Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Andrea Brand
Bold and brave; polished and poised, but with a wicked sense of humour. Meet Munich-based Andrea Brand, equity partner and esteemed colleague at Jack Russell Consulting/ AltoPartners Germany.
What was your childhood career dream?
[Laughs] When I was little, I wanted to be an airline stewardess because I liked those little drinks trolleys so much. Fortunately, I discovered my passion for HR at university, thanks to a brilliant professor.
What did you study?
I studied Business Administration at the University of Regensburg with majors in HR and Organizational Development. After finishing high school, I spent a year in the US as an exchange student at Colby College, Maine which was a wonderful experience – despite the very cold winters!!
What was your first job?
I joined Heidrick & Struggles in Munich as a researcher, straight out of university. I spent two years there before moving to the BMW Group, where I spent the next ten years of my career within diverse HR functions.
You are one of the very few people who actually started their career in this industry. Was that by accident or design?
For sure no accident. It was a very strategic move as I knew it would be the perfect first job to get a quick overview of the diversity of industries and functions out there.
While at BMW, you were the HR business partner for the Rolls Royce brand. Tell us more about that.
I was HR Manager for the Rolls Royce brand which was a fascinating experience. On the one hand, we had a very British company whose employees had a high degree of identification with the brand, having to work with a very Bavarian brand, that inspired the same level of loyalty in its employees. The challenge was to ensure top levels of collaboration between these two iconic brands. I will never forget the first time I visited the RR site in Goodwood, in the UK and saw the “workers” assembling cars in suits and white cotton gloves, which was in stark contrast to the overalls worn in the BMW factory in Munich. But despite these superficial differences, both brands are about excellence, so we found our common ground. It was an amazing experience that I was privileged to be part of.
What motivates you to do what you do?
The people: clients, candidates and colleagues. I have no need for external motivation if I love what I do, and the common denominator is always people. I love interacting with candidates and clients from different industries, company cultures and backgrounds. You learn a lot. I never tire of it.
Did you have a mentor? And if so, what was the best piece of advice they gave you?
Actually yes – by accident. My hiring manager at BMW left shortly after I started due to her pregnancy, so I had the honour to step into her role very quickly at a very young age. She advised me to stay cool and smile away any potential disbelief I may encounter regarding my ability to step into such big shoes. And she was right – I grew very quickly with the role.
What advice would you give your younger self?
You will never please everyone, so be a bit selfish occasionally and please yourself.
How do you relax and unwind?
With good music - especially jazz featuring strong female voices (probably because I can’t hold a tune to save my life!). And a good glass of wine, preferably over a Greek meal. I love Greek food – it is an important part of my heritage: my maternal grandfather was Greek, and I have wonderful childhood memories of meals around a huge table packed with family in Athens.
What’s the best thing about working at Jack Russell?
We have a wonderful team with very distinctive voices and experience, which is as entertaining as it is inspiring. And my elderly Golden Retriever is always welcome at the office. She – and Thomas Heyn’s puppy – are our chief happiness officers. So, it’s all about people – and from time to time also about dogs….