We Are All in This Together – Leadership Best Practices at Robert Walters [Part 2]

Özlem Simsek

Managing Director, Belgium, Robert Walters

As Managing Director Belgium, Özlem leads 5 Robert Walters and Walters People offices in Belgium. With 3 years’ prior experience in the financial department of the Belgian Government and financial recruitment, she joined the Robert Walters Group as a Senior Consultant in 2005.

She was offered the challenge to launch Walters People in Belgium which was a great success leading to previous promotions, opening of new offices and ultimately being rewarded with the Director position in 2014.

In 2018 her amazing efforts paid off even more and brought her to the position of Managing Director of both Robert Walters and Walters People Belgium.

Özlem’s creativity and entrepreneurial talents grew the business significantly in Belgium over the last 16 years and she’s still keen on bringing this excellent level of service to both clients and candidates to higher standards.

Özlem holds a Masters’ degree in Applied Economics, obtained from the Free University in Brussels. Following her graduation, she added a second Masters’ degree in Business Administration from the Solvay Brussels School.

Louise Campbell

Head of Learning Development, EMEAA, Robert Walters

Louise graduated from Trinity College with an honours business degree in 1995. In 1996 she began her recruitment career with a market leader, Morgan & Banks in Australia where she built a highly successful Accounting division in Sydney. Louise then transferred to their London business to set up their Commerce division. She then spent 6 years managing several teams of recruiters specialising in placing Accountants into Financial Services, Commerce & Industry, and the Public Sector.

Since joining Robert Walters in 2003, Louise has held overall responsibility for the Irish operations. Her remit covers business divisions working in Financial Services, Legal and Compliance, Accountancy, Engineering, Supply Chain and Procurement, IT, and Business Support. Louise was recently voted into the “Top Women in Global Staffing” by Staffing Industry Analysts.

Sinead Hourigan

Global Head of Customer Experience, Robert Walters

Sinead Hourigan has been recruiting in the Australian market since the early 2000’s and lead the QLD business for Robert Walters for over 17 years, growing a team of highly regarded and talented consultants focused on delivering exceptional outcomes for our valued candidates and clients alike. During her tenure as the leader of the QLD business, Sinead became an active participant in the Recruitment Consulting & Staffing Association (the peak body for the employment services sector in ANZ) and was elected the first female President of the Association in 2017.  She is a former CEDA Trustee in QLD, a former board member of the Infrastructure Association of Queensland, a member of the QUT School of Management Business Advisory Group and a member of the QLD Council for the Australian British Chamber of Commerce. Sinead has a long-standing commitment to influencing better diversity outcomes within industry having been a founding member of the Diversity in Infrastructure Steering Committee in 2010.

She has recently been appointed to the role of Global Head of Customer Experience for Robert Walters and Walters People. The opportunity to secure a global role based out of Brisbane (a positive unintended consequence of COVID) is a great example of the work that organisations are doing around the world of #breakingthebias that all roads have to lead to HQ to secure a great career opportunity!

Sinead is married with 2 children and has absolutely no hobbies because she believes that hobbies are a pipe-dream for anyone with a full time job and 2 very busy children but will happily take advice from anyone who has managed to achieve the trifecta!

It’s a privilege to interview leaders with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and challenges all working towards a common goal: connecting great talent with great opportunities. Usually, we feature executives across different companies that share the same industry-wide commitment in an effort to highlight insights that will make us all collectively more effective as leaders. However, in this article, Leah McKelvey, VP of Global Enterprise Strategy & Operations at Bullhorn, was thrilled to interview three leading executives from ONE global recruitment consultancy, Robert Walters, who lead three different regions of the world (out of the 28 countries they serve), all working towards the Robert Walters’ mission of: “powering people and organisations to fulfil their unique potential.”

Leah was curious to see if leaders within the same company working towards the same ultimate company mission fit a similar mold. As you can see by their responses in the article below, there are some similarities to how they approach their markets, leadership styles and commitment to building diverse teams. However, there are also differences that highlight a key benefit that is consistently seen when working in the global recruitment industry: at the end of the day, it is all about people. The most successful leaders leverage their own unique skill sets to grow and develop teams in an authentic way that creates connection and unlocks top performance. Hopefully, Louise, Özlem and Sinead’s experiences will spark some ideas on how you can get the most out of your own teams going into 2019 and beyond.

In part oneÖzlem Simsek (managing director in Belgium), Louise Campbell (managing director in Ireland), and Sinead Hourigan (Queensland director) of Robert Walters discussed how they found their calling embracing the world of recruitment and what continues to keep them excited about the industry.

Three incredible directors from @RobertWaltersPR, Özlem Simsek, @loucampbell74, and @hourigan_sinead, share how their careers have shifted from an individual to team mindset and the important role mentoring plays in career development. Share on X



RIX: What leadership advice have you have received that influences your approach as a leader?

Özlem Simsek: Driving for success keeps me motivated. I believe you have to have high standards in life – I don’t expect failure. It also brings satisfaction in my personal life, including caring for my two children. I think this dedication helps towards building a healthy career.


