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2019 International Women's Day: An interview with Suzanne Kounkel

Strong mentorship programs help fuel women’s roles in marketing

In this interview, Suzanne Kounkel, Deloitte Consulting CMO, shares guidance and mentorship she’s received and provides advice for women as they progress in their marketing careers.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, a reminder of the potential of a gender-balanced world. Across industries, in politics, and in institutions around the globe, women are challenging stereotypes, breaking down barriers, and shaking up the status quo as strong, successful leaders.

In the workplace, many women have attributed their achievements to strong mentorship. Suzanne Kounkel, chief marketing officer, Deloitte Consulting, discusses the power of mentors, the changes transforming the workplace, and guidance for emerging women leaders.

Q: What career advice have you received as a marketing leader that’s been particularly valuable to you?

Suzanne: In my almost 25 years at Deloitte, I have primarily worked in client service, and had many mentors over my career who have made a difference. Those mentors in client service have prepared me for my role in marketing, as they helped me develop a passion for the customer. In my marketing career I think some of the best advice I’ve received is around compassion and empathy. These traits help create a culture of care. They help you understand someone else’s position even when you might disagree. That’s huge when you think about the human relationships I believe we’re responsible for nurturing as CMOs in a period of extraordinary change.

Q: What do the rapid technological, social, and economic changes in the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for women marketing leaders today?

Suzanne: I think constantly about the human-talent experience and how technology has enabled those areas to come together. The CMO needs to be the voice of the human. And consider the unique combination of leadership traits many women bring to the workplace—like empathy, flexibility, and risk-taking. Then combine those qualities with what Industry 4.0 means today. You have to have the brain and the heart to reach customers today.

Q: How can leaders provide useful mentorship to women to help them advance their careers?

Suzanne: I’ve long believed that part of helping women advance in the workplace is helping them remove any of the barriers that keep them from meeting their potential. People perform better when they can show up with their authentic selves. This month we’re holding the Deloitte International Women’s Day Conference at Deloitte University, for undergraduate students. It’s an opportunity for aspiring female professionals to meet industry leaders and start to build their own personal brand. I want to emphasize this because we’ve done research showing how mentoring can improve skill development in youth, and be as rewarding for the mentors as it is for the mentees. And we’re putting the resources of more than 285,000 Deloitte professionals across the globe into mentoring through programs like WorldClass. An initiative which seeks to prepare 50 million people to be better prepared for the future of work, in-line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Q: Anything else you’d like women to know as they embark on marketing careers?

Suzanne: Relationships are about connections, and trust and communication. But there’s more. I keep going back to the human element. Are you actively listening? Are you contributing to a greater good? But don’t be afraid of taking some risks. And be willing to speak up, to look for advocates. The more people in your corner, the better.

suzanne kounkel
Suzanne Kounkel

"In my marketing career, I think some of the best advice I’ve received is around compassion and empathy."

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