Sandy Pundmann is a trailblazer.
She was a first-generation student who bucked the odds and thrived in two male-dominated fields.
When the St. Charles native was 13, her father died. Her mom, then a stay-at-home mother, went to work as a babysitter, waitress and telemarketer to support her two children.
“She really instilled that education was important. She encouraged me to get out and get a college education,” Pundmann said.
That encouragement, coupled with a supportive high school biology teacher, led Pundmann to apply to college. She received scholarships from Missouri State University and headed to Springfield.
“It was the best thing that I did. I got a really great education at Missouri State, very applicable to what I ended up focusing on in business. I had great instructors in the College of Business who were very encouraging,” she said.
It was 1977.
Pundmann took an accounting class and loved it. She double-majored in accounting and computer data processing. Both majors appealed to her because she loved solving problems.
Those fields were completely male-dominated at that time but that didn’t intimidate Pundmann.
“I think I have a lot more grit because of my experiences,” she said.
After graduation, she landed a job as a programmer at Southwestern Bell (which is now AT&T).
She worked and took night classes at University of Missouri —St. Louis. It took five years, but Pundmann received her MBA and then became a CPA.
Rise through the ranks
A hard worker, she rose through the ranks in a variety of information technology and finance roles, eventually becoming the global chief audit executive.
That was a turning point in her career and another time in life where mentors encouraged her.
“This was a pretty big job, where my name wasn’t even in the running according to the rumor mill,” she said. “I was in my 30s. I had mentors who were very supportive of me getting this job. And I wasn’t quite ready for it. I remember I was the only non-officer executive reporting up to the vice chairman, chief financial officer.
“He said, ‘You don’t think you’re ready for this, but we’re a team. We’re going to help you get there.’ I think that’s been something that has been very helpful. You don’t always have to have all the skill sets for a job, but if you have a team that complements you and works together, you can achieve phenomenal success.”
Shaping future leaders
As her leadership skills developed, she became passionate about shaping other leaders.
Over the years, Pundmann became a Certified Internal Auditor and holds a Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA).
She was recruited by Deloitte and spent 24 years in a variety of positions at the firm.
“Once I went to Deloitte, one of the things that I’ve been very passionate about is developing leaders and developing talent,” Pundmann said.
At Deloitte, back in the 1990s, they recognized that women were leaving at a faster pace than men. So they created a women’s initiative that was the foundation for what is now diversity, equity and inclusion.
The program, called Forward Track, took senior managers right before they were up for a partner promotion and cultivated their confidence and leadership capabilities.
“I’m going to generalize but sometimes women don’t self-promote as much as men,” Pundmann said. “Sometimes women will work hard and think, ‘Somebody will notice what I’ve done.’ Or they don’t feel confident. Let’s say they didn’t do one little thing right; they’ll dwell on that and not focus on all of the great contributions they have made. Or they may not ask for what they want, like a promotion or a new role.
“We worked on skills that could help them tell their story, articulate the value that they bring, and let people know what they’ve accomplished without feeling like they’re bragging.”
Pundmann spent seven years in that role and loved developing leaders. She was a natural champion for others since she had mentors throughout life that made a difference.
Adam Scott Regelbrugge, partner at Deloitte, said Pundmann was a natural leader.
“Her unwavering positivity, support and encouragement, as well as her commitment to helping others grow and reach their potential,” made her an excellent mentor, he said.
Reaching senior partner
Pundmann became a senior partner at Deloitte, and was chief executive of the firm’s internal audit business.
As a senior partner at Deloitte, Sandy became a sought-after advisor for CEOs and boards of companies facing marketplace disruptions that required rapid maturation of their governance, finance, enterprise risk, and business growth capabilities.
“It provided me the opportunity to work with so many fabulous clients. Our goal was to help them be successful, to provide not only hindsight but foresight perspectives to their boards on what risks the organization is facing, provide perspectives on those risks, and insights as to the state of controls within the organization.
“As the leader of the Internal Audit business at Deloitte, my strategy was to focus on innovation and transformation so that internal audit would not only provide assurance but also advise and anticipate risks for the organization.”
Awarded for her contributions
She had already made plans to retire when she found out she was named to the American Hall of Distinguished Audit Practitioners.
“I had no idea I got nominated,” she said. “One of the people who nominated me went out and talked to a lot of my clients and leaders about my contributions in the internal audit profession and how I have helped contribute to innovation throughout my career. It was really humbling what people said because it really felt like I had made a difference in a lot of my clients’ lives. I am very honored.”
It was a wonderful recognition at the end of a rewarding career. A career that she never even imagined as a young girl in St. Charles, Missouri.
Pundmann retired on April 3, 2021. During retirement, she hopes to serve on public boards and travel.
“I’ve been working almost 40 years and I like to be busy even to the point of chaos,” Pundmann said. “I like being able to continually evolve, learn, experience and grow. Feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable is a way to continue to grow.
“I’ve been lucky because I’ve really loved what I’ve done. I had the opportunity to work with startups all the way through major Fortune 10 companies, and that’s been so fun.”
About the award
The IIA’s American Hall of Distinguished Audit Practitioners (“Hall”) was established in 2011 to recognize key individuals in the field of internal auditing who have contributed significantly to the profession throughout their lifetime. It is the highest honor given by the North American Board for the contributions and accomplishments that the recipient has made to advance the profession, setting the standard for others to emulate.
It is given to no more than four people annually.