Welcome to Six Questions with an Ethics & Compliance Officer, a new interview series created in conjunction with National Compliance Officer Day. Each post will shine the spotlight on a different member of the E&C community, from established CCOs and CECOs with years of experience to rising stars with a passion for ethical behavior. 

Q: How long have you been working in ethics and compliance? 

I began working as a temp assistant to the General Counsel and Compliance Officer at a non-profit 10 years ago this month and never looked back. It was my first real-world job, and I was completely unaware of the path it would lay out before me. It turns out the profession was a perfect fit for my interests, skills, and values. I just hadn’t known of its existence prior to the introduction this position provided.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up? 

I was that girl who brought home all the stray cats in the neighborhood, so I wanted to be a veterinarian. And it only got worse once I started horseback riding competitively. But then I found out about the difficulty getting accepted into vet school, the student loans, and the terrible intern pay once you graduated. So much for that idea.

Q: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

At its core, the most rewarding part of my job is knowing I’m doing something for the greater good. Helping my peers create the best outcomes for all of our stakeholders is something I can be proud of when I lay my head down at night. On a more practical level, I’m blessed to work with a really fantastic team and manager, and they make the work enjoyable day-to-day.

On the other hand, the most challenging part is that nagging fear that I could be doing more to penetrate the organization and reach the masses. I’m always looking for ways to have a greater impact.

Q: What are three important traits a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer should possess? 

  1. Collaboration – First, a Compliance and Ethics Officer must be able to build relationships and work with others, primarily those in the business, to understand how operations function and what compliance options are viable and aligned with the company’s values.
  2. Flexibility – Compliance and Ethics Officers must also be able to think outside the box and come up with solutions that enable and empower the business to the fullest extent, while still complying with requirements and ensuring the integrity of the decision.
  3. Communication – Lastly, Compliance and Ethics Officers need to then communicate the changes to the organization in a way that is simple, concise, and impactful to ensure a successful implementation.

Q: If someone wanted to get more involved in promoting ethical behavior in their organization today, what could they do? 

I think the easiest thing would be to pick up the phone, call someone in the Compliance and Ethics Office, and just have a conversation with them. Find out what the latest initiatives are, or invite them to come and speak to their team. Learn about how compliance works in their company, and then share that information with their peers.

Q: What advice would you give to recent college graduates and other professionals who may want to pursue a career in ethics and compliance?

I would recommend they look into one of the compliance and ethics graduate programs. Personally, I obtained a Master’s degree in business ethics and compliance from the New England College of Business. It was a great program and a great differentiator on my resume.

BONUS Q: Anything you can offer to those who have been in the compliance profession for a while? 

Never underestimate the importance of networking. Many people only think about networking when they’re looking for a new job, but the relationships you build between career moves can provide an excellent source for benchmarking, strategizing, and support when the times are good as well.

ABOUT SAMANTHA KELEN, MBEC, CCEP

Samantha Kelen is a Lead Ethics Analyst at Duke Energy where her responsibilities include the Code of Business Ethics, company training initiatives, and communication and awareness activities. She has worked in compliance since 2007 and has experience in both the energy and healthcare industries. Samantha received a Master of Science in Business Ethics and Compliance from the New England College of Business, and a Bachelor of Arts from Purchase College. She is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional and active member of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics. When not at work, she can usually be found on her yoga mat or at her favorite diner. A true extrovert, she loves spending time with friends and making new connections, both personal and professional.