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Syed Imran Zia, CIA, CRMAMeet Imran Zia: Increase Your Knowledge Base, Broaden Your Skillset

Syed Imran Zia, CIA, CRMA
Chief Internal Auditor
Gulf Drilling International
Doha, Qatar

1. What prompted you to become certified?

I have been in audit for most of my career. I attained my accountancy qualification (ACCA) early on. However, I didn’t have any qualification specific to internal audit and I wanted to excel in my field. After working in the profession for a while, I realized attaining a world-class, globally-recognized internal audit qualification was the only way forward for me. The Certified Internal Auditor® (CIA®) met that criteria and was the natural choice. I incorporated earning the CIA into my career plan and began studying. I quickly realized that just preparing for the CIA exam parts helped me in my job. This further motivated me to earn the designation. By 2010, I had completed all exam parts and earned my CIA.

2. What IIA certification(s) do you hold, and why did you choose to pursue it (them)? Do you plan to pursue other IIA certifications, and if so, which ones and why?

I hold the CIA and recently passed my CRMA exams as well. I firmly believe that IIA qualifications increase your knowledge base and broaden your skillsets. I have always found great value in them in terms of knowledge and career advancement. I want to earn more, and I am considering the CCSA as my next professional qualification.

3. How does having an IIA certification(s) set you apart from your non-certified peers?

IIA certifications put you in a totally different league professionally. Apart from acquiring a wealth of knowledge, you become an obvious choice for employers. In my opinion, your marketability increases ten-fold. I have noticed that many employers are now insisting that candidates have a specialized internal audit qualification. This means IIA qualifications will put you ahead of all others.

4. How has your IIA certification(s) helped your career?

I have benefited a great deal from the IIA qualifications I have earned. My CIA has helped me demonstrate to my employers that I possess all the necessary skills to lead an internal audit function. Further, it has enhanced my professional credibility and I even received a raise after I earned my certification. The continuing education requirements of certification help to keep me involved with my local IIA chapter and the chapter’s activities provide fantastic knowledge-sharing and networking opportunities. In addition, I have the opportunity to speak as a subject matter expert at internal audit conferences around the world. I give my CIA qualification full credit for this.

5. Has earning the IIA certification(s) enhanced your skill level?

As a firm believer in continual self-improvement, I always wanted to expand my skillsets and knowledge and IIA certifications certainly did that. The process of earning my CIA provided what I needed to be an expert internal auditor and the CRMA added a great risk management quotient to my portfolio. Over the years, I have prided myself on building many internal audit functions from scratch. It was the applicable knowledge I gained through earning my CIA that allowed me to do this. Earning both the CIA and CRMA have been invaluable to my career.

6. What advice do you have for others who are considering obtaining an IIA certification?

I strongly recommend pursuing IIA certifications, especially the CIA, to all internal auditors who want to add value to their organization and to grow in their career. If they are seeking a qualification that really works for them, then it is the CIA and they should make earning it an immediate priority. They will reap the rewards of all the hard work and commitment they put into it immediately and continue to do so throughout their career.

7. How does career planning and development play a part in your growth?

Succeeding in any aspect of life requires clear objectives and a workable plan. The same holds true professionally. It is very important that we plan our career path to attain the established targets. You can’t really measure your growth if you have not set targets for yourself. It is of imminent importance that we set our professional development targets, map out plans, and then be consistent in following through. I am a firm believer in self-assessment and/or self-audit. We should keep monitoring our direction to assess if we are on the right path and it is the most efficient way to reach our targets.

8. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

One of my career coaches once told me that we should never be stagnant. We must continue to move forward and become better. This means that achieving various milestones should not ever signal an end. It simply motivates us to move forward to the next milestone, as learning is a lifelong journey with no end. In addition, once we are in a position to benefit society, we must offer our services. We must leave a trail behind us so that it is easy for others to follow in our footsteps and take our accomplishments even further. I have adopted this philosophy and I believe in it, as it has worked for me. 


Syed Imran Zia, CIA, CRMA is a seasoned professional whose rich internal audit experience spans decades. He currently serves as the chief internal auditor (CIA) for Gulf Drilling International in Doha, Qatar. Throughout his career, he has earned a reputation as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge and committed to furthering standards of excellence. He has worked for various multinational organizations, Big Four Firms, and national and international corporations. His experience includes building several internal audit functions from the ground up in the Middle East and he is considered a subject matter expert.

Zia is the recipient of the "Internal Audit Excellence Award" from ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales). He also serves on the advisory committees of several professional bodies including ACCA and ACFE. His passion for the profession is evidenced through his ongoing service as:

  • Vice Chairman of ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, UK) Members Advisory Committee in Qatar.
  • President of Directors of ACFE (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, USA), Qatar Chapter
  • A Member of Advisory Board for Internal Audit Competency Benchmarking Project initiated by Excelledia Qatar 

Zia is invited regularly to present as an expert speaker at various professional conferences and seminars worldwide. He was a speaker at The IIA’s International Conference in Sydney in July of 2017.

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About the CIA

As the only globally recognized certification for internal auditors and The IIA’s flagship credential for more than 40 years, the CIA sets the standard for excellence in the profession. Learn more.