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Volume 1, Issue 2

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An interview with Janet Foutty, CEO, Deloitte Consulting and member of The Chicago Network since 2009

Janet Foutty
CEO, Deloitte Consulting LLP

TCN: Looking back on your career progression, are there pivotal – even minor – decisions that stick out as playing an important role in taking you to where you are now?

Janet Foutty: I was meeting with a group of women MBA students we were hosting at Deloitte University recently and they asked me this question. I think my answer surprised many of them. The decision I made early on that set me on my journey was, quite simply, the decision to try consulting as a career (one more time). After university, I was hired by a Consulting firm and it didn’t really inspire me. When I earned my MBA, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I seriously considered investment banking or maybe pursue a PhD in Math. But I gave Consulting another chance and I loved it. I found that I truly enjoyed the work, the people, and the challenges of helping solve our clients’ biggest issues. I appreciated the chance to use every part of my background and experience and it clearly demonstrated the skills I needed to learn. I am so glad I made that decision (as is the investment banking community!).  Another critical decision point for me came at the end of my maternity leave – as it does for many women. I wasn’t sure how it would work out. But I took, what was for me a leap of faith, and with the tremendous support of my husband, my colleagues and my leadership, I was able to find my path and make it work for us all.

TCN: With your appointment and Cathy Engelbert serving as CEO of Deloitte LLP, two women are at the highest level of the firm’s management ranks. We’re interested in having you discuss the significance of that for women – and men – at Deloitte and externally. What are the systems and attitudes that must be in place to make this possible?

Janet Foutty: It’s very significant for women and men, both here at Deloitte and in business in general. This is a great time for women in business. We’re seeing an increase in women in leadership positions and in the C-suite. The numbers need to increase everywhere, but progress is being made.

At Deloitte alone, you mentioned Cathy Engelbert as the first CEO of a professional services firm in the U.S., I’m happy to report that there are also an increasing number of female leaders in key roles across our organization. For example, we have women at the helm in other key lines of business within Consulting such as Amy Feirn, who leads our Strategy & Operations practice; and we’ve just recently appointed two industry leaders who happen to be women. I am thrilled that Deloitte is changing the face of professional services through our advancement of diverse leaders.

In terms of what can help this along, having people who believe in and encourage diversity of opinion, diversity of thought, and inclusion are critical to success. I also believe that having a culture of apprenticeship and sponsorship like we have at Deloitte can encourage a wide variety of leaders to excel and advance. I personally have benefited from Deloitte’s deeply ingrained system of sponsorship, and I hope to instill that in the people with whom I work.

TCN: How does being named CEO of Deloitte Consulting change – or not change – the way you lead?

Janet Foutty: I don’t expect it will change the way I lead or think of leadership. I firmly believe my job is to make everyone in the practice successful – regardless of title or tenure.

A major reason professionals come to Deloitte is that they want to build a career and make an impact that matters. The most important thing I can do is help them succeed in doing so. Equipping our people with the tools and resources they need to create meaningful results for clients as well as supporting the overall well-being and development of our people so they feel fulfilled at work and beyond…those are the goals that shape my thinking in leading our practice.

I spend a lot of time talking with our teams about their needs, balancing work and personal priorities, and how to take lessons from your personal life and apply them to work (and vice versa). This also means I do a lot of listening, which I’ll continue to do with clients, employees and leaders in our organization throughout my time in this role.

TCN: What aspirations do you have for yourself in your new role?

Janet Foutty: That’s an interesting question. I see my role as enabling our people to learn, grow, and develop to serve our clients as best they can. My aspirations center on being the most effective leader I can be and providing those opportunities as best as I can. One of my favorite roles as a leader is to announce and celebrate our promotions. To see all the talented people who have attained the next level through hard work and dedication. That is my aspiration, to support and develop as many careers as I can in this organization.

TCN: Best advice you ever received?

Janet Foutty: My father was an NIH scientist and my mother was an artist – so I grew up at the intersection of the arts and sciences. That led to some amazing, engaging, and always thought-provoking conversations around the dinner table. But what I took away from those conversations was an appreciation for both the inventive and the process-driven, the importance of clarity in communication (both written and spoken), and that the way to succeed in any field was to surround yourself with really smart people. I would also add that I had several important people in my life tell me that there are times when you just have to be willing to jump into situations whether you are 100% ready or not. I try to instill those ideals into my kids and share them with my teams.