As a very young child, I stole a couple of walnuts from the grocery store. My mother marched me back inside, and the cashier used the loudest PA system to call the manager. After I apologized, he smiled and handed me the biggest chocolate bar I had ever seen as a reward for my honesty. I’m not sure that was the lesson my mom had in mind, but I never again took anything.
Kiko Harvey, vice president of Corporate Audit and Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) for Delta Airlines, recalls the childhood story of her pilfered walnuts with this update. “Now my career centers on ensuring controls are in place to prevent people from stealing. Isn’t that ironic?”
Harvey currently leads the worldwide corporate-audit function for one of the world’s largest airlines and was responsible for building an in-house audit team after the merger of Delta and Northwest. “I own the internal-audit reporting process,” she explains, “including audits of internal controls, joint ventures, alliances, and suppliers.” Harvey also supports Delta’s leadership to manage risk across the enterprise, and she sets the strategy for the Corporate Audit function through development of strategic and annual operating plans. Her department is small, but mighty, with a dozen full-time professional staff — mostly licensed CPAs or MBAs — and a budget that ranges from $2 million to $4 million per year.
Regarding her leadership style, Harvey says, “I’ve been mindful to create a diverse workforce within all my teams, based on my personal belief that people who share different viewpoints and come from different backgrounds will reach a better conclusion in the end.”
Her Eagle Award nominator, Hank Halter, senior vice president and CFO for Delta, says Delta was fortunate to find Harvey after an extensive nationwide search. “Kiko has made a strong, positive impact as a Delta leader by building a fully operational and effective Corporate Audit department with the added responsibility of leading our enterprise risk-management activities. Hers is a key role within the company.”
But Harvey originally planned to become a geologist. While most other children had a playhouse, she had a rock laboratory and a library full of books about earth formations. “I studied rocks, I collected rocks, and I even named my stuffed animals after types of minerals,” she says. Then she met the father of a high school friend who happened to be a CPA who conducted oilfield audits in the Middle East. “He convinced me that I would be gainfully employed if I, too, became a CPA — and he even promised to hire me if no one else would.” The rest is history, and, although her career mentor is now retired, he and Harvey still keep in touch.
The experience not only guided Harvey into her lifelong career path, but it also taught her the importance of mentoring and giving back to the community. She volunteers along with her children, for example, at Camp Twin Lakes. The nonprofit organization provides camp activities for kids with life-altering challenges.
Harvey pays close attention to new parents, too, who often struggle, as she once did, with the decision to try to raise children while pursuing a career. “I can share my perspective,” she says, “and many amusing stories about the challenges of raising two toddlers while attempting to climb the corporate ladder — often with gum stuck on my shoe.” Harvey hopes that her example inspires others to try, while she gives much praise to her own supportive husband for continually helping her.
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2011 Eagle Award winner Kiko Harvey.