Blackstone’s Kate Hogan on the joys of moving outside her comfort zone

Kate Hogan, global head of internal audit at Blackstone, on self-advocacy, sponsors, and stepping off the well-trodden path

Click to listen on your favorite streaming platforms:

Apple podcasts     Spotify

Deloitte’s Center for Financial Services launched the Within Reach series in 2019 to evaluate the progress financial services institutions had made toward achieving gender equity in leadership roles, and to discover the practices that could spur measurable growth in the number of women leaders. The series involves both deep dives into data and sharing the voices of individual women who have reached the upper ranks of their organizations.

Kate Hogan comes from generations of CPAs, but an inspirational encounter early in her career prompted her to apply for a job at Blackstone. Her passion to make a mark convinced the company to hire her after what might be considered an interview misstep: “I remember the hedge fund CEO said to me, ‘Do you know what we do?’ I looked at her and I said, ‘I really don't, but I'm going to work so hard for you.’” That was more than 24 years ago, and she’s been at Blackstone ever since.

Hogan currently serves as the global head of internal audit for Blackstone, but her career with the firm has seen her jump roles, departments, and functions. The breadth of her experience is a testament to the power of pushing outside your comfort zone and making big swings.

We sat down with Hogan to talk about why diversity of thought is crucial on her teams, how adversity is necessary for growth, and why it’s never too late to ask for coaching.

"It’s not about when everything's going in your favor. In your favor is the easiest time, when you have easy staff to manage, when you have an easy job to do. That is not when the growth is happening. It's when things are tough."


Q: Today on the show, taking chances and stepping outside the comfort zone.

I’m Tanya Ott and this is the Press Room from Deloitte Insights, with the latest in our special series, Within Reach: Women in financial services. My guest today is Kate Hogan, the global head of internal audit at Blackstone, which manages the assets of individual investors, institutions, retirement plans, insurance companies…you name it.

Kate’s been with Blackstone for more than 20 years, but she says it wasn’t what some of the people closest to her had planned for her. 

Kate Hogan: I wasn't entirely sure what my career would be, but I think my dad was absolutely sure. (laughs) My father was a senior partner at Deloitte, and he was there from graduation until his retirement and loved the entire journey. My grandfather was also a senior partner at Deloitte and helped set up the international practice back in the day. My great grandfather had a practice in Brooklyn, an accounting practice. Of course, I was the fourth generation and quite good with numbers and destined to be an auditor. I received a degree in public accounting, and I joined Deloitte—big surprise.

Q: And so, you were at Deloitte in the beginning of your career, and then what happened?

Kate Hogan: I decided I did not want to be a career auditor, which is so funny that I'm where I am today. But I had a brief exposure to Blackstone while I was in college, and I had seen one of the founding partners speak at a dinner, Pete Peterson. When I heard him speaking about the economy, I realized I wanted to be part of the front lines. I wanted to be a creator. I wanted to drive change.

I applied at Blackstone, and I will say it disappointed my dad a little to break the line, but he's very proud of me now, of course. I joined Blackstone back in 1999.

Q: Where was the negotiation? You just accepted straight out?

Kate Hogan: Well, yeah. I went up and I met with the CEO, the COO, the CFO. I mean, the interviews, I still remember so clearly. And I remember the CEO said to me—it was a woman—she said, “Do you know what we do?” It was a hedge fund group. And I looked at her and I said, “I really don't, but I'm going to work so hard for you.” (laugh) So I left, shook hands, got on the elevator, and literally, I hit the ground [floor] with the elevator [and then] the recruiter called and said, “I don't know what you did, but you got the offer.” So, it was fun.

Q: That's super brave of you to say, "I basically have no idea what your company does." (both laugh)

Kate Hogan: But I will work hard.

Q: What is it, like 24 years now?

Kate Hogan: That's right.

Q: So how, in working two and a half decades at the same company, do you continue to grow and challenge yourself and find energy in that space?

