Why we do what we do has been saved
Why we do what we do
Meet Deb Golden
Faces of Deloitte Advisory is a new series that explores the personal history of our practitioners, highlighting key experiences that defined their values and explaining why they do what they do. In this story, Deb discusses how her grit factor has helped her push through tough times and why she chooses to show up and fight each day.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in technology. Coding and programming gadgets my father brought home from work always intrigued me throughout my childhood.
But the funny thing is, he never brought home any of the manuals to go with them—so I spent my time trying to figure out how to make them work. And by work, I mean playing video games—which at that time was nothing more than a series of BASIC coding instructions. But what I didn’t realize was that this self-taught “game-based learning” approach was laying the foundation for my career in cyber.
Turning a passion into a career
My interest in solving challenges and looking at ways to innovate has only grown over the years. And has transformed from personal interests into professional endeavors. Little did I know back then, this interest in game-based learning and STEM would help develop my critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential to navigating today’s challenges—especially in cyber.
Another critical part of my job is the ability to remain calm under pressure and react rationally to the inherent adversity in a field dedicated to preventing, responding to, and recovering from sophisticated cyberattacks. Several life events have grounded me and established what I like to call my “grit factor.” These very personal experiences—some of which were traumatic in nature—have allowed me to explore the human-response element of cyber, specifically how my own experiences have enabled me to push through chaos, uncertainty, and unpredictability.
One such event was my mother’s passing, which followed several years of her being incredibly sick with cancer, leading to her untimely and unfortunate passing when I was a teenager. That was, of course, extremely difficult for me—having to find my way through life without the guidance of a mother. But I will say that it taught me survival skills and independence. Over time, I’ve come to realize this tragedy provided me the opportunity to increase my self-awareness and emotional vulnerability. And as difficult as it may have been, that experience allowed me to develop some inherent strengths (my “grit factor”) that helped me survive in the many years since my mother’s death and ultimately have helped me approach my everyday life—both personally and professionally.
Having to learn those survival skills at such a young age has played a big role in my ability to objectively look at these extremely complicated and stressful situations and help organizations move forward when they may otherwise be paralyzed by fear or uncertainty. My “grit factor,” combined with my passion and my persistence, has enabled me to thrive under pressure—something that has been a vital part of my success.
Making mental and physical health a priority
Over the last several years, I’ve faced some serious, life-threatening health challenges of my own. And while my condition is currently “in check,” it’s something that I’ll need to deal with for the rest of my life. As with everything, we all have choices to make about our outlook in these situations, and I think I’ve been unwavering about my decision to show up and fight—for me, for my family, for my friends, for my life. I don’t take a good day for granted, ever—even the ones that seem the most challenging (and trust me, they exist!).
Throughout each week, I make my physical and mental health a priority—and I encourage others to do the same. And while I’m a regular at spin and strength training classes, I’m always looking for new activities that will allow me to expand both my physical and mental strength, competing with myself to reach new heights without a phone or laptop in sight.
Not only is this important for my physical health, but it helps me give my all at work, allowing me to have a mental reset—and a necessary mental release—that comes from the physical exertion of working out. After all, the best ideas don’t come to you when you’re working at a desk, they come to you when you’re relaxed and able to think through the “art of the possible.” Sometimes we think we don’t have time to do anything, but when you break it down and realize all the things you can do in small increments of time—even just five minutes—it makes it easier to give yourself the break you undoubtedly need.
I remind my teams that we must find purposeful moments in the day to take a collective breath—to be grateful for each day and ensure that hard times don’t turn us into someone else. Because hard times show us who we really are—and sometimes, we need to fall to truly understand what’s needed to rise again. Through challenging times, it’s important for us to remember that we’re strong and capable. And even when you may be up against something unthinkable, we can keep pushing forward, we can evolve, and we can continuously reach toward a better self.
To help others in their lives, I began training service dogs a few years ago—knowing that the skills and knowledge of “puppy raising” would ultimately allow someone else to have freedom and independence. The dogs have also become a big part of my work because they’re always by my side—even at the client site. I am an official certified service dog trainer and have trained many puppies (from six weeks old and many for the full duration until the puppies turn sixteen(ish) months!) who have successfully graduated in-for-service training (aka college), where each of them will ultimately proceed with additional training and begin their life-changing career as a guide or service dog.
People always ask me how I can part ways with the puppies, but as soon as you talk to someone who is given the gift of a service dog the answer to that question becomes clear. After all, these puppies change someone’s life, and to be a part of something so incredibly impactful is truly beyond words.
Creating a diverse cyber workforce
I’ve been at Deloitte for twenty-four years and there’s a big reason I still have this passion for this organization: our people and our clients. It sounds a little “hokie” (which has special meaning to me as a Virginia Tech alumni), but people really are our greatest strength. Priding myself on an authentic and transparent leadership style—coupled with emotional self-awareness, it’s clear that people are critical to this approach especially given the strength formed through honest, open, and trusting professional relationships—ultimately fostering an environment that supports learning, growth, and mentorship.
By building trust, loyalty, collaboration, and engagement, I can inspire positive change not just for me, but for our people, our teams, our clients, and ultimately our community. Because of the way I choose to lead, it’s probably no surprise to many who know me that I have, and will continue, to speak up in response to the senseless acts of racism, bigotry, bias, and unequal treatment that continue to plague our country.
I strongly believe that we must continue to push the boundaries on establishing even more diverse teams—that not only reflect what we want to see in the world but offer diversity in thought and action. As the cyber landscape continues to expand and become more complex, it’s more important than ever for us to come to the table with different perspectives to help our clients address those challenges. And that’s what ultimately enables us to stay one step ahead.
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US Cyber & Strategic Risk leader
Deb, a principal at Deloitte & Touche LLP, is the US Cyber & Strategic Risk leader for Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory. In the prior six years, she served as the Government & Public Services (GPS) Cyber Risk Services leader, as well as the GPS Advisory Market Offering leader, GPS Empowered Well-Being leader and the lead principal for a major federal government health care provider. Deb has more than 25 years of information technology experience spanning numerous industries, with an in-depth focus on government and public services, life sciences and health care, and financial services. She specializes in collaborating with clients on cybersecurity and technology transformation, and privacy and governance initiatives.