Women Who Wow: Colleen O’Sullivan Shows Us the Power of Pausing and Pivoting in Both Our Professional and Personal Lives

Find out how Zebra’s Chief Accounting Officer sustained a high-tempo, full-time career while raising four kids without burning out or missing a beat.

Zebra Chief Accounting Officer Colleen O`Sullivan with her daughters on a boat
by Julie Johnson
June 30, 2023

Zebra Chief Accounting Officer Colleen O’Sullivan is not your typical accountant. 

First off, she is super passionate about accounting. Most kids don’t dream of being an accountant when they grow up. Yet, as a sophomore in high school, Colleen – a math enthusiast – knew that she was going to be in accounting in some form or fashion. So, she set herself down that path and never even thought about changing course. (Her biggest pivot was going from private industry to public accounting back to private industry.)

Secondly, Colleen is a big-picture thinker and someone who’s not afraid to operate in gray areas.

Although she is very detail oriented, articulate and a rule follower, she’s also helped Zebra teams like mine operate with extreme financial responsibility within our existing structures by sitting down, understanding what we need and identifying areas where we can tailor accounting practices to our business processes versus having to re-engineer business processes.  While she always refers to official accounting/financial reporting literature to ensure company compliance with regulations, she appreciates that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to accounting in private industry – especially not when a company sells software or robots “as-a-service” and offers total solutions (hardware/software/service).

Perhaps most notable, though, is that Colleen is not your typical human being. 

She doesn’t strive for perfection when it comes to work-life “balance,” nor does she sweat the little things. That’s one of the reasons why I am so impressed by her (and why her four grown kids are still talking to her.) She has ambitions, but she doesn’t push so hard that she burns out.  In fact, she didn’t get to her current position by setting and sticking to a career development plan. She changed jobs multiple times and even left the workforce in what ended up being a failed retirement attempt. (Remember how I told you her kids still talk to her? Well, they told her to go back to work.) 

This was a fun interview, so I hope you’ll take some time to listen to it today. I promise you’ll learn a lot about what accountants actually do, why their job is so important to yours, and why it’s okay to pause/breathe and pivot as often as you need in your personal and professional lives.


You’ll hear…

  • What a private industry accountant actually does every day, and how her role today is different than when she was in public accounting.

  • Why Colleen runs the accounting office as its own business, and how that helps Zebra’s business. 

  • How Colleen’s return from retirement for an anticipated 3-month gig turned into a 7+ year stint with Zebra, leading her to her current role as Chief Accounting Officer.

  • When and why she decided it was time to sit on the other side of the table (i.e., switch from public accounting to private industry).

  • How Colleen managed to work full time and still make “hot dog day” at her four children’s school (I think she was a logistics manager in another life.) 

  • Why she aims for work-life “harmony” and encourages everyone she meets to do the same.

Zebra Chief Accounting Officer Colleen O`Sullivan at Nasdaq
Julie Johnson
Julie Johnson has been a global technology business leader for almost 30 years, creating growth and value in product lines and new market segments for the consumer electronics, enterprise, and Fintech/payment markets. She has combined an awareness of customer needs and technology proficiency with passion and recognized leadership, delivering growth in highly competitive markets. Currently, as Vice President of Global Product Management and Portfolio for Zebra Technologies’ $2.1B Mobile Computing business, Julie creates and delivers Android and Windows hardware, software, and cloud-based SaaS solutions to retail, field mobility, warehouse, healthcare, and government channels globally, providing visibility and intelligent collaboration across enterprise employees. She is developing computer vision and augmented reality solutions for warehouse, retail, and field mobility customers.
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