Kate Hogan: I love this question and I get it somewhat often because it's not [considered] normal.

If you look around the senior ranks of Blackstone, you will see a lot of people here as long as myself and longer. And so, what are the key drivers for that? One, no year was the same for me. When I joined, the firm was much simpler. We had a little over US$11 billion in assets under management. We're now at a trillion, but it wasn't a direct line of growth. We created new products. We opened new offices in [various] countries. We got into the retail space and brought in insurance. Everything kept moving. So, every single year there was a different challenge to be put in front of you. And so, it's never boring.

But I would also add one more thing, and this really happened after I had my children and I felt like I needed to really prioritize my time. When [I was] taking time away from family, it was making sure I was spending it in the right places, and it was meaningful to me. What I started doing was every year, I assess where I am, let's say professionally, I look at that what kind of feedback did I get in my review? What's my trajectory? Do I feel like I'm heading in the right direction? Did I build the right relationships? Am I feeling purpose and fulfilled?

And then I owned it. I would do full circle on it and say, “Okay, well, this particular year, I wasn't as fulfilled as I wanted to be,” or “I didn't have the opportunities that I hoped,” or “I didn't build that relationship.” And I would take ownership of that and I would go forward and speak to whoever I needed to speak to and say, “I would like to play a bigger role in this.” Or I would go out of my way to make sure I built those relationships. I didn't wait for it to come to me. And I found [that] once I took that ownership, I became more empowered and more fulfilled in my role.

Q: This sounds like a lot of vision boarding.

Kate Hogan: I would say yes, but I try to do it without judgment of self. Just really do your very best to come to the place where it feels like you have...I say “balance” with quotations I want to be here. I'm fulfilled here. I have purpose here. But when I [go home], I'm also giving the rest of my life that proper attention.

Q: The space that you work in has, I would imagine, a lot of challenges. And I'm curious how you conceptualized risk and failure and success, and how you look at, “These are the tools in my tool kit, and I can pick up new ones and put old ones down at any moment.”

Kate Hogan: If you're referring to [my work] in the capacity of my role in internal audit, before I came into this seat, I was head of operations within the hedge fund group. But I did a lot of roles to get there. I met with clients. I set up a middle office. I ran transformation projects. I lived and breathed the front lines during high growth, needing to scale up and not always getting it right, making mistakes, recognizing that even with all the best people around me and all the best thinking we could possibly have, we still made a mistake. [It’s] something that, in retrospect, you could always look at it and say, “Geez, I wish I had thought of that,” but there's just so many moving parts.

Having that skill set and coming into this seat gives me a great appreciation for how hard people are working. But in a high-growth environment, you have changing regulations, changing technology, changing people, changing products. There's just constant movement. And so, it's really [about] building trust amongst people. They know where some of the noise is coming [from].

You want to build that rapport and that trust so that individuals are willing to say to you, “Look, I want to share this with you,” and they don't have to feel like they're going to get in trouble. Fortunately, this is a very healthy firm and people are transparent.  

Q: I was watching a video that you were part of with a number of women in the industry or women that had been in the industry and then left the industry. You talked in that conversation about how you almost passed up an opportunity within your company because, I think it was a technology project or something, and you said, “I don't know anything about that.”

Kate Hogan: I love it. That is my moment. I had returned from maternity leave. My boss, who I'm good friends with, he said, “I need you to run this project.” And it was a true transformation project. I remember looking at him and saying, I don't even know how to work my BlackBerry. I am not your person.” And he said, “Kate, you're the only person to do it.”

So, I ended up interviewing architects and engineers and project managers. And I literally in the interview was like, “What do you do?” It was a very humbling moment to run a project.

But what I did know was what the problem was that we were solving for. I knew the people and I knew that they needed motivation and leadership, and then we needed a translator to help take that language from the finance side of the house and communicate that to the technology side so that they could solve a very complex area. There was nothing off the shelf you could buy. We had to literally build it. It was a huge growth experience for me.

