Cathy Duke is the Chief Talent Officer at Robinson+Cole (she is the first person to have this role at her firm). She spent 20+ years at Proskauer where she was the Legal Director for its top-ranked Labor and Employment Department. Prior to that, Cathy was a white-collar criminal defense and commercial litigation lawyer in private practice. I met Cathy when we both worked at Proskauer, and I always found her to be a great colleague and incredibly smart.

She was recently interviewed about her new role in Hartford Business. Learn more about Cathy in this Women Who Wow profile.

Tell us about a woman you look up to and why. 

There are really two.  When I was growing up, it was my Nana, Mae McKenna. She was a strong believer in higher education for women and supported me in my pursuit of a college degree and then my J.D.  She also told me I could grow up and do anything I wanted to, including becoming the first woman President of the United States, a CIA agent or a diplomat (all careers I aspired to at different points in my teenage years).

As a professional, Elise Bloom, a Labor & Employment partner and member of the Executive Committee at Proskauer Rose, has been a tremendous mentor.  In addition to being a talented, extremely client-focused lawyer and a strong firm citizen, she is a terrific person.  Despite her hectic schedule, she always makes the time to keep in touch with those in her circle, to lend a helping hand and to provide encouragement and support. I have learned so much from her.

What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?

Developing strong active listening skills.  Focus on building trust, establishing rapport and demonstrating concern.  A large part of talent management is talking with the team and actually hearing what they are saying.  We all like to know we are being heard.  Talent management gets good ideas – and can frequently address brewing issues early on – from people sharing what they want and need.

What advice would you give to women in your field?

  • Be kind to everyone you encounter – from the most senior partner to the newest staff member.
  • Get to know people’s names and about their lives and families.
  • Don’t be afraid to engage in a little chit chat with your colleagues.
  • Say please and thank you.
  • Respond to people’s requests for information.
  • Laugh often.

We all work very hard and what we produce is so much better if we all do it with kindness, mutual appreciation and humor.

Message me if you’d like to suggest someone (or yourself) in this series.