Todd Zelnick (B.A. '77)
Todd Zelnick Q & A:
What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
I enjoyed a political science course I took with Dr. Harper. I decided to go to law school after I took his class. My fondest memory is participating in a dance marathon in the spring of 1977. I danced for 3 days straight!
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
After I graduated from Hofstra, I attended Creighton University School of Law and graduated with a J.D. in May 1980. I then passed the Iowa Bar in June 1980. I briefly worked for my father in his business. Dad was an OB/GYN and I maintained Dad’s accounting records. I didn’t get my first federal government job until January 1984. I worked for the IRS in downtown Manhattan as a taxpayer service representative. The most valuable thing that I learned at the IRS was how to multi-task. Taxpayers would call the Taxpayer Service Department that I worked in. I had to process their requests and figure out what tax reforms were needed by each caller. I obtained a full-time federal position in March 1984 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and I moved to Washington, D.C. I have been in Washington, D.C. for the past 29 years. During that time, I worked at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of the Public Debt, and the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Inspector General. I transferred to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General in March 2003, and I have worked there ever since.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My field of specialty is auditing. I started as an auditor at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March 1984.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Be willing to take a lower paying job and “learn what you need to learn” about that job in order to advance professionally. Be flexible. Organizations like people who demonstrate flexibility and a willingness to work as a member of a team in order to get things done. You might have moments in your career when things do not “appear to be going your way.” Whatever happens, don’t give up trying to get ahead. If you continue to work and persevere, you will eventually advance professionally. Continue to work on your technical skills. Keep your career options open. Keep a daily record of your work performance. Set up a Word file that only you can access. In every job, you will probably have written performance elements. In your Word file, jot down a few words about what you did each day and don’t spend more than 30 seconds each day going into this file. Many things/events will take place during a rating period and you can’t be expected to remember the details about every project that you were involved in. Keeping a daily record of the projects that you were involved in will “jog your memory” and, if necessary, help you prepare your performance self-assessment at the end of each rating period.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Challenging. I feel that Hofstra is a place where an average student who wants to succeed, can thrive.
How has your degree helped you?
When I was a business major at Hofstra, I had to write several term papers each semester. Written communication is very important for auditors. My training enabled me to attend entrance/exit conferences and prepare a synopsis of what was discussed. In my current job, I attend Congressional hearings on Capitol Hill and prepare synopses for my supervisor. My education at Hofstra also taught me the importance of time management. Being able to manage your time properly and multi-task is important if you want to advance professionally.
What is a typical work day like for an auditor at Homeland Security?
I can’t really answer this question because various Homeland Security auditors work on various projects.
Personally, I am the person in Washington, D.C. who has to review audit reports for technical accuracy, and I also determine whether the CPA firm's audit coverage was sufficient based on specific OMB guidelines. I note, if applicable, any deficiencies and contact the individuals who prepared the audit report concerning possible follow-up actions that these individuals need to take. Last year, I performed a quality control review of Department of Homeland Security's portion of the FY 2009 single audit of D.C. Government. I went with a co-worker to the CPA firm's office in Bethesda, Maryland and reviewed the CPA firm's working papers to determine whether this CPA complied with specific federal government requirements. I participated in an exit conference with the CPA firm's senior management in order to discuss my quality control review results. I also documented my quality control review findings and forwarded these findings to the Health and Human Services audit manager. Recently, I inserted some formulas into an Excel spreadsheet in order to help a co-worker in the Human Resources Department. I have also responded to data calls for information concerning prior year single audit report findings, and have accessed the Image Management System website and downloaded single audit report information that some of my co-workers needed.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see your career progressing to in the future?
I hope that in 10 years I will be retired. I plan on doing part-time work in the DC area as an accountant or possibly as a tour guide.
Todd Zelnick (B.A. '77) is marking his 29th year working for the federal government, currently as an auditor with the US Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC. Todd personally reviews reports in connection with disaster relief projects to determine if they are in accordance with the Federal Government's requirements. When an entity receives $500,000 or more in federal grants, a single audit needs to be performed in order to ensure that the money was spent and accounted for in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines. Todd is the person in Washington, D.C. who has to review this report for technical accuracy and also to determine whether the CPA firm's audit coverage was sufficient based on specific OMB guidelines.
Prior to graduating from Hofstra, Todd was a Business major with an interest in Political Science. It was actually his interest in political science that encouraged him to later enroll in law school. He attended Creighton University of Law and graduated with his JD in May of 1980. He passed the Iowa Bar exam in June of the same year. Todd began his career working with accounting records for his father. He landed his first job with the federal government in 1984. From there, he worked for the IRS in Manhattan as a taxpayer service representative. That is where he learned the importance of multitasking and passed the CPA exam in May 1986. While talking to taxpayers, he would have to determine what reforms were needed for each caller while also processing each request.
Later, Todd obtained a full-time position at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, facilitating his move to Washington D.C. Over the course of his career with the U.S. Federal Government, Todd has worked within the departments of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of the Public Debt, and the US Department of Treasury Office of Inspector General. In March 2003, he transferred to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and has worked there since.