Louise Campbell: I think I have learned more from working alongside people and realising what I do not like from a management perspective, and then creating my own version of what I want to be. Working with a variety of leaders across three different countries helped me see what was important to me – including being treated with respect and working with people who care about doing a great job. I wanted to work somewhere that was ethical with high standards as I think this job can create a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure in your life if you complicate it too much. I never felt the need to “act like a man” as a woman in this business. I’m not sure if that’s politically correct, but I’ve always felt that being authentic and being yourself is so much more powerful. People notice that and I think as I evolve as a leader I see that admitting to being vulnerable can be powerful and empowering to others. I’ve always been the type of person to raise my hand to say that I need help or to partner up with others who have a complementary set of skills to mine. You’re just there to do the best you can. I’m also a firm believer of not letting work rule your life. I think you need to enjoy time outside of work – whether that be your friends, your kids, your dogs, or your yoga mat.

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Sinead Hourigan: It’s actually quite hard to pick only one piece of advice to reflect on when I look back at my leadership journey. I have been lucky enough to have worked with some wonderful leaders and managers both in my career in recruitment and in other prior roles. I do however reflect often on a piece of advice I received from my mother many years ago. She told me that I would do better in life if I stopped judging other people by my expectations of myself and she was absolutely right! Unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes, you are not in a position to judge. It’s really important to set standards of excellence and encourage people to work towards them but avoid creating a culture where there is only one benchmark of success as that will rarely deliver the best results!


RIX: Do you have any other advice for others that are looking to follow in your path?

Özlem Simsek: It’s the same advice for both men and women in the industry. I believe you have to keep your standards high, invest in training and coaching. You need to be very direct – I do not like cynicism. Provide continuous feedback. I’ve seen people become successful very quickly, but I’ve also seen others that aren’t fitting in and tried to counsel them to use their strengths in a different job. I regret if I have people that leave unexpectedly. I should always know where they are – I shouldn’t be surprised by their resignation. I would be very disappointed as I would not do it the other way – I would never fire someone if they weren’t aware. It shows transparency and honesty. I don’t understand why people aren’t more open and honest, but understand some people are afraid. I don’t think it has anything to do with cultural factors, but more with personalities. You still need to communicate with tact, even if there are certain cultural elements. At the end of the day, it has to do with your personality. It’s easy to hide around the cultural aspect.


Louise Campbell: I’ve worked in booming markets and a seven-year recession. I will always say to both men and women, put your heads down and just work as hard as you can. Don’t fall at the first hurdle. Unfortunately, I think younger generations sometimes give up too early when they encounter hurdles. I’ve failed more times in my career than I’d like to admit, but the important thing is to be supported by people that will help pick you up. I’ve been lucky to have a boss that has said, “It’s okay, give it a try.” Surround yourself with people that play to your strengths and don’t underestimate the power of hard work. I won’t stop until it gets done.


Sinead Hourigan: I am constantly grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me throughout my career in recruitment and am equally humbled when anyone seeks advice on their own leadership journey. If I was to say anything to aspiring female leaders it would be to put your hand up often when opportunities appear in your path. There is much research to suggest that men are much more likely than women to apply for roles that they are not yet fully capable of and we have a tendency to wait until we can do absolutely everything detailed in a role description before giving it consideration. Be brave, back yourself and in most instances, hard work, perseverance, and a positive mindset will make up for any initial deficiencies you might have in a role. I would also say that there is no doubt that having a family and a career is definitely not easy, but it is achievable, and you just have to accept that perfection may not be possible every day and that’s just fine!

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RIX: How have mentors and/or sponsors helped you in your career? What is key to a great mentoring relationship on both the mentor and mentee side of the equation?

Özlem Simsek: There is a theory of mentorship and then there is a practice. I believe more in coaching and what’s happening every day. For managers that I work with that need help every day, and others that are just going without any insight or help. The key is to make sure to understand what makes that person tick and how that person operates to maximise their strengths. I’m not focused on mentoring as a concept, but your approach to leadership is very hands-on and available so that the person is naturally being mentored. This translates to having a very loyal and dedicated team and I’m blessed to have this self-organising team. Especially in our business, there is a lot of movement after a year in a sales role, but after two years they always stay.

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Louise Campbell: I’ve never had an official mentor. But what I say to people here is that you need to go out and spend time with people who challenge and inspire you. If you’re talking with someone and think you can learn something from them – ask them for a cup of coffee. I think you can learn from anyone – whether that be a male or a female. Although I’ve never had a formal mentoring relationship, I think that subconsciously from a young age, I built a network around me which I can glean value from and hopefully they can gain value from me, too. I think mentoring can be great, but it’s not something I have formally sought out for.


Sinead Hourigan: I have been blessed with the opportunity to connect and work with a range of people throughout my career that I would view as mentors and sponsors in a range of untraditional facets. Some of my best advocates have been my own management team who have pushed me to achieve things that I didn’t think I could do. I have also had the benefit of dealing with some incredible clients and candidates who I built professional relationships with that allowed me to have frank and forthright conversations with them about my own failures and have counselled me in many ways to improve various elements of my professional life.

I have never had a traditional mentor in my career, but I count many in this role. I have been a mentor for a wide range of people over the years and what I have learned more than anything is to listen deeply and understand what people are trying to achieve and always remember that what might work for me may not be the best solution for them. Listening actively is a much under-valued skill in an age where there is so much noise and people are not always looking for you to solve their problems but just need an ear so that they can figure out the solution for themselves!