By Rob Starr, Big4.com content Manager
While it’s true becoming the first female Consulting CEO in Deloitte’s history represents a historic moment worthy of its own full length article, Janet Foutty’s story is also framed by an original and unique tale about how her early influences molded the professional career woman who will take the reigns from Jim Moffatt on New Year’s Day.
“I’ve come to appreciate throughout the course of my career the environment that you grow up in absolutely shapes how you think about the world,” she said. “Growing up as the daughter of a scientist and artist, I had two very different perspectives.”
Foutty’s father was a government employee who did primary scientific research at the National Institute of Health. Her mother was an artist. That combination even prompted Foutty to call her time as the Federal Practice Leader at Deloitte “ a bit of a homecoming” when we talked with her last. Understandably, she’s quick to pay homage to those right brain/left brain influences that have served her well.
Analytics and Rigor
“The scientist part of me in terms of analytics and rigor clearly shapes how I think about the world,” she said, “but more broadly when I think how careers for our people can take twist and turns , there’s an idea based on the kind of artist my mother is to let your passion find you and to bring structure, discipline and creativity to problem solving.”
Add a solid background in the kinds of technology fueling modern enterprise and you have all the necessary ingredients for a consulting CEO poised to guide Deloitte through today’s ever-changing business landscape. Following her heart and mind has been a big part of her career from the moment she left business school .
“I’d actually thought about being an investment banker but I thought I’d try my hand at consulting because that felt like the right place for me to start,” she says. As luck would have it, this initial phase which was only supposed to be a springboard saw her serving clients on Wall
St ( in the 1990s) who were riding one of the first waves of technological transformation. During that time she worked with a number of dimensions in that ecosystem including exchanges, clearing organizations and banks.
This period lasted fifteen years after which Foutty’s efforts were further rewarded and she ran various aspects of Deloitte’s technology business. Previously, she led 17,000 professionals in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Technology Practice and their Integrated Technology Business. Not surprisingly, since she was always capable of tending more than one branch on her career tree, Foutty was eventually asked to run Deloitte’s Federal Practice where she led more than 7,300 practitioners.
Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative
The best people in today’s C-suite understand the importance of drawing from every available resource to give their organizations more depth and strength and Foutty is of course no exception. Her thought leadership focuses on several key federal areas, including veterans’ issues, millennials in public service, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. She is also an advocate of Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative and founded Women in Technology groups in the United States and India. She harkens back to a time when she was starting her career with Deloitte and the emphasis on women and diversity was in its infancy.
“Mike Cook started our focus when I was a junior staff member and I’ve benefited greatly from that mindset and DNA,” she said, adding that this bedrock outlook she adopted has expanded as her 25 year career with Deloitte has developed.
“The more and different voices that you have around the table, the better outcomes you are able to get to so there’s clearly a business imperative,” Foutty said. “But there are other attributes that involve listening, collaborating and challenging in ways that are real and serious but don’t come across as negative.”
We end our conversation on a note that cements Foutty as a leader for the opportunities and challenges of a new age.
“To be able to set an example and be in conversation with our younger women is one of the things I take tremendous energy from,” she says.