Wanted: Multi-lingual, well-rounded, deeply curious, sporty book lovers with a passion for people. Must love dogs.

June 05, 2023 Share this article:

PWA Wrap Up

What we learned from interviewing 44 amazing women of AltoPartners.

Last year, in honour of International Women’s Month, we ran a series called Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners in honour of Maya Angelou’s wonderful poem.

We pitched (mostly) the same set of questions to our participants across six continents. Here’s what we learned.

  1. Life is not a one-act play. Fewer than 1% of the women we interviewed started out in recruitment or HR. Most had successful careers in politics, fashion, manufacturing, retail, IT, banking and insurance before making the switch.
  2. No risk - no reward. For many the switch to executive search was a leap of faith; some came as candidates and stayed as consultants; others sought mid-life career advice from professionals in the field and were offered a job instead. As Bill Gates told the class of 2023 at Northern Arizona University: “Everyone feels a lot of pressure to make the right decisions about your career. It may feel like it at the time, but these decisions are not permanent…Not only is it okay to change your mind or to have a second career… it can be a very good thing”. The Phenomenal Women of Alto agree.
  3. The thing they value most about their work: it’s meaningful.
  4. The secret to success: Work with colleagues you love; stay active; get enough sleep; deliver on your promises.
  5. They’re extraordinarily well educated, but qualifications don’t trump resilience, grit and ingenuity.
  6. They read! A lot, and on wide-ranging topics, often with multiple books going concurrently. Podcasts and audiobooks also feature prominently.
  7. They’re multilingual and well-travelled. Many speak more than three languages.
  8. Successful people embrace what they don’t know. Every single one of our Phenomenal Women of AltoPartners referenced the art of knowing how to ask for and when to seek help from more experienced people.
  9. You’ll (sometimes) find them in the kitchen – many have next-level culinary skills.
  10. But mostly they’re seriously sporty. Shake the snow off your skis, saddle up, don your hiking boots, fasten your helmet, or swim in open water to catch up with these Altonians. Alternatively, grab a yoga mat or head to the Pilates studio. Then there’s tennis; watching it, playing it, reading about it – the passion is real.
  11. Dogs feature prominently. We love our Chief Happiness Officers.
  12. From bricklayer to the boardroom: Almost all worked part-time growing up, regardless of their background. First jobs ranged from the conventional such as waiting tables, helping out in family-run businesses, and cleaning houses, to brickies, bouncers, riding instructors and fruit pickers.
  13. Top advice for younger selves: Worry less about what people think. Trust your gut. Speak up. Everything is going to be all right.
  14. Good mentors rock!
  15. No one grows up dreaming about becoming an executive search consultant, but once bitten, you never look back.