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Barone Finds Job Satisfying

Internal Auditor Mixes Discipline With Laid-Back Attitude

By Elizabeth T. Bangs

Michael J. Barone directs an office in charge of picking through the University's financial messes.

So it can be jarring to meet Barone, Harvard's director of internal audit, a laid-back but disciplined version of the proverbial eldest child.

As an auditor, Barone is someone who must be finely attuned to nuances and rules, and he himself has lived life by the book.

He majored in accounting, is involved in several professional organizations and, at age 36, has already been head of Harvard's Internal Audit Department for eight years.

"He works very hard. He works long hours," Managing Auditor Joseph J. Casarano says of his boss. "And he's picky, very nit-picky."

But there is one major difference between Barone and most first children--Barone is satisfied.

"Life's Pretty fulfilling. I don't think there's much missing," Harvard's top auditor says. "I don't think there's anything that I have hanging out there. I'm a pretty happy guy, actually."

Barone is essentially the University's financial troubleshooter. He works as a liason of sorts between auditors and Harvard's top management, bringing problems turned up by his office to the attention of administrators. The auditing office also researches and proposes solutions.

Barone says administrators tend to be open to his suggestions, but there are exceptions.

"Sometimes it takes prodding and nudging," he says.

Barone says he decided to go into auditing after majoring in accounting at Siena College in upstate New York "Because the letters 'CPA' sounded better than some other kind of an accountant in a corporate environment."

He worked for an international accounting firm for several years and then for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

In 1985, he came to Harvard as director of financial services for the sponsored research office and moved to his current position about eight months later.

He says that working at Harvard has contributed in large part to his current satisfaction.

"I've worked for excellent people. I think Harvard is an excellent organization to work in and work in and people to work with," Barone says. "This place draws the type of quality individuals that far exceeded my expectations."

Working as an internal auditor generally means keeping tabs on parts of the University in an effort to avoid financial problems.

But sometimes the job of an auditor is more difficult. Auditors in Barone's office, for example, were called in last summer to assess the damage after thousands of dollars were found to be missing from the accounts of Evening With Champions, the Eliot House ice skating charity.

In a tough job, Barone's team approach helps make the office a good place to work, Casarano says.

"He tries to make it a team approach and get the entire department involved," Casarano says. "He's a fair boss. He's always willing to debate and enjoys a lively discussion."

Barone says he considers cooperation a good management practice and essential to the success of the department.

"You need to work together. You need to be in sync with one another. You need to help one another. You need to try to achieve your goals, I think, together," Barone says." I think that provides a certain incentive, more of a satisfaction and helps you to be more effective."

For the self-described, happily married, "wonderful father of two," life after he leaves his fifth floor Holyoke Center office focuses on his family, particularly his wife of nearly 12 years, Mary, and their two children, John, 6, and Christie, 4.

"I have a great family and a terrific wife," Barren says. "I think I have a terrific family and friends support structure."

He says his free time is limited by the hours he devotes to work, but the time he does have is spent with his family.

"I tend to have a full time-plus schedule, and then I go home and play with the kids," he says.

In fact, Barone helped coach his son's basketball team last season.

"Mainly that, and playing and attending an occasional sporting event," Barone says. "Nothing wild and crazy."

The auditor also devotes a great deal of time to related professional organizations."

He serves as the chair of the governmental affairs committee of the Association of College and University Auditors.

"I'm sort of their eyes and ears on what's bubbling on the federal front, particularly in the area of sponsored research," he says.

He also works with the Council on Governmental Relations, "an important sponsored research administrators group...as an audit advisor, in a sense," Barone says.

At 36, Barone is still young and says he does not consider his current job a "career position." He says that in the future he would like to pursue financial management.

"That's as far as my mind will stretch," Barone says. "Just take that in a positive light."

Clearly, he likes his job. In an interview this week, Barone volunteered to lend his auditors to any independent student agency, including Harvard Student Agencies and The Crimson.

For now, at least, he says he is happy with his life just the way it is happy with his life just the way it is.

"I'm satisfied in the context of the situation," Barone says. "It's been an excellent opportunity."

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