Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Claudia Hardy
This week AltoPartners talks to one of our Latam experts in Mexico City, Claudia Hardy, a partner in the Ezentia Group. Armed with a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from IPADE (Mexico), Claudia began her career in equity research in Credit Suisse in New York. She tells us how she made the switch from asset and risk management to headhunter.
You spent the first 16 years of your career in the financial sector, rising to the top of your game as Chief Investment Officer of the Compass Group in New York and Mexico and later as Senior Risk Officer at G.E. Capital. How did you get into executive search?
Luck and timing! I had been in the financial sector for more than 16 years and had recently had my first child. At that time, there was very little flexibility in senior positions, and I resolved that my next job would fit into “the life I wanted, not necessarily the job I wanted”. And serendipitously, at the same time, one of our founding partners, Luis Verdeja – a highly respected veteran in the executive search field and founder of Ezentia Spain – was looking to set up a business in Mexico. He was casting around for suitable partners and believed that I had the skills to make it work. So, along with my business partner Alex Ysenburg, who gave up a successful career in marketing, we took a leap of faith and founded the Mexican arm of Ezentia. Neither of us had ever been in recruitment before. Still, we understood what top-notch multinational companies looked for in executives, as we had lived and worked overseas in management positions for these types of firms. Was that a difficult transition? Fortunately, Alex is a very process-oriented professional, and we complement each other very well. So, we founded and registered the company in Mexico in 2010, trained in Spain under the legendary Luis Verdeja, set up processes, and in 2011, we began reaching out to clients in Mexico. Which was brave and audacious as we had no track record in executive search, but we did have firsthand experience of what it takes to successfully lead multinational companies. Fast forward ten years later, and Ezentia is now one of Mexico’s leading boutique executive search firms. We did it by really listening to our clients and following up meticulously. We also like to under-promise and over-deliver.
You were lucky enough to have a fantastic mentor in the industry. What was the best piece of advice he gave you?
Luis Verdeja was an incredible mentor. He is now retired, but he introduced us to this business and taught us everything we know about it. But it wasn’t just processes. He instilled in us the absolute necessity of having a clear goal and tackling it with discipline. He was also a great believer in action and warned of the dangers of overthinking: Do not think too much about what will work or not, “just do it”, try it, and if it doesn’t work, try something else but keep on moving. He also taught us the value of positioning yourself correctly in the market and emphasizing our value-add.
What advice would you have for your younger self?
“Trust yourself. Be brave; you will never regret having been brave.” And even if you are afraid, do it with fear but do it.
And very importantly: “Get up, get dressed, get out…” - every day. It applies even in the pandemic working from home – it’s a mindset. And it especially applies when there are setbacks and downturns.
Who else inspires you?
One of my main inspirations has been Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, President of 5050 Women on Boards, the organization I co-chair in Mexico. I met her through the International Women’s Forum, where she was my mentor. She founded and grew an executive search firm in California, positioned it well, and sold it. Since then, she has dedicated her time and effort to a not-for-profit campaign for having more women on corporate boards, starting in the U.S. and now internationally. She was very active in supporting legislation in California, where it is now mandatory to have women on boards and is fully committed to transforming society by having more women in decision-making roles.
Was it a good move, in retrospect?
Undoubtedly. I like making a difference, and I believe that helping companies get the best talent for their teams is important work that has an impact on companies and communities. One of the great privileges of this profession is that you meet fascinating people, and you have the opportunity to get to know them, both as clients and candidates. And assessing whether someone would be compatible with a company’s culture allows you to get to know the company and the individual really well. It’s both fascinating and rewarding. I am finally living the life I wanted.
Claudia is a founder of the Consejo de Empresarias y Ejecutivas A.C., Co-Chair of Women on Boards 5050 Mexico and has been an Invited Professor at IPADE Business School, a global community of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and life-long learners. She is a Fellow of the IWF Leadership Foundation Program, a leading international executive program at Harvard Business School and INSEAD. She is fluent in Spanish and English.