Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Emmy Raaff
AltoPartners celebrates the researchers — the backbone of the executive search industry who work quietly in the background, combing through industry, analyst, and media reports to uncover hidden gems. We talk to Emmy Raaff, a researcher at Leaders Trust Netherlands, who celebrates 21 years in the industry this summer.
21 years. Wow. Is it still love?
Absolutely. And it’s even more remarkable because it was never part of the plan. When I left school, I wanted to travel. Armed with a secretarial diploma, I spent a year in San Francisco, then two years in Tel Aviv. I was happily working as a PA at an American pharmaceutical company when Leaders Trust invited me for an interview. I went purely out of curiosity to peek into the mysterious world of executive search. It was love at first sight, and 21 years later, I’m part of the furniture. I followed my gut, and it paid off.
You’re still so excited by this job. What motives you?
To do this job well, it helps to have a curious mind and broad interests. I am inspired by discovery: people, books, podcasts, music, destinations, ways of thinking and doing – the more insightful and unexpected, the better. For the last five years, I have spent every Wednesday morning attending philosophy classes at the public university in Utrecht. I love learning new things: I play the ukulele and sing, and lockdown was an opportunity to learn how to make bread and grow my own vegetables. I am currently preparing to cycle solo from the Netherlands to Rome this spring . For six weeks, I will climb hills, freewheel down mountains and come face to face with the unknown. As much as I love being a wife, mum, sister, friend, neighbour, cousin, aunt, and colleague, I seldom have the luxury of time alone. I can hardly wait.
You make it sound so easy. How do you deal with the inevitable challenges?
The first step is to accept that life is full of challenges and obstacles and stop expecting that once you have dealt with one challenge, then that’s your quota done! Some challenges are more serious than others, but doing nothing is never an option. I always aim for the best, regardless of the circumstances and it helps me when I start getting into analysis-paralysis, which is an occupational hazard if, like me, you work with multiple deadlines and are prone to overthinking!
Did you have a mentor? And if so, what was the best piece of advice they gave you?
Besides my parents, I was lucky enough to have a few outstanding mentors in my life. The best advice, or at least the advice I follow the most: “Use your creativity, play to your strengths and follow your gut feeling.” That and don’t go to the gym if it makes you unhappy”. It works.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I grew up among the dunes in a small seaside village. I wish I could have told my younger self to relax and enjoy the wonderful gift of living in a small community surrounded by nature, secure in the knowledge that the travel and excitement would follow in its own time.