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Talking Talent

Meet Deloitte's new chief talent officer as she shares her insight on leadership, mentoring and building a Talent organization.

Deloitte LifeThis spring, Jennifer Steinmann, who has been with Deloitte Consulting since 1995, was named Deloitte's chief talent officer (CTO).

Steinmann has a passion for supporting future generations of leaders, and fostering an environment where leaders thrive. She believes that by offering the right deployment opportunities, targeted training and one-on-one mentorship, each Deloitte professional can become a leader in their own right at any stage of their career.

In her role as chief talent officer, she oversees all facets of the Talent organization, including Acquisition, Delivery, Development, Specialties, Operations, Partner Matters, the Women's Initiative (WIN), Diversity & Inclusion and Alumni Relations.

How would you describe your new role?

Much of my focus is on what the Talent organization of the future needs to look like and what that means in terms of providing the right infrastructure, while continuing to deliver on our service commitments with excellence – today. Certainly part of the answer is to continue to focus on recruiting in order to attract top talent and then providing an environment full of the opportunities that support our business vision. The Talent organization is tasked with putting in place the building blocks that allow us to not just be strong now, but also three, five, seven, 10 years out. We understand that, as the nation's largest professional services firm, we have a unique opportunity to become the standard for world-class Talent – to define how to best grow and develop future generations of leaders. It's a responsibility and a commitment we treat very seriously.

Outside of your CTO role, it sounds as though you manage to remain quite active. Could you talk about that?

First and foremost, Deloitte is indeed a culture of client service. Like the broader executive leadership team, I still have meaningful client responsibilities, and am continuing in my role as lead Consulting principal for a large global financial institution. In addition, I also speak to clients in my capacity as CTO. What tends to happen is that clients are really interested in what we do within our Talent organization so the business card of CTO can be an effective calling card to help extend our relationships. I also serve on the U.S Executive leadership team where I join our CEO Joe Echevarria, the Deloitte function CEOs and the heads of the enabling areas in addressing those priorities identified as key to our leading from the front.

When I'm not at work, I spend as much time as I can volunteering, focusing my efforts on youth. Over the last couple of years, I have done a good deal of volunteer and pro bono work with Youth Business America, an organization that invests in young people by helping them turn their good ideas into successful businesses. Additionally, I was recently asked to sit on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. I think that regardless of where we sit in our organization we're lucky and privileged to have the opportunity to provide time to our communities either through pro bono work or volunteering. I think it is a wonderful benefit that we have as an organization and I think it is important for all of our people to give time back.

And most importantly, my husband, Alex, and I also celebrated the arrival of our daughter, Lucy, this summer! She's just wonderful and we're both thrilled. She manages to keep us very busy and sleepless – sleepless in San Francisco.

That's quite the schedule. Do you have any secrets to maintaining balance in everything that you do?

The time I spent on leave this summer was really remarkable because I got to see how the people on my teams – both client teams and Talent teams – really surrounded and supported me throughout that period. I think the biggest secret is not so secret…working with a great team is the trick. I also get a lot of support at home from my husband. I don't think I could do it without him.

Prior to becoming CTO, you were a line principal in Deloitte Consulting's Financial Services practice with a focus on Strategy & Operations. What was your reaction upon learning of the CTO opportunity?

I still consider myself a line principal. When I got the call, I was leading our General Management practice in Strategy & Operations, which is a start-up service line focused on our most early career staff – from business analyst to senior consultant. Within this service line, we focused on using innovative talent approaches to help our consultants develop the core skills they need to be successful. To have the opportunity to take some of that creative focus to the broader firm and work in an area that I'm particularly passionate about – people – is something I didn't think I would get a chance to do for years. So when I got that phone call I thought, “This is great, it's my dream job.”

Being in a leadership role is certainly not new for you. Do you think your early leadership experiences as captain of your high school and college swim teams shaped your leadership style today?

Those experiences absolutely shaped my leadership style. It's interesting, because I actually did not make the high school swim team the first time I tried out for it. And, I “walked on” to my Division 1 college team. So to compete effectively and become the captain of both those teams required that I spend quite a bit of time on extra swim workouts every day. And I never actually set out to become captain, I just wanted to swim – fast.

In terms of how those experiences shaped my thinking on leadership, it really did several things. First, I learned that you actually have to work really hard at things and practice, practice, practice. There's a little bit of innate talent that goes into it, but in order to be good at anything you have to work at it. Second, passion plays a big role. I was absolutely passionate about swimming and winning. That relentless focus on excellence combined with passion helped me gain the confidence of my teams. Third, there are situations when you cannot take no for an answer. There are many times when we think we are not going to be able to do something and you realize that if you just push hard enough you can make it happen. All of those things factor into how I look at leadership today. I also learned that there is an underlying set of values that are critical attributes for leaders including integrity, sensitivity, humility and reliability. I am not sure that I could have articulated all of those things at the time, but in retrospect that is what I took away. And finally, I will forever be grateful to my coaches for pushing and supporting me – something that I also think is important for every leader to have.

Your D Street profile indicates that you speak several languages and that you're quite the traveler, with a goal of visiting two new countries every year. Where did this personal drive come from, and what's your next destination?

