In this interview, CyberTalk speaks with Deloitte’s U.S. Cyber & Strategic Risk Leader, Deborah (Deb) Golden. We’re honored and thrilled to be able to highlight her during Women’s History Month 2023! Let’s dive in!
With more than 27 years in the industry, Deb currently leads one of Deloitte’s largest growth and business transformation offering portfolios in the company’s 175-year history, managing over 8,000 professionals (across the U.S., India, and Israel). She is one of the few who helps to protect the many. She not only drives corporate initiatives by challenging conventions in cyber and more broadly business, but is also an advocate for changing the “face of cyber” through her work to expand cyber opportunities and access, allowing for a more diverse (and inclusive) workforce sourced from both traditional and non-traditional talent approaches.
Read about her work, her career path, exciting Deloitte initiatives, and mindsets that can help you achieve greater career success.
Please share a bit about your career path and how you reached your current role?
I am a very proud graduate of Virginia Tech, with an undergraduate degree in Finance and Management. I have a master’s degree from George Washington University in Information Technology. It seems like a distant past, but then you flash forward — I’ve been at Deloitte for 27 years, where I’ve been predominantly focused on cyber security and technology transformation.
Having served a variety of Commercial industries for much of my career, including Life Sciences Healthcare and Financial Services, I pivoted to our Government and Public Services (GPS) industry for about seven years, where I served in a leadership capacity driving our Cyber Offering Portfolio. About four years ago, I was asked to take on a broader transformation role, transitioning into a leadership position serving our national U.S. Cyber & Strategic Risk Offering Portfolio, as well as designing and executing, while ultimately leading, our Cyber Strategic Growth Offering (SGO). In these (current) leadership roles, my leadership has enabled the continued double-digit growth (in each year) transformation of this business, outpacing the marketplace (more than double!), to tackle the ever-changing cyber landscape.
Please share a bit about what your role includes and its impact:
With such growth, it’s a new job every day and that thoroughly excites me. When I think about the areas that we can shape, the marketplace is obviously there in so many ways given the continued evolution of the voluminous threat landscape – and it’s our ability to shape our go-to-market approach to reflect changes in market demand, to address broader purchasing preferences, and to innovate our expanding portfolio of capabilities/solutions to drive maximum impact and value within the marketplace. Deloitte really is a phenomenal place – driving change for the marketplace, our clients, and our professionals.
What helps to keep you motivated?
Obviously, the fast-moving pace is a big motivating factor; however, one of the things that really drives me that you wouldn’t have seen on my resume is my insatiable curiosity. My mom actually saved all of my report cards and while I had stellar grades, I often had comments from the teachers indicating my “chatty” nature. And while we could interpret ‘chatty’ as a negative (being a troublemaker or somebody who was talkative in class), my mom always encouraged my voice (and therefore my growth) as an expression about my desire to learn – to understand the world by asking questions – and perhaps to see things in a different light.
I think it’s that insatiable curiosity that truly enables me to keep myself not only motivated and engaged in the day-to-day, but it’s a trait that I continue to hone as it allows me to imagine the “art of the possible”, which is a critical facet towards navigating in this uncertain world. Particularly today, whether that’s pandemic-driven or geopolitical in nature, we are surrounded by uncertainty, and my curiosity enables me, and by virtue of my approach to leadership and collaboration, also our teams and our clients, to navigate through the discomfort of the unknown…moving forward fast!
What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I would say watching and growing with the business that we’re in today. The growth of our commercial practice went from literally a single digit growth business to a double-digit growth business several years in a row – quickly outpacing the market (more than two-fold) as we’ve established an even stronger position within the market. We achieved this growth during an extreme time of uncertainty – which started with the pandemic and continues to this day with other socio-economic impacts. It’s a time where our strategy and vision led us to a path of unprecedented growth in spite of (perhaps because of) these challenges – as I looked for opportunities to accelerate that momentum, challenging “normal” orthodoxies along the way, including six acquisitions in a very short period of time.
