Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Sandra Olive Bäcker
This week we talk to Sandra Olive Bäcker – entrepreneur, fabulous cook, hostess extraordinaire, and coffee connoisseur, as well as being managing partner of Executive Search at Bäcker & Partners / AltoPartners Argentina. A natural-born entrepreneur, Sandra founded a language and technological tools training company for senior executives at multinational companies shortly after graduating from Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires with a degree in systems.
So how did you land up in executive search?
I landed in Korn Ferry by accident in 2003. I have always been entrepreneurially minded and have run my own business since graduating from university. The career change came by chance. When I saw Korn Ferry, I knew then and there I wanted to work in Executive Search. Like any change in career path, I was willing to step down a couple of positions to learn about the business.
How did you make it happen?
So, I worked back office, learned as much as possible (from everyone) and continuously asked for more responsibilities. The turning point was when I got my own search assignment. It was for an international school in Buenos Aires looking for a Headmaster. Since I am fluent in English (I grew up in the US) and passionate about education, they gave me a chance. I loved the feeling of achievement at having done an incredible search for our client. From that moment on, I was hooked.
Did you have a mentor? And if so, what was the best piece of advice they gave you?
Many! I learned from everyone near me - I took what I liked the most and discarded things that didn’t go with my mindset. My greatest mentor has been my husband, Ricardo Bäcker, one of the legends in executive search in Latin America. I shadowed him in the beginning, and he showed me the value of building great relationships with clients.
What advice would you have for your younger self?
Sometimes you learn the most from things and situations that make you uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone. Looking back, I see that those situations that made me feel most exposed were actually the best opportunities to learn, grow and develop.
Follow your gut feeling.
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. I formed my own company when I was 21 and had to interact with GMs and HR Directors - it didn’t even occur to me that they might not take me seriously! Looking back, I am surprised they did; I was 21 years old negotiating training programs for C-Level executives.
Who has been your main inspiration to date, and why?
I am inspired by many things, such as people who constantly innovate; adaptive people who embrace change; and people who have overcome adversity and obstacles to achieve personal bests. People who live according to their values are also a great source of inspiration.