Auditor Profile

Auditor Profile: An Academic’s Perspective on Auditing

Dr. Ajay Shah holds numerous degrees, has authored many research papers, lectured and conducted research at some of the most prestigious universities around the world. With a passion for food safety and food science and technology, Dr. Shah brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his work as an auditor and a food science and technical consultant.

Dr. Shah gained his first university degree in biology and chemistry. He later went on to complete a master’s degree in food science in 1991 followed by a Ph.D. in food technology. Since then, Dr. Shah has been involved in the food industry either on an academic front—through teaching and lecturing—or supervising students at honors, master’s, and doctorate levels.

Dr. Shah didn’t necessarily set out to become a lecturer; however, an opportunity came to light when he was looking for employment.

“I was applying for jobs and I wasn’t getting very far,” Dr. Shah says. “Organizations looked at me as overqualified. A lectureship came up at the University of Wales, so I applied and I got it.”

He then later progressed to become a senior lecturer both in the UK and Australia.

Throughout his lecturing career, Dr. Shah has spoken on topics such as food process engineering, food technology, food chemistry, and cereal technology.

In 2003, Dr. Shah was again looking for new clients and work, this time as a consultant. He was approached by consultancy and training firm RQA.

“That opportunity led to some food safety, product, and public liability-type assessments and audits,” Dr. Shah says. “The person I was dealing with at the company was the current CEO of Exemplar Global, Mr Peter Holtmann, so I had to give all of my audit reports to him for review. He was the first person to say, you would make a really good food safety auditor.”

Dr. Shah now runs his own consultancy firm, AAS Food Technology Pty Ltd, and spends 75 percent of his time working as a consultant, and 25 percent as an auditor.

Dr. Shah believes that his academic experience allows him to bring a lot of value to his clients, both on an auditing and consulting level.

“I offer them guidance based on my knowledge,” Dr. Shah says. “Obviously, you have to be careful, because you are there to do your job as an auditor, so you are measuring them against a standard. But, at the same time, you give them tips on what they should be looking for.

“I think a lot of clients value that strongly. Even if you raise major nonconformances, they look at you in a positive light and not like a policeman.

“Companies now look at the system in a holistic way of how they can improve, so the days of the ‘policeman’ coming to inspect are gone.”

Dr. Shah believes that adding value to the client is the most important part of being an auditor.

“You can add value to a client when you raise a nonconformance as long as you give a proper reason, rather than raising it for the sake of it,” Dr. Shah explains. “Once they are given those reasons, clients are usually happy to receive that sort of feedback. It really gives me a kick to give something back to the industry as well as help people improve their processes.”

Although Dr. Shah is now quite successful and comfortable in the profession, this wasn’t always the case, with his academic experience making it difficult to getting a start.

“When you’re an academic with so much knowledge, it’s difficult to get into the industry,” Dr. Shah reflects. “People often look at you and say, you are just an academic, what are you going to bring to us? They just look at academics as people who have narrow vision.

“I think if given the opportunity, there are some academics who can fit into industry, and I am living proof.”

Reflecting on the most pressing issues facing the auditing profession, Dr. Shah believes there to be variation in auditors’ skill sets and in the competency of auditors. Situations that Dr. Shah says can be remedied through communication.

“I think they could gain a lot of insight from just talking to each other,” Dr. Shah says. “The next generation of auditors needs to be communicating much more. I find auditing to be a very closed shop at the moment. I can understand why because of confidentiality, but you can still give examples by creating a scenario of a situation.”

Dr. Shah acknowledges that as an auditor most of his time is spent working in solitary, which can be difficult. However, his academic experience can have its advantages in this regard.

“Having studied for my Ph.D., I spent a lot of time in isolation,” he says. “Basically, you become a guru in your field of study. However, I have learned a lot more having worked in industry. Combining these can bring that knowledge and experience to the table and make you a better auditor.”


One Response

  1. Kaushika Shah
    Kaushika Shah at |

    Hi Ajay, this is Kaushika Shah, from UK. I saw your profile and thought it would be nice to make contact again after so many years.


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