So when I think about accomplishments, it’s not necessarily any one of those things. It’s the combination of the growth of our marketplace, our practice, and our professionals – and of course my evolution as well. As I reflect on the years past, I’m encouraged for the journey ahead and know that the foundation we’ve established is a continued launching pad for the “art of the possible” – growing in ways perhaps unimaginable and taking the calculated risks to push our thinking as we solve for the unpredictability of today with the aim of positively impacting tomorrow.
Now, I often say as one person, we can have power, but as many people, we have impact. And it really is about creating (and honing) this culture – cultivating everyone’s curiosity to enable the greatest of impact as we think about innovation, engagement, and productivity – not to mention our purpose.
As you advanced your career, how did you set yourself up for career growth and success?
I’m not sure I always set myself up – although that’s a purposeful way to look at one’s trajectory – and I believe in a little bit of karma. For most of my career – and still to this day, I work extremely hard to showcase my capabilities, but I recognize that hard work alone doesn’t always translate into showcasing one’s unique value… your “edge” and for me part of that “edge” are the strengths (my superpowers!) that you don’t see on my resume: my curiosity (which I’ve already mentioned), my grit (having lost my mother at an early age and navigating loss and grief throughout early childhood and beyond), and my resilience (gained from that experience and others as a result of same).
I think particularly in a world impacted by stereotypes, it’s important to not only understand your narrative (grounded of course in hard work and strong talent), but also incorporating those unique qualities that set you apart – and then being purposeful in adjusting this narrative (and your approach) to allow for these values to shine in your everyday activities. It’s about flipping the narrative about success (which often occurs within an imperfect system), to capture (through self-reflection) your life experiences combined with your talent, which ultimately enriches your value – and the ability for others to see it.
What mindsets or ways of thinking have you found beneficial?
Of course, honing curiosity – which I’ve already talked about, but also understanding (and highlighting) my “grit factor”.
So, while I’ve perhaps always been innately curious, I’ve built grit and resilience through life experience and overcoming adversity. My mom died during my teenage years, after being ill with various forms of cancer for several years. In addition to her untimely death, many years later I also experienced two traumatic and life-threatening health crises in a fairly short period of time. There are a lot of lessons that you learn through the process of a significant grief, particularly grief at a young age, but it’s also a doorway to greater understanding – an opportunity to self-reflect and become self-aware of yourself and the things that you need to do to survive in certain instances – literally and figuratively. And it’s those life experiences, combined with perseverance, that ultimately contribute to self-confidence and resilience, which is perhaps what’s enabled me to proceed down unconventional paths to solve incredibly complex challenges.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing that. I’m terribly sorry to hear about the tragedies involved. It sounds like grit has served you well.
Thank you – and even in the most challenging of times, it’s important to look for the light. Speaking of which, in a funny anecdote, several years ago, I was in an airport with one of my colleagues and he was frantically running (as we were very late to catch our flight), but I was not only even in my pace, but already thinking of various scenarios to get us home (in the event we actually missed the flight). And he stopped me in the airport, and he said ‘you have to help me understand this situation ‘. He continued, ‘you are just so calm under pressure. I’ve seen you in very difficult and highly tense situations – from legislative affairs to cyber breach situations, …And yet you carry an aura of calm’.
It really took that moment for me to take a step back and to say, ‘you know, well, this sounds like a strength of mine. Let’s unpack it.’ I am really good at thinking quickly and being able to see the forest through the trees, especially in unpredictable situations.
If you think about cyber, that’s an environment that is always changing – with a constant need to reinvent in order to keep up (let alone stay ahead!) with the market opportunities. My leadership approach – combined with talent, resilience, and grit – enables me to lead under pressure while adapting to disruptive changes – which is critical, especially in a technical world like cyber security that is surrounded by unprecedented change.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
It is a time to reflect, not only on the impact that we’re creating in the world, but also for us to ask questions – are we doing enough, what boundaries can we push, what orthodoxies can we challenge…
And it’s also a time for us to recognize the continued importance of the role (and impact) that allies play in advocacy. Because no matter what report you read, the various nature of “equity” likely won’t be achieved for over a hundred years. As leaders, we need to encourage one another to get more comfortable (and some times uncomfortable) having conversations around bias, diversity, and inclusion, in order to break through the silence and complicity so that we can stand up together for equity.
