How to Step Up and Stand Out in Your Role



Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA

The theme of this year’s conference was Step Up, Stand Out. As I reflected on what that means to us as fraud examiners, I realized it was more than just a snappy phrase. There are a few trends in our profession that run parallel to this year’s theme.

Stepping up and standing out — two actions that can at times be uncomfortable and confrontational, but also exhilarating and rewarding.

What does it mean to step up and stand out in the life of an anti-fraud professional? Your earliest encounter with this feeling could have been when you investigated your first case. Or, when you caught the anti-fraud bug. I want you to take a minute and try to remember that moment. Where were you in your career and what were you working on when you first thought to yourself, “This is it. This is what I really want to do. And, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

I’ve been lucky enough to hear a few of these stories from our members, and I’d like to share them with you. Dennis Dambruck works as the head of finance for a bank in the small island nation of Curaçao. When he was seven years old, his favorite TV shows were “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Kojak” and “Columbo.” He said even at that early age, he was intrigued by those characters’ abilities to solve crimes. As time passed, he entered the financial world, and his interest for white-collar crime increased. “Digging to find out the truth or how it was done gets me going,” he said.

Sandrine Paquin-Lessard became hooked in her last year of college when she attended a fraud investigation class that lasted only one weekend. She said, “I immediately knew that fighting fraud was what I wanted to do since I found it more thrilling than general accounting and auditing, and I needed that excitement in my future job.” She kept in contact with the teacher of the course who was a partner in a forensic accounting firm in Montreal. And as soon as she completed her education and internships, she contacted him and asked for a job. And then she kept asking him. After a year, he finally said yes. “It was the best decision of my life,” Paquin-Lessard later said. She is now a director of fraud prevention and detection at a large communications firm in Montreal.

Sometimes we find out what we really want to do when we discover what it is we don’t want to do. When I was studying to get a degree in finance, I completed internships at a couple of investments firms. Those internships taught me quite a bit, and I enjoyed my time there. But, I realized early on that it wasn’t a right fit for me. So, I made a change and applied to law school. I concentrated several of my electives in business associations and tax, and I worked in the Louisiana legislature to help draft tax law while still in law school. I received a judicial clerkship after law school, and during that time, I met a prosecutor who was also a CPA. As we got to know each other, he told me how much he enjoyed his work prosecuting white-collar crime and that with my finance and accounting background, I might too.

Now, at this point, I had only taken the two required criminal law classes I needed to graduate and get a law degree. But it sounded interesting, and I couldn’t turn away from the tug I felt to move forward. My wife and I discussed it, and I told her that this would be a good avenue to get a couple of years’ litigation experience and, perhaps, get me on a partnership path quicker at a law firm. Or so I thought.

Thirteen years later, I was still prosecuting full time and enjoying every second. I knew I was playing my part in righting wrongs and finding justice for so many victims.

I could regale you with countless stories like mine, Dennis’ and Sandrine’s. In fact, I know there are at least more than 85,000 of them around the world. All with unique places, people and circumstances. But, as you may have already figured out, deciding to pursue this career is only the first step. What comes after is what truly sets you apart as an anti-fraud professional. It is then that you will decide how to step up and stand out in your role.

This post was adapted from Bruce Dorris’ opening remarks at the 30th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. If you’re ready to step up and stand out in your career, join the ACFE Mentoring Program as a mentor or mentee. Enrollment is open until Monday, July 22.