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By Sue Kern-Fleischer


Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert was recognized last month as the 2017 University of Arizona Executive of the Year. Nearly 500 people attended the award luncheon in Tucson.

Engelbert is the first female CEO of Deloitte and is responsible for leading nearly 80,000 professionals who provide audit, tax, consulting and advisory services to more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

Eller College dean Paulo Goes and Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert

Eller College Dean Paulo Goes presents an original sculpture to UA 2017 Executive of the Year, Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert.
Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.

“Cathy Engelbert’s career trajectory has been remarkable,” said Eller College Dean Paulo Goes. “Not only did she become the first female CEO of one of the big four accounting and consulting firms, she also changed Deloitte’s corporate culture to emphasize the importance of mentorship, inclusion and work-life balance.”

In her keynote address, Engelbert likened leadership to a team sport and reviewed her five truths of leadership. She began by emphasizing the first and easiest truth to accomplish: the need to “get the small things right and the big things will come easier.”

A basketball player in college and a big fan of the sport today, her second truth of leadership is to “shoot when you are open,” adding that the key is to know when to take the shot.

“Be your best, even in your darkest moments,” she said of the third truth, adding that it is also important to be your best during ordinary moments.

Engelbert’s fourth truth of leadership is to prioritize tasks over people. “Find good people and develop them to be your successors,” she said.

Citing the exponential pace of change and volume of data in the new world, Engelbert concluded with her fifth truth to “never graduate,” emphasizing the importance of becoming lifelong learners.

“You need to be unrelenting,” she said. “Go for your goals and believe you can get there.”

Engelbert shared that more than 150 Eller College graduates work for Deloitte. Several were in the audience.

She then took questions from the audience and shared that her two favorite books are The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, and Thank You for Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman.

For some 70 Eller students, the event also featured private up-close sessions, where both undergraduate and master’s students could meet Engelbert, hear her career advice, and ask her questions.

Megan Shulby is a dual MBA/MIS student in the Full-Time MBA program who is concentrating in marketing, business intelligence and cybersecurity.

“The Executive of the Year Luncheon was an awakening experience for me,” Shulby said. “I say this because I had never participated in an event that focused on the exemplified accomplishments of a female CEO in a Fortune 100 company. The luncheon enabled me to realize the impact that a single woman can have on an entire industry and empower other aspiring CEOs to do the same,” Shulby said.

Shulby, who will graduate in December 2017, was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the up-close session with the accomplished CEO.

“It was marvelous to get an ‘up close and personal’ experience with her. She was very approachable and authentic  — and answered questions from students in a concise matter through storytelling,” she said. “It was a very valuable experience to me. I was reminded of what a young woman and a young professional can do to make an impact in the working world. Sometimes we have to be reminded of the simple things that we can do to grow and evolve, including believing in yourself, not fearing failure and accepting the challenges around us.”

Jon Ferng, a Full-Time MBA student, also found the experience to be valuable.

“I learned how she has won the hearts of her employees by prioritizing people over tasks. Like her, I share the belief that mental and physical well-being are both paramount to an individual’s productivity and ability to make an impact,” he said.

Ferng, who will graduate in May 2017, said he was struck by Engelbert’s integrity.

“Seeing such an accomplished individual speak to us with enthusiasm and without the slightest hint of arrogance was a truly humbling experience,” he said. “My favorite quote from her is, ‘In order to be your best in your darkest moments, you must be your best in your ordinary moments.’ To me, this is a reminder to always be truthful, compassionate and tolerant, no matter the circumstances.”

Ferng also participated in the roundtable discussion and was grateful that Engelbert made time to meet with the students.

“Two qualities she looks for in potential hires are the ability to think on your feet and the ability to be a good storyteller; Eller does an outstanding job of teaching both,” he said.

Before the keynote address, Dean Goes welcomed the guests, telling them that Cathy Engelbert did not aspire to be a CEO, but rather she wanted to be a strong leader. He then presented her with an original sculpture by Deborah Copenhaver-Fellows donated by Warren Rustand, CEO of Tycon, Inc. and emeritus member of Eller’s National Board of Advisors.

“This sculpture honors Cathy and her own trailblazing spirit,” Goes said.

View Cathy Engelbert’s keynote address:


Header photo of Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert delivering her keynote address as UA’s 2017 Executive of the Year by Thomas Veneklasen.