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CEO@Smith: Deloitte CEO, Cathy Engelbert

Apr 10, 2018
Experiential / Reality-based Learning

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Many CEOs sleep with their smartphones on the nightstand next to their beds. Some even sleep with it in their beds. Deloitte CEO, Cathy Engelbert prefers to keep hers downstairs at night. "Disconnect yourself every once in a while," she told an overflow crowd on March 14, 2018, during the CEO@Smith speaker series at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “You work hard, but you need to find time to take care of yourself.”

Engelbert, who ranks No. 16 on Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Women list and No. 21 on Working Mother's 50 Most Powerful Moms list, covered a range of topics during her talk. She started by recognizing the 900 Terps who work at Deloitte, a professional services firm with U.S. headquarters in New York. “Maryland is actually our largest alumni network of any university at Deloitte,” she said.

Overall, Deloitte employs more than 90,000 professionals; 62 percent of them are millennials. Engelbert said talent acquisition and retention require close attention to the needs of the rising generation, where many millennials say they prefer to work for employers with a social purpose. “If we don’t get this right, we’re in big trouble,” she said.

She draws lessons from her time as a Deloitte partner serving clients in the pharmaceutical industry, where firms typically invest around $1 billion over 10 years to bring a single drug to market. “At Deloitte, our R&D is our people,” she said. “We’ve got to invest in people and talent.”

Her top advice for millennials? “Have patience,” she said. “A career is not a sprint. It is a marathon.”

Engelbert, who has worked at Deloitte for more than 30 years, said she never aspired to be CEO, but she always raised her hand for leadership assignments. “If you want to do different things,” she said, “raise your hand and do different things.” She shared the following additional insights:

On risk-taking: “If you don’t take shots, you’re not going to score,” said Engelbert, who played basketball and lacrosse at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

On big data: “Society is at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution,” Engelbert said. Mobile, social, cloud, and blockchain technology — along with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, digital reality, and robotics — are changing the way companies do business. Engelbert said business school graduates must be tech-savvy and comfortable with big data, but they also need soft skills. “I never met a machine with courage and empathy,” she said.

On life-long learning: Engelbert said professionals must stay curious about the world around them. “Never graduate,” she said. “The half-life of skills is about two years.”

On strategy: Engelbert said leaders must set their priorities and stay focused. “You can’t have a voice on every issue or then you won’t have a voice,” she said.

On leadership: Engelbert said the best leaders are those who help others succeed. “Find the next generation of leaders behind you,” she said. Sometimes, this includes working with people on the fringes. “It’s easy to mentor a superstar,” she said. “Try to mentor someone who is struggling.”

Past CEO@Smith speakers have included Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Kees Kruythoff of Unilever, Arne Sorenson of Marriott International, among others. Learn more about CEO@Smith.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.