Throughout her career, Lisa Bonnell has built a reputation as a “fixer” who could turn around a floundering project.
At EY, her mentors helped her develop the skills she would go on to use at Dell, where she was often brought in at an impasse to offer a fresh perspective. Today, Lisa is tackling a new challenge as the Senior Vice President and General Auditor at Comcast, where EY is also working with Lisa and her team to enhance the company’s audit automation capabilities.
Tell us about your path to EY.
I started out wanting to be a marine biologist, but I realized early on that I probably wasn’t going to be able to afford to eat! At my core I’m truly a math geek, so I took statistics classes in college and fell into econometrics, and I absolutely loved it. At my first job out of college, I was doing highly complex actuarial work. It was a really good place to start, but I realized there wasn’t going to be much advancement opportunity for me there.
It was then that I started talking to what were then the Big Eight accounting firms. The pitch from EY that stuck in my head was, “You’ll get to travel internationally and learn a lot.” So I thought, “Yay! I’d like to do that,” and so I joined the firm. Coincidentally, a relative was the managing partner of the EY office in Phoenix, and I decided to start there.
How would you describe your time at EY?
It was probably the best career decision I could have made: having the opportunity to work for an organization where you get early exposure to so many different industries and process areas has made all the difference.
EY encouraged me to jump into the “deep end of the pool” and figure things out (with plenty of guidance along the way). And you’ve got to figure it out in a way that is helpful to the client as well as the project team. It was a very collaborative process. So it was a really solid foundation for the rest of my career.
In my time at EY, while working with (retired partner) Jane Vaughan, who led the global SAP service team, I probably visited 15 countries — incredible training ground for working across different cultures.
Who are some of the other EY people who have made a difference in your career?
My first year, (retired partner) John Burt helped me understand the lay of the land, and even later he would always make time to help me. Diana Spezman was that peer I could always go to for another perspective on a problem. Rob Quinn (alumnus) is still the best project manager I have ever known. He was the first person to help me craft a vision of how my skills would transfer to other roles and organizations. And (retired partner) George Alexander gave me so many opportunities to learn different things.
What prompted you to move on?
My parents had moved to Austin and I wanted to be more available to them for a variety of reasons. So, I pursued a new role at Dell to be closer to them.
Fortunately, Dell is similar to EY in that the company values breadth, so you’re encouraged to move around, do different things and get out of your comfort zone. At one point at Dell, I worked in the Supply Chain Operations area, which was overwhelming at first. But then I hit my stride and learned more in that two years than I had in any other time in my career outside of EY.
And now you’re at Comcast. How has it been?
It’s been great. I followed my mentor, Cindi, who left Dell to join Comcast and encouraged me to join the company just after the NBCUniversal acquisition. As was the case for me at Dell, I’ve had the opportunity to work in various parts of the company, beginning in audit, moving to the cable business and eventually running operations for our mid-market.
Last year, the chance to return to the audit team in a leadership role arose and I seized it. With a new chief accounting officer and myself as recent additions to the Audit Committee, we have a new direction for our audit approach. Continuous monitoring is a big priority using big data, and we’re working with EY to “audit bot” ourselves into automation.
As you mentor others, does the idea of working in consulting ever come up?
Yes, it comes up a lot. At Comcast, the audit model is to give our team exposure to different areas of the company and build those skills that are going to help them no matter where they go. Every quarter, we switch who our team members are reporting to and which audit they’re on so that they get the benefit of having to learn how to adjust to different projects and managers, just like I did at EY.
Today, some folks come to me and say, “I’m thinking about going to the Big Four. What do you think?” And I always say, “Yes, you should go.” That experience is something that they just can’t get elsewhere. In the last five years, I have helped some 30 people get roles at one of the Big Four.
What motivates you?
Professionally, what gets me up in the morning is having a role where I can drive change, which is really what I have been doing my whole career, and that began at EY.
My husband and I are also big animal lovers, and the work that I’m able to do for the Philadelphia Zoo, the coolest zoo in the world in my opinion, means a lot to both of us. The experience for the animals is world class, with the aerial walkways that have been constructed. I have been blown away with how great it works!
We’ve also helped design a scavenger hunt that has brought technology right into the zoo experience. It’s been brilliant to see in action.
That’s yet another example of how your “fixer” mindset makes a difference.
I guess so! Being able to bring that to my community is so rewarding.
More about Lisa Bonnell
- Senior Vice President, General Auditor at Comcast, 2017– Present
- Senior Vice President, Operations for Comcast Business and various other roles, 2011–2017
- Executive Director, Dell Inc., 1998–2011
- Consulting Manager, EY, 1994–1998
- Worked with Lockheed Martin after college
- BS in Economics, Santa Clara University
- Self-described ”crazy animal lover” who serves on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Zoo
- Avid surfer with her husband, Shane, whom she met when he was a scuba instructor on Kauai, Hawaii