Faces of Industry is a series of articles exploring the personal histories of our practitioners, sharing the key experiences that defined their values and exploring why they do what they do. In this story, Cynthia shares what makes the construction industry so exciting.
I encourage people to seize opportunities, even the most challenging assignments, because those are the ones where you learn the most.
Sometimes when Cynthia Corby is driving with her family through Dubai, and they pass certain iconic buildings–the Burj Khalifa being one–she point up and says, “My client built that.” Accountants don’t always have the opportunity to see the physical results of their work. Construction is unique in that way, says Cynthia, and she notes that it has been a fascinating time to be part of this industry in Dubai and the Middle East. Some of the most talked-about projects are happening there. For example, currently under construction is One Za’abeel, an engineering phenomenon with a cantilevered bridge connecting two towers across a motorway, something that’s never been done before.
Another thing she enjoys about construction is how immersive it can be. “Because each project is unique, we need to physically see what’s happening in our site visits in order to understand and account for all of the challenges that are particular to each project,” says Cynthia. “On top of that, designs often change, sometimes multiple times, and it is astounding for us to witness how these plans come alive.”
For the last few years, Cynthia has been deeply involved as the chair of the ACCA Women in Finance Forum, which has helped create awareness of how women can develop their financial skills to differentiate themselves for leadership roles. The Forum encourages women to not be afraid to be ambitious, and to drive the diversity and inclusion agenda.
“I’ve had the opportunity to mentor several young professionals,” says Cynthia. “I encourage them to seize opportunities, even the most challenging assignments, because those are the ones where you learn the most.” She tells her mentees to be brave enough to set their own boundaries between professional and personal life, emphasizing that people are measured on what they deliver, not how many hours they spend at their desk. “For me, weekends are family time,” says Cynthia. “I’m a real ‘mum on the sidelines’ at my kids’ rugby games.”
Cynthia feels privileged to wear a number of different hats at Deloitte. It can sometimes be hard to juggle, but it allows her a broad view of business activities. She considers herself lucky to be surrounded by a group of very talented team members, which has enabled her to become more adept at delegation. “This doesn’t mean simply throwing a task or a project over your shoulder,” she says. “It means empowering people to do the task, supporting their efforts, and creating the right conditions for success. I’ve proudly seen so many people blossom. As a leader, I thrive not only on seeing my clients progress, but our people move forward, too.”
Cynthia emphasizes the importance of combining deep sector knowledge and teamwork when auditing construction projects. Her entire team is well-informed, and they go to the project site together. “There is a significant amount of judgement involved in construction accounting that requires us as auditors to truly understand the industry,” explains Cynthia. “The more team members we have who are familiar with the industry, the challenges, and the specific project, the more we are able to reduce uncertainty to an acceptable level.”