Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Emily Henders

February 20, 2023 Share this article:

Emily Henders

Ten years ago, UK-born Emily Henders met her future husband in Italy, an encounter that would see her swap London for his native Calgary, and teaching for executive search, where she worked her way up from Client Services Coordinator to Principal. She tells us how it happened and why she loves living in Canada (but still misses scones and soccer).

What was your childhood career dream?

I always wanted to be a singer (but I’m not that good!) or a lawyer, as I love to argue. There are lots of lawyers in my family, so it seemed like the obvious career path until I realized that I had a passion for the sciences in school.

Which is how you came to do a BSc in medical science?

I went to the University of Birmingham to study Medical Science, specializing in neuroscience and the biology of ageing. I knew I did not want to be a doctor, but I had a passion for curiosity and learning, so I qualified as a secondary school science teacher in 2011 and taught biology to students aged 11-18.

What was your first job?

I taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies at a Sunday school when I was 15.

How did you get into executive recruitment?

I met my now husband while travelling in Italy and moved to join him in Canada in 2013. My UK qualifications were not recognized in Alberta, so I could not teach. I took on several administrative jobs before meeting my current Managing Partner, Kevin Hall. Kevin is also from the UK, and so we bonded over discussions on soccer and scones! I started with AltoPartners as a Client Services Coordinator and have worked my way up through the company to my current role as Principal.

What do you miss most about the UK?

Other than family (whom I miss a lot), it’s the history and ease of travel to and from Europe. When walking down a London street, every building has a story hundreds of years old. And with Paris and Amsterdam just a train ride away, and other cities accessible via a short cheap flight, the ability to travel at will is definitely something that I miss.

What do you love about living in Canada?

Even when it is cold, the sun is shining, and it is much easier to wrap up warm and get out into the fresh air. When it is cold in the UK, it is often grey and raining. I love the slower lifestyle and how people are just so much more attuned to nature and really embrace outdoor adventures.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I have a thirst for learning and progressing. I also encourage and appreciate feedback from my employer and/or clients, as it allows me to improve my game. Their recognition motivates me to succeed.

What advice would you give your younger self?

No one knows what they’re doing. I used to look at those older than me and wonder how they had everything figured out, especially my parents. I believed everything they told me as gospel. But now, as an adult and a parent, I realize that no one really has it all figured out. We are all just working through this crazy life and doing the best we can at that moment.

And secondly, no one is looking. I was pretty self-conscious as a teenager. I worried about what others thought of me or what they were saying behind my back. Now I realize that most people are too busy with their own lives to be concerned with mine. I would tell myself to relax and just be myself.

How do you relax and unwind?

I get my energy from others and by being surrounded by those who make me laugh. Even when I am exhausted and all I want to do is crawl into bed, I never regret mustering up the energy to get out and meet with friends.

Do you have a superpower?

I often amaze myself with how much I can carry at once – a toddler on one hip and baby on the other, grocery bags hanging off one arm and a much-needed coffee in my hand.

Tell us one thing about yourself that not many people know.

I have MS (multiple sclerosis). People often don’t disclose this, especially in the workplace, but it is part of who I am and, in a way, has shaped my approach to life. We don’t know what is around the next corner or what we might face. Live for now and be grateful for what you have. I advocate for MS and believe people should not be afraid to share due to fear of negative consequences. MS is most known for its physical limitations, but it is also an invisible disease due to the cognitive symptoms it may present. Awareness is the only way that we can ensure that individuals living with an invisible condition can get the support required to perform in the workplace as well as they would otherwise.

Name one thing you love about your work.

I love the variety. Every day is different, and it’s the best way to learn about different industries and roles. Our local firm is fairly small and has a family feel. We know each other on both a personal and professional basis and have fun working together. We can be open with each other regarding areas for development, and we readily express appreciation for things others do well.

What book are you currently reading?

I have just started Spare – Prince Harry’s controversial autobiography. No judgements!

Kevin Hall
Managing Partner AltoPartners Calgary