Thank you. Please tell us about The Ella Project. It looks like you’re in the Ella the Engineer comic book series. We’d love to hear about it.
Yes, Deloitte has a broader relationship with The Ella Project – and including myself, so many amazing leaders have been featured as part of this series. Many of the women that I’m not only colleagues with, but who I can also call my close friends, and whom I’ve learned so much from across my career, are being highlighted in a comic book series designed for young women. It’s been a great honor to be able to be a part of this initiative that provides “heroes” in cyber and technology – to encourage growth (and interest) in STEM and entrepreneurial-inspired roles.
If you remember, when you were in elementary school, there was always a “career day” where individuals came into school to talk about their careers – and I don’t recall seeing any female technology leaders, innovators, or entrepreneurs. The Ella the Engineer Project is really intended to bring forward the notion of ‘if you can see it, you can be it’ – and I’m incredibly humbled to be connected to this initiative.
Can you share a bit about the other projects that you’re involved in to promote girls and women in STEM?
At the end of the day, what we’re looking to do is change the face of cyber, by creating innovative programs to develop, recruit, and retain talented professionals, including those without any core cyber security capabilities. If you think about the evolution of talent, if you think about the evolution of cyber security, it really is in everything that we do today – so the type of talent that we need today is different from the type of talent that we needed yesterday. And I think that it’ll be different from the type of talent that we need in a year or two years from now. Therefore, the need for a more diverse set of professionals to help us achieve the greatest impact on the complexity of cybersecurity is paramount to our future success. The diversity of human thought is what will help solve cyber challenges quickly.
The increasing demand for cyber talent and a diverse workforce, coupled with the rise of the hybrid work model, are challenges across the global marketplace that are changing how businesses approach recruiting and talent development. To help both our clients and teams navigate this landscape, Deloitte has transformed our cyber workforce development approach – instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach – our “talent ecosystem” is comprised of customized learning and development initiatives, employee experience and sponsorship programs, innovative recruiting efforts, and tailored client solutions. Through this ecosystem, we are creating, inspiring, and advancing the future cyber workforce and ultimately leading the industry by providing our clients with top talent and helping to solve their cyber talent challenges.
At Deloitte, we have programs like ‘Train to Hire,’ where we’re working with the Flatiron School to take individuals with no cyber security skills, put them into pilot programs, provide them the training, education, the certification they need, and to then bring them into Deloitte, as cohorts, where our initial pilots are in very technical roles such as Field Analyst, SOC Analyst, or Product Engineer.
So, truly engaging individuals with no cyber/technology skills and empowering them with the skills needed to be creative and effective in the workforce – in ways perhaps never previously imagined.
We have other activities where we’re working within the community to build and collaborate on things around STEM education – one such example is our on-going pro bono collaboration efforts with the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) where we created a multi-year sponsorship to build a residential magnet high school dedicated to STEM.
We are taking bold action to achieve a reimagined cyber workforce – cultivating fresh talent to overcome a talent shortage and advance the diversity of our talent pool.
Do you have anything further that you would like to share with CyberTalk.org’s executive-level leaders?
To wrap up, because we didn’t get into some of the setbacks that I touched on, as I think about my success coupled with my discipline and my strength, I go back to my mother, and how she really instilled that sense of morality, curiosity and resilience in me.
I do think, and I underscore this, because I do think it’s really important, the lessons and values that are taught throughout life, and ultimately, in my case, from my mother, beyond her untimely death decades ago, do ultimately shape people and propel individuals forward in spite of, or perhaps because of, the hardships and the setbacks that they face.
My experiences allowed me the grace and my own forgiveness to be able to challenge everyday orthodoxies. I think that, if not for that doorway for self-reflection and growth, I would not have fully evolved my tenacity and perseverance, which was foundational to my grit factor, enabling me to thrive under pressure, lead through uncharted spaces and ultimately embrace and find my own purpose. I do think that that is my magic or superpower – being able to see the possibility of tomorrow in today’s light.
For me, if there’s something to take away from the conversation, it is to take that time to be self-aware and self-reflective and to know your strengths. Once you understand them and can develop those strengths, think about how you can leverage them in the world around you and be the change you look to see in those around you.