Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Caroline Rofe-Woess
This week we feature Caroline Rofe-Woess, the Anglophile in AltoPartners’ team in Vienna. Growing up in the UK, Caroline spent many years in the investment banking sector in London, where she was part of the recruitment team from the business side for the UK and DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) region. An ardent tennis fan with a wicked sense of humour, the ever-charming Caroline is also the custodian of the company’s Chief Happiness Officer, a Bernese Mountain dog named Whisky.
What was your childhood career dream?
I wanted to be a veterinarian until a nasty dog bite forced me to change tack. You cannot be nervous around dogs while treating them, so I realised I had to move on.
What did you end up studying?
I studied English and Spanish Law at the University of Kent. I got to do my third year in Madrid, which allowed me to learn Spanish and add an international dimension to my studies. It was a fantastic experience albeit not an easy one, as studying law in a foreign language is tough. We had to stand in front of the class and recite Spanish Administrative Law; let’s just say the final year of my degree was a breeze after that! Having graduated with an LLB, I did my Master of Laws (LLM) in Public International Law at King’s College, London, a decision that was inspired by my student work experience at the United Nations.
What was your first job?
My interest was in Economic Development, so I decided to get experience in banking first and was lucky enough to get an opportunity at Goldman Sachs in Equity Compliance (always a popular role with the traders), sitting on the trading floor. Back then it was a really exciting, super-tough environment. Working as an analyst in a male-dominated banking environment taught me a great deal about standing my ground, working long hours, and handling stressful situations.
How did you get into executive recruitment?
I moved to Austria, following the death of my father as I wanted to give my children the benefit of growing up in this idyllic country of lakes and mountains. Almost immediately, I got introduced to an IT-focused recruitment firm that needed someone to help with projects in the banking sector. As I can ‘speak’ IT (having managed large IT-related projects for the banking sector in the UK), it developed from there, and I joined AltoPartners Austria in 2019 to focus on executive recruitment for a wider scope of sectors and positions.
What motivates you to do what you do?
It is a huge privilege to be entrusted with finding the right people to lead crucial portfolios in your client’s business. Gaining the trust of your clients and partnering with them to ensure that they have the top resources available is what makes this job so exciting. In the process, you get to work with and meet so many unique people with incredible skill sets, and on top of that, you get to have a positive impact on someone’s life, career, and family. It’s an amazing experience, and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust and believe in your gut. Stand your ground and stay strong.
How do you relax and unwind?
Tennis! I watch it avidly. My record is 28 consecutive professional tennis matches during one tournament week. For me, it’s the greatest sport on earth because it’s not just about beating your opponent, it’s you versus your own mental strength. More often than not, it’s a game won or lost in your head. It requires discipline, dedication, mental stamina and the ability to pick yourself up and keep fighting. I find the upsets, the flow, the change of energy from one player to another and watching a player dig deep to turn a match around, astonishing.
Do you play?
[Laughs] I play as often as I can, but I’m more of a tennis mom. My older daughter plays competitive tennis, and my younger one is starting, so my free time is spent courtside watching their tournaments.
Do you have a superpower?
Having worked on a trading floor for many years, I can focus intently and completely blend out noise, people and my surroundings. I don’t hear a thing. Some call it annoying (mainly those that are talking to me and not getting an answer) but in an always-on world where there are constant interruptions, I think it is a superpower.
Is there any search assignment that really sticks out for you?
Not too long ago I did a very exciting NGO, Zero Carbon Fuels-related search. It is an absolutely fascinating, topical and complex field that attracts so many smart but humble individuals at every level of seniority; all working tirelessly to make our planet a better place. These are people I really admire.