Townsend School of Business > Lisa McDermott
Lisa McDermott, B.B.A. '88 enjoyed her experience at Dowling given the small class sizes and accessibility to the professors. "You don't get lost in the crowd at Dowling," she commented. Today she continues to stand out as one of the fewer than 100 females who are Chief Financial Officers of a Fortune 1000 company.
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Lisa earned that distinction in 2006 when she was promoted from Vice President, Corporate Finance to CFO of Pall Corporation, an international filtration and purification company headquartered in East Hills, NY.
In just under two decades, Lisa has worked through some of the most tumultuous eras in financial reporting. The CFO chair is now considered the hot seat in corporate America. Ledgers have never been more scrutinized, Wall Street's pressure for bottom-line results is relentless each quarter, and assuring compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley is time consuming, not to mention tedious.
"The CFO position is in a state of flux," Lisa observed. "You need to multi-task the priorities of managing cash flow, working capital and leverage position while also strategically partnering with the business enterprise to drive efficiency and profitability."
Towards that end, Lisa endeavors to learn more about the science and engineering that drive Pall's business through, among other things, visits to customers to see the company's products applied. She realizes it is not sufficient to just crunch the numbers. She needs to know how those numbers are generated.
Upon graduating from Dowling, Lisa worked at KPMG, one of the world's largest accounting firms, and intended to become a partner. "Then the public accounting environment began to change," Lisa recalled, "and I reevaluated my career objectives." Lisa opted to go into industry. Once there, she set her sights on a CFO seat. Now that she's met her objective, she strives each day to "be the best CFO I can be."
In her career as an auditor she worked on site at many different companies. When asked to compare her experience in industry to her days at KPMG, she commented, "In industry, you are focused on one company and executing on all aspects of operational and financial improvement of the enterprise. As an auditor, I served a diverse client base, which, among other things, gave me the opportunity to make recommendations for improvement but no involvement with the execution of the improvement. Now I'm charged with doing both--making strategic decisions and execution."
It has been a quick and serendipitous rise for Lisa. Uncertain of her future out of high school, she began with a liberal arts focus at SUNY Stony Brook, taking classes in a broad range of fields -- philosophy, literature, psychology and the sciences. There, she picked up an accounting class because she "needed the credits and it fit my schedule". She had found her niche and continued with accounting when she transferred to SUNY Farmingdale. After earning her Associate's degree, she headed to Oakdale.
Lisa recalls the knowledge gained in her Business Law class at Dowling, which brought real life experiences into the classroom, and her "pivotal move" of interning with Professor George Foundotos' firm. "I realized that I wanted to work at what was then one of the "Big Eight" accounting firms to gain exposure to large corporations," she said. Upon graduation, she was hired by KPMG, and eventually became senior audit manager for the Pall account. A contact that proved most valuable.