Interview With Cathy Benko, Chief Talent Officer of Deloitte

Cathy Benko (MBA 1989) was appointed in 2007 to the newly created position of chief talent officer for Deloitte LLP. Her charge: Create a signature Deloitte Talent Experience and cultivate the firm’s leading position in the talent marketplace. The results are striking. Today, Deloitte is cited by BusinessWeek as the “Best Place to Launch a Career” and the “Best Place to Intern.” It is a perennial on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work” list and is in the top 10 of both Consulting magazine’s “Top Companies to Work for” and’s Management and Strategy rankings.

Deloitte has also been inducted into Working Mother magazine’s Hall of Fame and was recently honored for the second time as a recipient of the distinguished Catalyst Award. Cathy is considered a foremost authority on talent strategies and transformational change and is the co-author of several books: The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work, Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce, and Connecting the Dots replica breitling bentley 6.75: Aligning Projects with Objectives in Unpredictable Times. Previously she served as Deloitte Consulting LLP’s global e-business leader and led its high-technology industry sector. Cathy serves on Deloitte LLP’s executive committee. She is a member of Consulting magazine’s advisory board and the Western Advisory Council for Catalyst. Cathy also keeps her Harvard Business School connections strong: She is a past member of HBS’s Global Alumni Board of Directors and continues to serve on its Northern California Board and Executive Committee.

After exploring the alleys of Media and Sports, we changed direction and looked for alumni who have been creating news in the area of talent management. Cathy Benko (HBS 1989, Section C) is Vice Chairman and the Chief Talent Officer responsible for driving Deloitte’s strategy to attract, develop and advance a highly skilled and increasingly diverse workforce. She is a best-selling author and a thought leader on talent strategy and achieving extraordinary results through transformational change.

We spoke with Cathy about her HBS days and about advice for current MBA students. Here is what she had to say:

You came to HBS at a time when not many women chose to come to business school. What brought
you to HBS replica breitling Aeromarine ?

Option value brought me to HBS. After following a non-traditional part-time and weekend path through college while working full-time, I had a strong interest in immersing myself in a graduate school that would provide a new set of academic and social experience – one that would provide options for where my career could take me.

What were some key lessons from HBS days that have helped you through your career
I use lessons from my HBS days literally every day. That’s the magic of the case method of learning which has paid huge dividends for me. But beyond the cases, and counter to the emphasis I put on quantitative subjects while at HBS, it is the ‘softer’ subject matter-the people side-that I refer back to the most.

Fond HBS memories…
Not only do I have fond memories from my days at HBS–like catching the pass in the end zone as the clock ran out to beat the second years at “not-so-flag football” (yes, even the cracked ribs are remembered fondly)–but new memories from relationships forged while at HBS continue to be formed. For example, just recently I received a note from the legend-in-his-own-time Professor Warren McFarlan who wanted me to know that in his last class before retiring from the MBA faculty, he reminisced about several students who made a special impression on him over his 40 years. I am honored to be on that list-and cherish the new memory created.

Any life changing perspectives/events you would like to share with us
I’m not sure anyone really gets the life they imagined–life throws us all curve balls along the way. I met my husband at HBS (he was a second year with an eye for the first years and perhaps got a little more than he bargained for). We had a plan: I’d have the steady-as-she-goes job, and he would swing for the fences through entrepreneurial pursuits. Seven years ago he was diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, and it’s had a devastating effect on both his physical and cognitive abilities. The lesson? Maximize opportunities; don’t squander them. It’s really all about making the most of your circumstances however grand or not they might be. He teaches me that every day.

How do you manage professional and personal life together?
The short answer is one day at a time; the longer answer isn’t much different. I have two children, one in the sixth grade and another now in high school. I learn a lot from them, and it’s just fascinating to see the world through their eyes.

My personal priorities are clear: making a meaningful difference in the shaping of two young lives, maintaining a high quality of life for my husband, and delivering to my fullest potential for my partners, colleagues and clients of Deloitte. I ask myself everyday whether or not it’s all still working. So far (for nearly twenty years now) that answer has been “yes”. The day it’s not, I’ll know what to do.

Any tips/advice for current students
It’s hard-wired into our corporate craniums that success means climbing the ladder toward a set career destination, but for a host of demographic and marketplace trends, these long-held assumptions no longer hold true. Today, a corporate lattice is a more agile and fitting model for how careers are built and work gets done.

The lattice world is an ever-changing calculus, so think option value by actively seeking out opportunities-lateral and diagonal moves along with upward movement-that open up career paths for you not just now but every step forward. Continually mark-to-market yourself by taking inventory of your skills, experiences and capabilities, assess their market relevance, and position all as a portfolio to create a consistent and compelling impression. And ask yourself: “How well do I stay on top of my personal brand and what it says and means to others?”