Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners – Greta Frey
Linguist, tennis fiend and bookworm – meet Greta Frey, Senior Consultant at MPB Recruitment Group AG / AltoPartners Switzerland and a firm favourite among colleagues, clients and candidates who love her for her people-centred approach, can-do attitude, and her wide-ranging international experience.
Where were you born?
I was born in Malta, where I lived until age 23. Growing up on the archipelago was idyllic – I played the piano but also spent a lot of time outdoors, on the tennis court, participating in athletics events, and on the beach. My mother was one of 14 children, so my grandparents would host these huge, noisy family Christmases for about 85 of our nearest and dearest, with everyone pitching in. Safe to say, it was never quiet!
What was your childhood career dream?
It changed a lot, depending on what was happening in my life then. As a young child, I enjoyed playing teacher to my dolls (but I wasn’t very good at being strict). In my teenage years, I thought I would make a very good executive PA as I enjoyed solving problems and was good at making things happen. I think I also enjoyed the idea of being the power behind the throne. Later when I joined the Malta Tennis Federation at age 16, I spent some time as an umpire and a lineswoman and imagined travelling around the world from one tournament to the next.
What did you study in the end?
After high school, I attended the University of Malta, where I read for a BA in English and French, which combined my flair for languages with my love of literature and reading. I have always liked languages, and in Malta, we had the privilege of being raised bilingual, i.e., English and Maltese, with the option to learn two additional languages at school, so I opted for French and Italian. Growing up in Malta gave me a taste and an ear for languages. Maltese is the only Semitic language to be written in the Latin alphabet and is closely related to the western Arabic dialects of Algeria and Tunisia and heavily influenced by Sicilian, English, Italian and French. We routinely use different languages in the same sentence, frequently switching between Maltese and English. And of course, we do it loudly and volubly, being Mediterranean.
What was your first job?
At university, I started working part-time at InLingua, an English language school in Malta, and moved quickly up the ranks from office intern to PA to the Managing Director, where I dealt with overseas representatives, prepared packages for groups and liaised with the teaching division around customer service matters and the recruitment of teachers and host families. I loved the sheer variety of the work, and I learnt a lot from my boss, Kathleen Cremona, who instilled in me the importance of learning to prioritise and to do it right the first time. She was also a stickler for prompt follow-ups and keeping the customer happy. It was an excellent grounding for an international, client-centred career – which is the direction my life took. In 2003, I left Malta for Switzerland to complete my MA in International Hospitality Management, and have lived abroad ever since, in Switzerland, Germany and the UK, working primarily in hospitality.
So how did you end up in executive search?
After 12+ years at a Swiss hotel management school, I was looking for a new challenge, something different and closer to home (I live in Germany, near the Swiss border). I began looking at a few roles in Basel, mainly in the recruitment sphere, since I had spent four wonderful years in London, working at Portfolio, where I specialised in recruiting managers and senior executives for the hospitality industry worldwide. Besides, I had run career centres for two hotel management schools to assist students and graduates in finding internships and jobs worldwide. When the opportunity to join MPB/AltoPartners Switzerland came up in January 2022, it was a no-brainer as it allowed me to combine all my skills in one role.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I enjoy making things happen and interacting with people. I am passionate about finding the right fit for candidates and companies, and I am genuinely interested in people’s successes and career goals; everyone has a story, and everyone is unique. There is nothing more satisfying than feeling that you have made a difference in someone’s life.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Believe in yourself more, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I am cautious by nature and may have missed out on some opportunities because I was too analytical in my approach and afraid of what others might say if I did not succeed. But if you don’t risk it, you’ll never know.
How do you relax and unwind?
I used to play quite a bit of tennis, but unfortunately, much less now as I am nursing a long-term injury. I enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes, reading, leisurely walks, spending lazy Sundays cuddled up with my husband watching films, and, when it’s a bit warmer, I usually cycle to and from work. Additionally, strange as it sounds, once I get my act together to do household tasks and ironing, I find these very therapeutic and calming…. the challenge is finding the motivation to start such tasks!
Tell us one thing about yourself that not many people know.
From the age of 16 to 23, I was heavily involved with the Malta Tennis Federation as a volunteer and sat on the Main Committee and the Junior Committee. I organised many tennis tournaments in Malta and spent a lot of time at various clubs mingling with people and watching tennis matches. I was lucky to be selected twice to accompany players for international tournaments: once, when I was 18, I chaperoned a 16-year-old to a junior ITF tournament in the UK and later accompanied the Malta Federation Cup Team as a non-playing Captain to Estoril, Portugal. Then, when I lived in the UK for four years, I was a Committee Member of my tennis club, which happened to be in Wimbledon.