“The reality is we have the same jobs everybody has,” says Kiko Harvey, Inspector General for the United Nation’s, U.N., World Food Programme, WFP. The only difference is Harvey’s job as the WFP’s chief auditor benefits the lives of millions of people who face hunger and malnutrition across some of the most challenging parts of the world.
After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1985, Kiko Harvey began auditing for large private sector companies such as Starbucks and Delta Airlines. Although she had previously volunteered for smaller philanthropic organizations, Harvey had never imagined that she would move to Rome, Italy and run the audit function for one of the world’s largest humanitarian agencies.
Harvey was well-experienced working for private sector companies, however she decided the move to a humanitarian angle of auditing would prove to be a more rewarding experience. Judd Davis, who formerly worked for Harvey at Delta Airlines, explains that he was thrilled to see her move to the U.N. “where her deep experience, dedication, and commitment to always doing the right thing will be used to help those who need it most.”
While building a career in private sector auditing allowed Harvey to gain excellent experience, she craved for a more personally rewarding job. “I did do some not-for-profit work, and it was good, but it wasn’t giving back in a big way, and there’s no bigger way than feeding 88 million starving people every day.”
Switching from private sector auditing to working for a humanitarian organization comes with a culture shift as well as a financial shift. In most private sector companies, auditors are primarily motivated by money, whether for shareholder value protection or personal financial gain. Therefore, the passion that most people have for auditing remains superficial and backed by the dollar sign.
Contrary to private sector companies, the WFP strives to help the global community invest, innovate and create lasting solutions for the millions of people facing hunger. Those involved, at all levels, share deep-rooted ties with the goals of the WFP. “It’s the passion and the level of engagement that the people who work in this organization have, focused on a mission much more satisfying than a paycheck,” says Harvey. “I’m fortunate to have been able to find a way to give back.”
After working for both private sector companies and the U.N., Harvey has noticed a difference in the role auditing can play. In Kiko’s eyes, the WFP, as well as all the U.N. organizations, take the audit function a lot more seriously. Instead of being looked at as the one who watches over everyone, Harvey feels as though auditing for the WFP allows her to be a part of the mission to end world hunger. “I feel much more like a participant in the organization here, before I was a necessary evil or a support function. And even though you had a voice, it was a voice that they muffled very easily.”
While she has enjoyed building her career in the private sector, the switch to humanitarian work has proved to be a better fit for Kiko Harvey’s compassionate personality. “With her background she could get a job anywhere but she chose the humanitarian field and that in itself speaks volumes about her character,” said a PwC Partner who worked with Harvey on the West Coast. As she considers the next few years before retirement, Harvey reflects on her decision to switch to a more passionate path of auditing. “It’s a very rewarding position,” says Harvey, “this is a good way to go out.”