New Deloitte CEO: From High-Potential to Inspiration

March 12, 2015 6:31 pm

By Barbara Frankel

Catherine Engelbert, DeloitteWhen Cathy Engelbert joined Deloitte in the mid-1980s, she was quickly identified as one of the few high-potential women in a “very male-dominated environment.”

Former Chairman and CEO Mike Cook was just launching Deloitte’s first women’s initiative. “He had daughters and he looked at the fact that 50 percent of accounting majors coming out of grad school were women,” she recalled. “Our leadership at the partner level was less than 10 percent women at the time.”

As a high-potential, Cathy was encouraged to take risks and stretch assignments. “I was a young manager, not yet married, and the culture at Deloitte helped me grow and get different experiences. The partners sponsored me and asked, ‘What does Cathy need? What client should she work with?’”

Stretch Assignments Are Critical

When she made partner in 1998, the attention to stretch assignments continued. She was offered the position of consulting around financial incentives and derivatives, not usually assigned to first-year partners. “It was totally different and I spent four years in that group and learned a lot about the consultative side of our business,” Cathy said.

Current Position
CEO, Deloitte (No. 11 in the DiversityInc Top 50)Previous Positions
Chairman and CEO, Deloitte & Touche (Deloitte’s U.S. subsidiary)National Managing Partner – Regions, Deloitte & Touche

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, Lehigh University

Member, Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council

Member, Accounting Advisory Board, Lehigh University

Early in her career, her mentors primarily were male, although they included Deloitte’s first female board chair, Sharon Allen. Former CEO Jim Quigley “took an interest in me” and helped her get an assignment working with pharmaceutical companies, another stretch job.

“The best piece of mentoring advice I ever had was not to be scared to do differing things, to move out of your comfort zone,” she advised.

A Role Model for Others

Today, with close to 20 percent of the partners women and 60 percent of new hires from underrepresented groups, Cathy feels proud to be a role model.
A turning point in her career, she said, is when people saw her managing her work and home priorities successfully (she is married and has a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son). “I always get to my kids’ sporting events. I even coached my daughter’s basketball team,” she said. “This is all about predictability. If I know my daughter has a game and I know urgent client matters come up, I work it out.”

Cathy noted young people today “are looking for the ability to do different things rather just work 24/7.” Deloitte wants to ensure this generation of high-potentials wants to stay with the firm and move up.

“We’ll only be as successful as the people we hire,” she said.

Cathy works extensively with the high-potentials at Deloitte now. “This is what I love to do,” she added, noting that someone recently asked her what her proudest moment at Deloitte has been and she cited an email she received from a female senior manager who had recently had twins and was pregnant with a third child.

“She said, ‘Cathy, you give me so much inspiration. I know I can make my career here.’” Out of the messages she has received recently, including many congrats on her promotion to CEO, “that was my favorite,” she said.

She makes mentoring senior managers, particularly women with families, her priority and is particularly gratified when they make partner.

She cited the value of programs Deloitte has for emerging leaders, including a 12-month initiative for high-potential women leaders and many development opportunities available through Deloitte University.

While not in any way diminishing the value of these programs, she adds: “You can have the greatest programs in the world, but if you don’t connect with the young people to make sure they know they are valued by us and their clients, it doesn’t matter.”

Cathy is proud to be the first woman CEO at Deloitte and notes that diversity and inclusion are important to leading the company.

“My main goal is to inspire our men and women and be very inclusive. I want everybody to know that diversity and inclusion are priorities for me,” she said.