CEO of Deloitte USA: Make your own moments of opportunity
Executive | Apr 13, 2016 | Gabelli School of Business
Cathy Engelbert, who rose up through the ranks at Deloitte USA to become the first woman CEO of a Big Four accounting firm, never aspired to the job she has.
Instead, she simply sought to be a leader, she told a group of Fordham University students at the April 8 Women in Leadership Conference, sponsored by the university’s Smart Woman Securities chapter and held on the Rose Hill campus.
“My favorite part of the year [was] when people who were working with me got promoted, because that showed that I was leading them … in the right way,” she recalled.
Engelbert combined her leadership aspiration with a strong competitive desire. The South Jersey native, one of eight children, played both basketball and lacrosse at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She made a 30-year rise through the ranks at Deloitte to her current position, where she is one of only 21 women to lead a Fortune 500 company.
Engelbert’s conversation was the first of a daylong series of conference talks from successful women in finance, including GAMCO executive Regina Pitaro, FCRH ’76, who headed a panel discussion on women in investing.
Engelbert came armed with advice for the students. She stressed that the disruption in the economy is creating new opportunities, and she encouraged those in attendance to develop the “soft skills” needed to capture them.
You need to have a mindset of integrity and constant learning to make your own “moments of success,” she said. Engelbert seeks out knowledge about industries so she can be conversant with their leaders. As the head of an auditing firm, having an understanding of a client’s business is a key to developing a strong relationship.
But, by far, the top thing students need to develop is confidence, she said.
“You’re getting an amazing education at an amazing university, and you should be extremely confident,” she said. “Especially when you join the business world, you’re going to be quickly thrown in front of the leaders of organizations.”
Always be on the lookout for opportunities in your career, and do not be afraid to suggest you be considered for them, she advised: No one is going to pay as much attention to your career as you are.
“Make your moments,” she said. “You have to raise your hand, not sit still … and build your capabilities.”