Q: I think the great part of that story is that you're willing to share it, because a lot of people walk into situations where they may immediately withdraw themselves from it because they feel like an imposter. And yet when they hear a story like yours, they're like, “Oh, well, yeah, maybe I do have what it takes to do this.”

Kate Hogan: I agree. When I was younger in my career, I could say with confidence that I resisted change. I was really good at what I knew, and I fortunately worked [with] someone that pushed me out of my comfort zone and saw I had the ability before I [recognized] I had it. The highest growth happened in my career when I stepped out of the zone.

Q: You've had sponsors along the way that have played a role in your career development.

Kate Hogan: I knew what a mentor was back in the day. I didn't know [what a] sponsor [was]. But I knew there were these people that came into my life at various times that changed the course of my career, if you will. I would call them sponsors in the sense that they saw something in me and became an advocate for me when I wasn't in the room. It happened in various stages of my life. In college, I had a math professor, Dr. Jane Upshaw. She just really went out of her way [to] push me past my zone. I took as many classes [as] I could with her. There was just a special rapport and she saw things in me that I didn't see in myself at the time.

Q: So, I imagine there are some listeners who are going to say to themselves, “Well, wow, I want a sponsor,” but it sounds like yours came to you kind of unexpectedly. Is there something, now that you’re at that [senior] role, that you could say would be a way to start to develop a relationship?

Kate Hogan: It’s a great question. You have to put yourself out there. I say to younger people, when you go to a conference or you go to [a social event] with professional people, don't hang out in the group you know. Walk across that room and talk to someone you don't know. Put yourself out there. You never know when that person's going to take an interest in you.

I love it when someone more junior that comes over and just shakes my hand and realizes that they are as important as I am. I believe that they should feel that way and they should come over and engage. And you just never know where that engagement and conversation will take you.

Q: I'd love to have you talk a little bit about the value that you see in diverse viewpoints at the table in a setting like yours.

Kate Hogan: The diversity is absolutely critical. Without it, you do not have a constructive, challenging conversation. My team knows this. I'm not looking for them to agree with me. In fact, I'm hoping they challenge me. I want them to have a voice. I want them to feel empowered. I want them to constructively challenge things as we go along. And so, when we come to the right place, it feels really satisfying. That only happens when you bring in people that are brought up differently, from different environments, different beliefs.

You still have to have the same values in the sense that we're all rowing in the same boat, we're all heading in the same direction. But having different experiences of life means you're going to come in with a different point of view and we collectively are going to grow and learn from it. To me it's an absolute among hiring, making sure that we have that diversity.

Q: Is there maybe someone on your team or an experience that you've had where you've brought a type of person or a person with a specific kind of background in, and then you just had a moment where you're like, “This is why.”

Kate Hogan: Gosh, I've had many of them. (laughs) This is Blackstone, and we have such high-caliber people. Part of the culture is speaking up and having a seat at the table. I'm so bought into it, [yet] it's important that my entire team understands that thinking. That they understand that this is the way to do it. You're not cookie cutters of each other. Yet collectively, you're very powerful, you're very strong as a team.

Q: We were talking specifically about gender, but there's all kinds of diversity, as you alluded to earlier. We've got things like obviously [race], LGBTQ status, economic background, neurodiversity, all of those sorts of categories of diversity. And I'm really curious about your thoughts on how to embed inclusion and diversity within the business efforts rather than saying, you know, we have this special program.

Kate Hogan: I would say, number one, it needs to be intentional. What are we really trying to achieve with this? The leadership needs to be openly supporting it. They need to speak to why this is important for the firm. It can’t just be grassroots. This really needs to be top down, this is who we are as a firm, and this is what we want to be.

[Let’s] talk about recruiting. Are we recruiting at the right schools? Are we biased just out of the gates by the schools we’ve selected or not selected to recruit from? You start there and you make sure you’re working with the right schools.