My mom is French and my dad is from Brooklyn (they have their own special language), so it started with that. My husband is from Russia and so I have learned to speak both French and Russian. When it comes to travel, my husband and I realized pretty quickly that if we didn't set a target, we would go back to places where we had been before, or that we would postpone travel due to a myriad of good reasons that come up.

That being said, this year, with a newborn, we may break with tradition. We will be going to visit my husband's family in Russia. It doesn't quite count as a new country for either of us, but it's new for Lucy! We are also going to try to get to Argentina if we can. So, it looks as though we will break our rule and probably go to only one new country this year.

You have talked about Deloitte as an organization where leaders thrive. Can you say more about what these words mean to you, and why they are so important to Deloitte?

What we have always said is that at the end of the day we are a people business. That's our asset – our only asset. So where leaders thrive, I think, is a really wonderful inspirational goal for each one of us. It works whether or not an individual stays at Deloitte and builds a career here or moves on to one of our clients in the marketplace. What this ultimately means is that we develop people who can support our clients and form the type of judgments that are critical in terms of helping think through strategy, or think through an audit, or look at a complex tax problem. All of those things are very important to our businesses. Where leaders thrive is about providing the type of environment where people grow, develop and influence.

You've emphasized the importance of strong mentorship. Looking back over your career, what mentor had the greatest influence on you?

It might sound a bit corny, but my first mentor was my father. He's a very successful businessperson and a substantive contributor in the community – he is the quintessential “good citizen.” My instincts probably didn't start out headed in a business direction and he pushed me to try things that were far outside of my comfort zone. All through the years I've always turned to him first on most things – for advice, connections, sometimes a swift kick – and that's really been quite important.

Let me just add that in addition to mentorship, at Deloitte we always talk about fostering an apprenticeship model – those concepts go hand in hand quite well. Within the U.S. Firms, over the years, I've worked with many people I would consider mentors and advisors. One of them has been Brian Johnston. I started working with him when I was a manager and he was a senior manager. Now he is a seasoned partner running the banking sector for our consulting practice. I really liked the way he worked with people. He had an easygoing manner – he was intense, but he knew how to have fun. He taught me the importance of taking the job seriously while not taking yourself too seriously.

I'm a strong believer that throughout your career you need to have somebody looking out for you, kind of pulling you up and providing you with opportunities. That's how I view my relationship with Punit Renjen, who is currently Deloitte's Board chairman. I started working with Punit when he ran the Strategy & Operations practice for consulting. He took a chance on me as a relatively new principal to run our Norpac region's S&O practice. It was an opportunity to work with somebody I truly respected, and he challenged me to take on new roles that support the partnership. His notion of servant leader is one that I live by.

We've just opened the doors at Deloitte University (DU) – can you share some thoughts on what this means to Deloitte?

I'm getting reports every day from people that spend time at DU saying, “Wow, this place is unbelievable.”

We are starting to see that it's a powerful experience when you go there and see the physical capabilities and all the things that can be done there from a learning perspective. It really shows our willingness to invest in the development of our people and their leadership skills, but also to a certain degree we get a glimpse into where we want to go from an innovation standpoint.

DU is generating a huge amount of buzz from people joining us from undergrad and grad schools. They've heard about it and are looking forward to going. All of our recruiters have been to DU, and we're already thinking about the role it may play in recruiting top talent. What we want to do is make sure we've got a great place for development, but there are opportunities for DU far beyond that. Think about how we could ultimately stretch it out to the marketplace and create opportunities for working there with our clients and their talent. I think the potential is unlimited.

We are already starting to form memories from DU – it is our place; a place we go where we can be an organization that works together across multiple functions and all levels. You see your friends and you form lasting, shared experiences that are more like family memories. I think that's important. Actually, we are just beginning to process how important it will be for us.

Deloitte plans to hire up to 18,000 new professionals this fiscal year. What general advice would you offer them as they begin their careers here?

The magic of Deloitte is that it is a huge organization, but we expend a lot of energy trying to make it feel small. I think when people first join us it can be overwhelming. So I think the first bit of advice I would offer is to “find your small.” By that I mean those meaningful connections you make with your colleagues that help you navigate, because the people you work with – your counselors, your local office leaders and your project leaders – are the individuals who will provide you with opportunities to grow.

When I work with new consultants, I always encourage them to just do a really good job on the things they have been asked to do and assure them that it will lead to more opportunity. Focus on the job at hand, get it done really well and then people will continue to ask you for more and stretch you in ways you can't conceive – challenging, meaningful assignments are what drives us! While you are doing that and have done a really good job, then think about the people around you. Such as your clients, for example. Surprise them with something more that you can get done or volunteer to help with. Particularly with managers, senior managers and partners, there will never be an end to the thanks they give you for helping them out – whether it's on a proposal or thinking through a problem.

We are in the people business – regardless of what function you sit in – being knowledgeable about current events, business, literature, sports, music, popular TV, etc., is all part of the job that supports building relationships. To quote a principal that I admire greatly, “You have to do interesting things to be interesting.” And you need to be interesting and thoughtful to form long-lasting relationships.

Finally, I would tell them to not be afraid to try new things. Actually try things they might not like, because you typically learn the most from them. Be open with your counselors and mentors about your interests and passions, and pursue opportunities to stretch your talents and capabilities. Ultimately, it's this continuous focus on your growth and development that is at the heart of fostering an environment where leaders thrive.

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