How becoming an industry specialist has taken one of our consultants beyond recruitment

Last week we said goodbye to one of our long-serving managers, Courtney Walkes. And while a lot of recruiters move jobs under a veil of secrecy, we’re extremely proud to shout about his move to Arsenal Football Club and his new role as a Business Analyst.

Although we’re going to miss his energy and beaming enthusiasm around the office, we couldn’t be prouder to see him make the move from a specialist business transformation recruitment consultant, to a role within the industry. So, before he goes to help one of the UK’s largest footy clubs improve off the pitch, we sat down with him to find out how he’s done it.

Tell us a little about how you got started, were you always destined for a role in business transformation or did you have your eye on recruitment from the get-go?

 To be honest, neither of those. I graduated university after studying Mathematics with Economics and wasn’t too sure what to do. I have an older sister had been in recruitment and she reckoned that I probably had the right attributes and approach to quite enjoy it, and be good at it. The more I looked into it, the more recruitment sounded like the right role for me.

I was actually really open about the industry that I worked in, I got introduced to Deltra Group via a rec to rec and found business transformation extremely interesting. It tied in well with the Economics side of my degree in terms of how companies were delivering a project or programme to improve how the business worked.

I choose Deltra Group because I liked their ethos and the way they worked. It wasn’t a phone bashing environment - making as many cold calls as you could. It’s very much relationship driven, it’s about making the right calls at the right times and showcasing your knowledge, rather than hitting the phones and hoping something will stick.

And was recruitment everything you’d expected?

 Initially, there was just a lot to learn. With Deltra being a niche provider of project, programme and change professionals there were so many different skillsets, terminology and definitions to understand. These things were critical to know to enable you to find the right candidates, talk to them on a level about what they’ve done or have been doing, and to support the senior consultants. You have to understand all that stuff, so it was a steep learning curve… and that’s before you even get to learning the recruitment value chain.

It sounds like you were thrown straight in then?

 Yes and no. One of the great things with Deltra is that it’s a truly collaborative environment, I was given a great piece of advice at the beginning which I’ve passed onto my team - speak to your candidates and clients, get to know them, what they do and why they do it. And, if you understand what a candidate does better when you’ve finished a call with them than when you picked up their CV, you’re on the right track.

Like I said, the environment at Deltra is really supportive, the MDs are on the floor with you and if you get stuck, you can grab them and ask how something works. Yes, they might be busy, but they’ll always get back to you or find someone else in the team who has the time to explain it properly, so you’re always learning. Everyone and anyone will help you if you need support.

To be honest, it’s not just with the basics around terminology and industry knowledge either. Julian and Minesh (the founders of Deltra Group) helped me to grow, I suppose what I’d call life skills as well. From day one, I would be sat next to them and they’d give me feedback on my tone, communication style, the language I’m using and how to frame things to get buy-in from people whilst sounding knowledgeable. They’d say “maybe don’t use that word, change your phrasing to this instead. The way you’re talking makes what you’re saying sound unimportant when actually you’re talking about something that’s crucial to their programme.”

Giving me the skills to carry myself in the right manner was invaluable, especially as I was given more responsibility – meeting VPs and Directors from the likes of GSK, BAT, Smith & Nephew and more FTSE100 companies, running my own networking events with multiple directors, and managing a team of associate consultants.

I wouldn’t have had that kind of exposure anywhere else so quickly – having just turned 25 – I doubt I’d have been given the opportunity to manage a team and meet senior stakeholders independently anywhere else.

You’ve mentioned life skills as something you’ve picked up from Deltra, can you explain this a little bit more?

 I’ve learned a number of different things being at Deltra, I’ve had a lot of support from the team in conflict resolution and, I suppose stakeholder management. I’ve learnt the importance and value of emotional intelligence – reading a room or situation and being able to handle yourself accordingly. For example, you might have a call with someone and off the back of it one of the senior guys might grab you to say “that was a really great call, but if you don’t mind can I give you some feedback. If you’d just change this or this then you might get a better outcome”.

Having that level of support around how to deal with a challenging situation, getting a stakeholder back on board or achieving a positive outcome with a candidate or client has been invaluable. I’ve definitely learnt a lot around having an effective stakeholder management toolkit at Deltra.

Aside from the work benefits, I think there’s an element of day to day life skills as well – for example, we get budgets to run our own networking events, we’re allowed to take candidates and clients out for drinks, food and expense it all. Having that level of freedom and responsibility makes you aware of the money you’re spending and the money you’re bringing back in. Of course, there are the standard targets around calls and things but the overarching KPI is revenue, so you start to understand things like profit and loss of your own mini business. It stands you in good stead in life moving forward, let alone the simple things like attention to detail. It’s that organisational day to day stuff that I can use outside of work as well.

So, explain the transition from a project, programme and change recruiter to a business analyst?

 The move from recruitment consultant to business analyst might seem a strange leap to some, but actually there’s a lot of parallels between what I’ve been doing at Deltra and what I’ll be doing at Arsenal.

At Deltra, we recruit programme, project and change professionals – we’re talking about business transformation all day, every day. Doing that role, you quickly work out whether you’ve got an interest in the industry or not, for me I was hooked. I love finding out what companies are doing to improve, and how an individual can go into a team, and bring value to an organisation.

Having an interest in the subject certainly helped, but there are also a lot of transferable skills from the job as a consultant to a business analyst. First of all, it’s the consultants’ job to understand the role of a business analyst so they can work out what makes a good one and find a capable candidate. I’ve spent the last 4 years working with clients to try and find exceptional BAs to help improve their businesses – so I’d like to think I know what it takes to make it, from a skills, experience and personality perspective.

We also spend a lot of time capturing requirements for a client, whether that’s for the type of role they need to hire for, the skills or personality needs of a candidate, or on the flipside, capturing what a candidate does or has done to find their perfect role.  Gathering requirements is a key component of being a good business analyst.

Finally, the environment. Being a small business, the Deltra team would always have an eye on finding ways to improve how we operate. The process we’d go through to improve how we run things day to day translates quite well to the general mindset of a business analyst, whose job it is to find opportunities to improve how an organisation runs and make recommendations to improve it.

In my new role, I’ll be supporting Arsenal Football Club to help re-engineer their business processes and CRM to make their commercial team as effective as possible. The main thing is to help the club be more efficient from a commercial perspective so they have more money to invest in players and be better on the pitch.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into recruitment?

 Be open to feedback, from anyone and everyone, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be confident in your knowledge and ability even in the early days – but tie that into feedback and don’t act arrogant. Earn your keep and you won’t go far wrong.

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Julian McCallum

12th October

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