And then when you get them in the door, are we retaining them? Are we giving them the right infrastructure, the right skill sets? I’ve referred many women to coaches. They’re good at so many things, but maybe they’re speaking skills are not as strong, and so that’s easy. Let’s get a coach. Let’s help people out along the way on their journey.

Q: You mentioned the idea of taking advantage of coaching. And you had mentioned to me as we were setting up this interview and just chatting before we started recording that you have a speaking coach. I'm really interested in what led you to that decision and what you get out of that relationship.

Kate Hogan: I asked for a speaking coach because my prior role required a different skill set. I was not presenting to boards or to audit committees. I didn't have to synthesize a whole bunch of data and then succinctly and crisply present that to a very senior audience and make sure they understood why it was important.

I'm very chatty. I love talking and I needed someone to help me bring that in. I was my own advocate. I interviewed a couple of coaches and the second person [I interviewed] stopped me, and he said, “Now I want you to say everything you’ve just said to me with a lot less words.” And I laughed and I did it. And he said, “Now, do it again.” And I said, “Okay, you’re hired.”

It was very humbling because I didn't do this when I was young. I did it later in my career and I realized I still had so much to learn. I did it [for] six months during COVID, so we did it all over Zoom. He just helped me conceptualize myself, how I was coming across, and how to be more effective.

I still love talking. He knows that about me. (laughs)

Q: Well, I will say, as you're describing it, and our audience cannot see you, but you are smiling [and] you’re energetic with your hands. It looks like it makes you happy.

Kate Hogan: Yeah, it really is. This is a journey and it’s been a really good one.

Going back to the beginning of our conversation where you asked where did I think I’d go and where do I end up: When I was asked to come in to head up the global internal audit program, it was the last C-suite title on my mind. So when I was asked to do this, I had to pause for a moment and reflect. And it has been the most exciting part of my career. All the things I did before helped me to be successful in this seat.

You know, the journey is never a straight line, Tanya. There’s an element of risk and failure in thinking through, “how do you get there”?

Some of the most interesting people I’ve met have gone through adversity that has really caused them to dig deep. [Adversity] taught me resiliency and the ability to trust my inner voice.

And it’s not about when everything’s going in your favor, right? In your favor is the easiest time, when you have easy staff to manage, when you have an easy job to do. That is not when the growth is happening. It’s when things are tough.

The journey that everyone goes through, those experiences when they happen, you can’t change it. You just need to lean in and do your very best to really learn from that [experience].

Q: Great podcast debut!

Kate Hogan: Well, thank you, Tanya. You make it easy. I really appreciate it. And I hope this inspires other people. It’s been a pleasure, so thank you.

Q: It's a pleasure talking to you as well.

Kate Hogan is the global head of internal audit at the world’s largest alternative asset management company, Blackstone. This conversation is part of a larger series with women at the top of the financial services industry. You can find those interviews—some of them very intimate and, at times, shocking—at our website. That’s Search for Within Reach.

I’m Tanya Ott. Thanks for listening. And a quick reminder that if you subscribe to the podcast, you get notified when we drop a new episode. Also, leave a review. Tell us what think of the show and what you’d like to hear more about.

I also want to tell you about a new podcast I’m working on with Deloitte: Government’s future frontiers. It looks at the intersection of government, the private sector, nonprofits, and more as they tackle some of the most intractable problems facing society. We’re looking at building bridges between partners, the digital divide, housing insecurity, the challenges of AI, and cybersecurity…and there’s more to come. Look for Government’s future frontiers on your favorite podcast platform, and please let me know what you think!

This podcast is produced by Deloitte. The views and opinions expressed by podcast speakers and guests are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Deloitte. This podcast provides general information only and is not intended to constitute advice or services of any kind. For additional information about Deloitte, go to 


Tanya Ott

United States


Cover image by: Jaime Austin