Kelly Barrett, IM '86, is vice president of internal audit for The Home Depot.
Since a string of accounting scandals rocked the corporate world near the start of the decade, Kelly Barrett (IM '86) has experienced a dramatic rise in the prestige of her profession.
But as vice president of internal audit for The Home Depot, Barrett is responsible for much more than just checking the company's books for financial compliance. "At The Home Depot, what we do is about 40 percent traditional audit work and 60 percent business process improvement work," she explains. "We operate more like an internal consultancy."
In addition to overseeing the annual inventory of the company's more than 2,000 stores, Barrett supervises the Internal Audit Leadership Program, which helps groom managers for all functional areas of The Home Depot, not just auditing. Participants, who must have two to four years of prior experience, dedicate two years to the program, rotating through such areas as merchandising, store operations, IT and finance to learn about the whole company.
"The goal is to get them manager-ready when they leave the program," Barrett says. "We love to recruit Georgia Tech alumni with both business and engineering backgrounds. They do extremely well in the program because it's so process-based."
Barrett says she loves the exposure her job gives her to the various operations of a large company. Prior to joining The Home Depot as vice president and corporate controller (her first job with the company) five years ago, she had worked for more than a decade at Cousins Properties, where she rose to CFO. She believes her career will continue to evolve away from finance and into business operations.
Two years into her current role as vice president of internal audit, Barrett works long hours under significant pressure. "If something were to go wrong in the company, the first question the board would ask is why Internal Audit didn't catch it. We're dedicated to improving high-risk areas, making them low risk."
Barrett, who was inducted into the College of Management's Academy of Distinguished Young Alumni last year, appreciates the strong business education she received at Georgia Tech. She returns to the business school at least once a year to talk to accounting classes taught by professor Deborah Turner, an early mentor instrumental in Barrett's decision to go into public accounting.
Barrett's enthusiasm for her alma mater is immediately apparent upon entering her office, which is decorated with many types of Georgia Tech paraphernalia. Regulars at Tech's home football and basketball games, Barrett and her husband Rick (IE '85) traveled to all away football games for a few years until recently. Barrett is something of an athlete herself. She qualified to run the Boston Marathon two times 10 years ago, finishing with respectable times, but she's scaled back her distances a bit in recent years to prevent knee blowouts.
Her father, a high school football coach, influenced not only her love of athletics, but also her desire to help others advance. He dedicated long hours to his players off the field, helping them get scholarships, and Barrett follows his example with the 150 employees she manages. "What I like most about my job is making a difference in other people's careers," she says. "When people ask what gets you up in the morning, I say it's about making a difference in our associates' lives. It's important for people to feel like they make a difference at work. It's really important to me."
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