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Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg Discusses Mentoring, Hiring Talent and More at Stern's CEO Series

Hundreds of NYU Stern and Law students and alumni attended Stern’s CEO Series on October 12 with NYU Law alumnus Barry Salzberg (LLM ’81), Chief Executive Officer of Deloitte LLP.

Deloitte provides audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, and tax services to more than 80 percent of the world's largest companies, and counts NYU graduates as among the largest populations of alumni within the firm.

Interviewed by Nanette Byrnes, senior writer for BusinessWeek, Salzberg spoke about his career trajectory, which began at the firm that he now leads. He said that while he was working full time and attending NYU Law School part time, “being CEO was the farthest thing from my mind.” Instead, he was most interested in serving clients, building his technology skills and enjoying working in the tax practice.

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He suggested that students and young alumni seek out mentors. “I was fortunate to have one in my career,” he said. His mentor advised him to broaden his skills to gain the exposure and experience needed to assume a leadership position. In fact, he credits his mentor with giving him the confidence and interest to pursue the position of CEO.

Salzberg argued that assigning mentors does not work, that mentors and mentees must choose each other, and that both can benefit from the relationship. He advised the audience to be “appropriately aggressive” in seeking out such a relationship and in finding the right fit.

He said that Deloitte is especially focused on “career/life fit” as is evidenced in the firm’s Mass Career Customization (MCC) program, which offers mentoring, career counseling, and a flexibility program for personal pursuits.

The right fit is also an important consideration in hiring, said Salzberg. Deloitte looks for people who share the same values as the firm, such as integrity, corporate responsibility and giving back to the community. And “grades aren’t everything,” he declared. Leadership and networking and communications skills are just as important.

In shifting the discussion from careers to Deloitte’s business, Byrnes pointed out that in 2002 while Deloitte’s competitors were spinning off their consulting practices from their audit services, Deloitte did not. Salzberg argued that this was the right strategy for the company, offering Deloitte a breadth of competencies in the market. In fact, he said, keeping the consulting practice has given Deloitte a competitive advantage by making it the largest firm in the country and – soon – in the world, by giving the firm a strong brand position and by fostering employee retention.

In discussing the effect of the down economy on Deloitte, Salzberg said that consulting clients had put projects on hold and deferred new projects, but business is picking up again and the pipeline is strong. The issue today, he said, is pricing. He forecasted high single digit growth two years out.

Salzberg expects that Deloitte’s growth in the U.S. will come from new services that the company develops in such areas as risk services and mergers and acquisitions, as well as from hot sectors such as healthcare, energy and natural resources. He also anticipates growth in discretionary services as the economy improves.