Herbert Otto Homolka, CIA, CCSA, CFSA, CGAP, CRMA
Senior Internal Auditor (Retired)
Caixa Econômica Federal, Recife, Brazil
1. What prompted you to become certified?
In 1994, full of enthusiasm to start a career as an internal auditor at Caixa Econômica Federal (Brazilian Government Bank), I contacted The IIA for additional information on obtaining CIA certification. As a result of my inquiry, I received a heavy envelope with instructions on certification exams; however, because the exams had to be taken in the United States, I did not take further action.
Ten years after my initial inquiry, my involvement with IIA–Brazil had reawakened my desire to master the CIA. I studied exam review books and practiced more than 2,000 simulated exercises on CD. During 30 vacation days, I focused on my studies for up to 12 hours daily.
Exams were set to be taken in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in November 2005, which is a three hour flight from my home town of Recife. Against the advice of my friends and colleagues, I decided to take the four exams* at once, of which Part 3 was the hardest.
In February 2006, I received a phone call from the president of the IIA–Brazil congratulating me for passing the CIA. With the CIA exam know-how, I decided to pursue the remaining certifications.
The combination of my experience as an internal auditor for a major federal government bank in Brazil gave me the necessary experience to pursue all five IIA certifications. However, my desire to learn international auditing expertise (that I did not have on a daily basis) was my major motivation behind my efforts to pursue certifications.
Additionally, The IIA’s 5 certifications improved my resume and qualifications as an internal auditor.
2. If you hold multiple IIA designations, what order did you earn them in and why?
CIA, Nov. 2005; CCSA, June 2006; CFSA, May 2007; CGAP, July 2007; and CRMA, Jan. 2013.
As to the order, the CCSA was the easiest after passing the CIA exam. For the others, it was just a personal choice with no “decision process.”
3. Did your organization fund your exam fees or preparation materials? If yes, was it the corporate culture or did you have to sell the value of certification?
I paid for all the fees and preparation materials. The CAE authorized my travel expenses related to taking the CIA exams.
4. How many of your colleagues are certified?
In my previous company, I was the first to obtain IIA certifications and was the only one for years. When I retired in December 2012, there were maybe four or five colleagues who had obtained CIA certification.
5. How does having an IIA certification set you apart from your non-certified peers?
The three (CIA) or four letters (CCSA, CGAP, CFSA, CRMA) after your name is like an ID. You don’t need to “prove” anything about your competencies. You are distinguished. You are reliable. Your designation enhances your credibility, too.
6. How did you prepare for the exam?
For the CIA I studied exam the Gleim Exam Review (Exam 1, 2, 3, and 4) in English and practiced more than 2,000 simulated exercises on Gleim’s CDs. For 30 vacation days, I focused on my studies for up to 12 hours daily. My daily study program was: I would begin to study as early as 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. until noon, followed by a 4-hour break. I would then resume study at 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. for another 3 to 4 hours before ending for the day.
For the specialty certifications, I dedicated two hours Monday-Friday and all day during on Saturdays and holidays. I studied The IIA study guides and practiced Gleim’s questions via CD (related topics).
My academic and professional background was a plus to pass the exams as well.
7. How has your certification helped your career?
Opportunities, opportunities, and more opportunities. Because of my certifications, I had often been invited to participate in projects to enhance the internal audit function for my former company such as: write the first version of the internal audit charter; idealize the syllabus of an internal audit specialization course focused on The IIA’s Standards (540 course hours) and approve its study guide final version; review audit programs; and provide advice on a Quality Assurance and Improvement Program (QAIP) preparatory process.
Being certified also led to an opportunity to teach internal audit for a well-known university in Brazil as well as an opportunity to co-author the book “Digital Certification Concepts and Applications, Brazilian and Australian Models” (published March 2008).
Additionally, because of my certifications and professional experience, I was elected as a committee member for both IIA Global and the board of IIA–Brazil. I am currently a member of the board of my former company’s retirement fund, the third largest in Brazil.
8. What advice do you have for others who are seeking certification?
Certifications open doors and windows to professional opportunities. They extend horizons. Our profession is on the rise and will continue to rise in the future. Let’s stay on the cutting edge! It is worth all the effort one can give to pursue the certifications. I became certified at the age of 48. No matter what stage or time of professional practice, get certified!
Herbert Otto Homolka currently serves as a board member at The Foundation of the Federal Savings (FUNCEF), the third largest closed pension fund in Brazil. In 2012, after nearly 20 years of professional experience, he retired from Caixa Econômica Federal in Recife, Brazil. Homolka has more than 10 years as a volunteer at IIA–Brazil including his current positions as a member of the Board of Directors and a member of select IIA global committee (IASB and EDC). Additionally, he co-authored the book “Certificacão Digital, Conceitos e Aplicacões, Modelos Brasileiro e Australiano (Digital Certification – Concepts and Applications – Brazilian and Australian),” Editora Ciência Moderna Ltda, 2008. Homolka has also taught internal auditing at the Universidade Católica de Brasília.
In addition to receiving an MBA from Brigham Young University in Utah, he also holds all five IIA certifications.
For 15 years he has lead the coordination of the Helping Hands Program (www.maosqueajudam.org.br), a humanitarian and community service organization in Recife-Brazil.
* At the time Mr. Homolka took the exam, the CIA exam still consisted of four parts. It has since been reduced to three.