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Faces of Deloitte Advisory

Meet Vic Katyal

Faces of Deloitte Advisory is a series of true stories that explore the personal history of our practitioners, highlighting key experiences that defined their values and explaining why they do what they do. In this story, Vic shares how his diverse experiences help give him a unique perspective on challenges at Deloitte and beyond.

 

 

My modus operandi is to constantly challenge my comfort zone, be resilient, be empathetic, and never accept the status quo.

Step out of your comfort zone

Many people might say reading the teachings and hearing the humbleness of Mother Teresa had a big impact on their lives. Growing up in Calcutta, I didn’t fully grasp the significance of what I was a part of, literally spending hours volunteering with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in my youth. There were days when I would even get annoyed to begrudgingly go volunteer, wanting to do typical middle schoolers’ somewhat self-centered activities instead. Who wanted to walk the dirty, forsaken streets of the sweltering Calcutta slums, looking for newborn babies who had been abandoned in trash cans and for children—riddled with leprosy and malformations—who were shunned from their entire communities? Now, as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate just how much a once arduous (and frankly horrific) task helped prepare me to get out of my comfort zone, draw on lessons learned, take a deep breath, and realize how to appreciate what I do have and how to deal with challenges in my own life, so minor by comparison.

Having both my parents endure forced migration in their early years during India’s partition, hearing stories of politically involved family members assassinated during this transition for what they believed in, we were taught from the get-go to appreciate life and not take your rights as voting citizens for granted. From upper-class lives connected to the ruling classes and historically as soldiers in the foothills of the once Greco-Persian borderlands, their migratory lives had a new harsh reality, living in tents in a refugee camp with many who were less fortunate. Real lives were lost with the flip of a coin, on one decision to cross the street, to take a train, or travel by foot.

My parents persevered and came a long way physically and mentally. After college abroad, my dad was a senior executive in the iron and steel industry, and my mom studied psychology and French. They placed a lot of pressure on me and my sister to excel. Getting 99% on a test wasn’t good enough. It had to be 100. And that wasn’t because they accomplished so much themselves, but because they faced a lot of adversity early in their lives—and wanted more for us, and knew from experience that one mistake, one wrong answer, really could make a difference in your future.

Vic Katyal
Be resilient

Growing up, I was an introvert. I loved to listen in as my father hosted everyone from foreign diplomats to negotiating with labor unions, managing the many facets of business with the worker, the management, and the owner. I had some close friends, but I was fairly bookish, more of an observer than getting out there making noise. In high school, joining the debate club taught me to open up and to get more comfortable expressing opinions and views, and (most importantly) to see the multiple sides of any issue. The experience gave me a chance to gain confidence, and empathy as well, and I ended up becoming the national debate champion.

But then a few things forced me to grow up overnight—and ground me into reality.

Toward the end of my high school years, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and additional health complications. As a result, he struggled to keep working. Our lives changed overnight; we went from living a very comfortable lifestyle to having substantial medical expenses, a modest income, and having to make drastic adjustments as a family. After achieving perfect test scores, life thwarted me again. I was prohibited from following my grandfather’s footsteps of medical school when government quotas for application prohibited my admission. Despite his deteriorating health, my father sent me to the United States for college. There, I studied finance and became fascinated by both investment banking and Wall Street in general.

Vic at Deliotte
Don’t accept the status quo

My first few years after college involved long work hours with unrelenting bosses, marriage to my kindred soulmate, an increasingly frail father, the mixed joys and fears of having a child with special needs, grieving close family passing away, and moving frequently because of it all. These early years of adulthood really made me evaluate what was important in my life and what I wanted to do with it. This was a “perfect storm” of real-world education, not to be overshadowed by my previous years, but rather merged with it, like a cauldron in my father’s metal foundry, trial by fire. Each lesson, concentrated in time, gave our young family the challenges to ask more questions, to dig deeper into who we were, and to figure out how we were going to get through it all. Family came together, and each page of this story was piecemealed together to form the chapters in our life history book, still being written.

Constantly pushing the envelope to ask what I can make happen for good in the world is a huge part of what drives me. Life has hurdles not to take you down, but to build you up. Life lessons will never really end, and through my developing life and career in these years, my experiences have compounded to where I am today.

Throughout life, perspective also makes a big difference. One can chose to take their work and life experiences as obstacles, hindrances, or stumbling blocks that are insurmountable—or take a deep breath, seek out solutions, get out of your comfort zone, and realize the empathy required, all while learning from these moments how to turn them into advantages and assets. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was I. And neither was Deloitte. I have had years of being faced with challenges in work and life; years of seeking solutions; and building up quality and capability of perspective through work challenges, family conditions, and life experiences. I spend a lot of time lying awake at night thinking about what our people and clients are dealing with, how they must be feeling, and what I can do to lend a helping hand. Having empathy is one of the most important continuing education aspects of my life. Reflecting the years of this development within me, I would say it has endeared me toward a constant striving by making compassionate decisions to empower the individual employee and yet to create a cohesive bond for and with our team.

I’ve had the privilege of working in finance, strategy, merger integration, analytics, regulatory, cyber—and now as the chief operating officer for Risk & Financial Advisory. Having these diverse experiences combined gives me the multifaceted education and preparation to accept new challenges with my clients and our in-house teams, allowing me to bring a unique perspective to the table.

One of our most recent challenges was COVID-19 hitting. As a leader in Deloitte, I had the responsibility to figure out how we were going to deal with the situation in front of us and come out not just alive, but successful, on the other side. It involved frequent 20-hour workdays, which was not out of the ordinary in my career, but this was different. This was the overwhelming weight of actual personal responsibility for the livelihood of our people and the future of our business. We knew people were counting on us to make the right decisions.

Even though there were some very dark days in the spring of 2020, I am proud of how we all stuck together. Deloitte, as an organization, has continued its evolution into one of increased compassion, empathy, and shared vision for the future. Our team is constantly developing and learning, and we are always striving for ways to create the best environment for our team members in our individual situations within our organizational macrocosm. I embrace how Deloitte acknowledges that everyone is managing things outside of work and engages teams to continually remember focus on work/life balance. Our “halls” are filled with people who care about each other and who want life to be successful—not just at work, but also in life.

Vic Katyal
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Vic Katyal

Chief Operating Officer | Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory

Vic is Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory’s chief operating officer (COO). As COO, Vic is an integral part of Risk and Financial Advisory’s Executive Committee and works closely with the chief executive officer to prioritize the goals of the practice and align with our vision and strategy. He is Risk and Financial Advisory’s representative on the overall firm’s Operating Committee.

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