Zebra Chief Accounting Officer Colleen O'Sullivan with her daughters on a boat
By Julie Johnson | June 30, 2023

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 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
Best Practices, Inside Zebra Nation, Leadership, Podcast,
Julie Johnson
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 & General Manager of 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 robotics automation, computer vision and augmented reality solutions for warehouse, retail, and field mobility customers.

Julie has a successful track record of creating innovative product solutions that meet customer needs, prevailing over tough competitors. As Corporate Vice President of Product Management at Google, she led the Droid Android mobile phone product line, winning exclusive, volume-based contracts with Verizon Wireless to provide their entire Droid product line, competing against leading Asian competitors.   As Corporate Vice President of Product Management at Lenovo, Julie owned a global P&L of up to $5B, surpassing Samsung’s market share in South America, launching a new line of devices to meet market needs and launching the first device with an unbreakable display, winning top smartphone in 2012 Consumer’s Report.  Julie spent 9 years of her career at Motorola in manufacturing operations, running factories in a fast-growth, rapidly changing technology environment, understanding the need to vastly lower operating costs while maintaining flexibility and investing for future enablers.

As Director, Julie currently serves on the board of Lumentum (NASDAQ: LITE), a global leader in optical communications and 3D sensing for facial recognition, and Superconductor Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:  SCON), a technology leader in the provision of high temperature superconducting materials and related technologies.  Julie’s strategic insight, experience in global product, technology, and commercialization, and pragmatic execution skills have had positive impact in Lumentum’s development of their 3D sensing market and the development of STI’s superconducting wire business to date.

Her distinctive expertise is in market segment expansion and product line growth, helping companies develop market strategies, create product solution roadmaps, and prioritize M&A vs. organic investments.  Having worked in every global market, she understands the financial conflict between differing market needs and diverse product lines.  She is a passionate, collaborative team player who strives to create value.

Julie earned a Master of Science in Business Administration degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Science Degree in Materials Science & Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She has a Bachelor degree in Math and Physics from Albion College.

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