Life at Deloitte

Paving a way forward

Charlie Gentzkow on inner resolve and achieving goals

October 27, 2022

For Charlie Gentzkow, a Risk & Financial Advisory analyst at Deloitte & Touche LLP, life has never been simple. “I was born with a rare retina disease called Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). It caused severe vision loss which left me blind from birth. And while there is no cure, I’ve never let it get me down. I just think, ‘Well, it is what it is. I can’t change it so why dwell on it?’”

Charlie was raised in the Chicago suburbs with an amazing support network. “My family encouraged me from day one to never let blindness hold me back. I decide each day to live life to the fullest. If I want to do something, then I figure out how—so maybe not reading print or driving a car—but for everything else, I won’t know if I don’t try.”

From a young age, Charlie’s resolve always paved his way forward—even when it seemed impossible. “When I was five years old, we were at a barbeque at my aunt and uncle’s house. Everyone was hanging out in the backyard, and then my parents realized I wasn’t playing with the other children. Frantic, my family started looking for me, and they were stunned when they saw me riding a bike up and down the street without training wheels. I had never learned to ride, only on two wheels, but my young self just decided to go into the garage and grab a bike. My parents always had to keep a close eye on me from then on, because I was overflowing with courage. I also learned to do a better job of communicating what I needed to be successful or what I wanted to do (like riding a bike that wasn’t mine). I was strong, but I couldn’t do everything on my own.”

Fast forward to Charlie’s freshman year in college when he was attending Michigan State University. “I was in class and we had a list of consulting organizations to base an upcoming project on. I picked Deloitte because I remembered hearing that name when my sister played golf in college. Her coach worked at Deloitte. So, I thought, ‘Why not? I’ll just pick this one.’ I had no idea how that decision would impact me in the years to come.”

I’ve met a lot of people in my situation that don’t have a positive mindset, but I decided a long time ago that would never be me. I make my life an open book in the hopes that more people hear my story and see there’s always a way.

Charlie ended up interviewing the Deloitte recruiter at Michigan State for the course and realized that it could end up being a great place to work. “We talked about the culture and what life was like at Deloitte. I started thinking more and more about it. In my sophomore year, I stayed connected with the recruiter and learned about the Deloitte National Leadership Conference at Deloitte University (DU). I applied but didn’t get accepted, so I asked the recruiter what I could do differently in the future.” Based on the advice he received, he formulated his game plan. All Charlie needed to do was execute.

“I started going to as many campus events with Deloitte as I could and applied to be a Tax intern. At the time, I was majoring in Accounting, so it seemed like a good plan. I applied again for the Deloitte National Leadership Conference at DU, but this time I was accepted. That same week, I was offered an internship in Tax, but I ended up declining—I had just switched my focus to Finance.”

After an incredible time at DU of experiencing what life at Deloitte could be like, Charlie got plugged in with the Chicago office and met leaders and professionals in his area of interest. “I ended up getting an internship in Risk & Financial Advisory after I graduated in May 2020. With the pandemic in full swing, it wasn’t a typical intern experience, but I made the best of it and continued to grow my network.”

Adapting to life with a disability is never easy, but I’m proof that you can overcome and achieve your goals. I embrace who I am, perceived flaws and all, and I’m not afraid to tap into my courage and inner resolve to rise above and seize opportunities – even if it is something as simple as riding a bike.

Finally, in June 2021, Charlie was hired onto the Risk & Financial Advisory team full-time. But like many pandemic new hires, there were challenges just not the ones you would think. “I’m a people person, so getting to know my teammates remotely has never been a problem. But I learned quickly—like when I was young—that I needed to work on my communication. Deloitte legally couldn’t disclose to my team that I was blind, and we were remote, so they didn’t know. If I didn’t tell anyone about my needs, then how would they know? I ran into that on my first project, but I learned quickly. Now instead of telling people 2-3 days into a project that I need things like a screen reader, I tell them way before. I’ve had amazing support from my team and leaders.”

Charlie is starting to feel settled into his role and is looking forward to meeting many of his colleagues live as we adopt the hybrid workplace model. He’s also excited to be a positive force for anyone with a disability that needs encouragement.

“I’ve been honored to share my story in multiple settings over the years and hope that I’ve been able to make a difference in the lives of those who heard it. We are all different with different perspectives and experiences – and that’s a good thing!”

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