Lisa Traina is a trailblazer in the world of business and technology. She was one of the few women to major in computer science at LSU in 1982. “The women in the computer science department were few and far between,” Traina says. “They still are. I’ve always worked in a man’s world.”
Although she enjoyed her classes in computer programming, she felt isolated in the department. That led Traina to take courses in LSU’s business college, where her friends were studying. She minored in accounting and found that skill set to be highly marketable in the corporate workplace—particularly banking.
But it was some years after college, when she combined her two specialties—business and technology—that she was able to strike out on her own and launch a successful, independent business.
“My ability to take the technical, geeky stuff and be able to talk to business owners and explain it in an understandable way is a big part of my success,” Traina says. “Being the one who can speak both languages will make a woman, or man, successful.”
She didn’t set out to be an IT auditor in the beginning. In fact, it was not much of an industry when she started out. She was working as a business consultant while raising her two small children when a fellow CPA and friend from local accounting firm Hannis T. Bourgeois called her because he had a banking client in need of an IT audit.
“At first, I thought, I don’t want to do that; nobody likes auditors,” she says. “But I said, OK.’ That’s how I got into this business.”
Since her first IT audit in 1999, the technological landscape has grown and become more complex. At the same time, word spread about her services, and more clients came to her for IT audits, which is now one process banks must undergo as part of an overall financial audit.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking for the work,” Traina says. But it found her. Five years into specializing in IT audits, she was receiving more requests than she could handle alone. She began to grow Traina & Associates.
Today the firm has an annual revenue of about $1 million. She has assembled a team of eight employees, including three CPAs.
Not all of them have backgrounds in technology or accounting. Rather, she believes in hiring smart, logical thinkers who are detail-oriented and can learn quickly, as technology is continually evolving. Part of her business philosophy is to utilize technology to be more efficient and innovative.
She measures success based on productivity rather than the amount of hours logged at a desk. This has given her and her staff work-life balance and flexibility, something that’s lacking in corporate culture but highly valued by workers.
“Everything we do is cloud-based,” she says. “We can literally work anywhere.”
For two of her out-of-state staff, that means Colorado and Utah. For Traina, it means the ability to work from her Florida beach house.
Working in the cloud, however, does not mean the firm lets its guard down on IT security. “The cloud itself is neither more secure or less secure,” she says. “It depends on the particular cloud vendor. Every year we analyze the security,” she says.
Traina advises all businesses, regardless of size, to be equally as vigilant. The best approach: Educate yourself and call in experts sooner than later.
“Everyone is vulnerable,” she notes. “It’s no longer just the big company or bank. Every individual and small business is subject to some kind of breach and will most likely have one.”
Her firm has created a one-day review that can help small businesses identify their technological weak links.
This year, she continues to lead the way as the fourth female president of the 102-year-old Society of Louisiana CPAs.