci and Panella have kept in touch through their continued work with the IIA. Panella has spoken to his senior level internal auditing students three times since June 2019.
“She impressed me [in the competition] and I have since followed her career with Frazier & Deeter and now Rausch Advisory Services,” Masci said. “I purposely invited her to speak with my classes because she relates directly to the students. She was sitting in their chairs just a few years ago.”
While the focus of Beeston Panella’s recent presentation was on reviewing audit evidence and work papers, she used the topic to discuss the skills needed to succeed in internal audit.
“I told them in my experience, the area with the most improvement opportunities for interns and people starting out is in how they receive and analyze audit evidence,” she said. “How are they asking clients for it? Do they understand what they are looking at? A lot of them don’t have experience with these things when they first begin, at least not at the level the job requires.”
Beeston Panella also advised students to not let indecision keep them from an exciting career.
“The first thing I learned from Megan was to jump at opportunities,” said accounting senior Marion Munisteri, who attended the session. “Being a senior accounting major, I am nervous about my next life steps; about finding a job and being in the ‘real world’ by myself. However, Megan’s advice about taking opportunities helped. I like how she said to jump and to say yes!”
In addition to regularly speaking in undergraduate accounting classes, Beeston Panella focuses a lot of her professional time on mentorship. She is the IIA Atlanta chapter’s upcoming Vice President of Programs and current co-chair of the mentoring program, which she has helped run for three consecutive years. In this role, Beeston Panella pairs new audit professionals with more experienced people from other organizations in the same industry. She is also the leader of the mentees in the program, acting as a liaison for guidance and assistance with pairings.
“This provides an opportunity for mentors to give back and for mentees to gain knowledge from someone who has walked a mile in the shoes they want to walk in,” she said.
She was also recently honored by the IIA as one of 15 Emerging Leaders from across the organization's 200,000 global members.
Beeston Panella’s life could have gone differently. When she started college, her plan was to go to law school and become an attorney. However, after interacting with SOA mentors like Clune and Masci, she has discovered an unexpected, albeit rewarding career in audit.
“As a mentor,” she said, “now I get to give back what other people have given to me.”