Handling niche roles with ease

Magdalena Zaleska, PhD, Senior Consultant – Chemical & Industrial

Handling niche roles with ease

Magdalena Zaleska, PhD, Senior Consultant – Chemical & Industrial

While most foreigners come to Japan to follow their passion for Japanese pop culture, Magda came to Japan to continue her studies in analytical chemistry. After handing in her PhD thesis (‘Synthesis of Biodegradable/ Biocompatible Block Copolymers Using Metal- Free Living Cationic Polymerization’), she knew she wanted to stay in Japan for a little longer having grown fond of the people and culture. But finding a job in the academic field in Japan is tough, especially as a foreigner. That’s why Magda decided to apply her international experience in a completely different area: consulting.

“I started my career at a recruitment company. I joined a Malaysian company who provided a job board function Asia-wide but curiously not here in Japan. In Japan we worked with Japanese infrastructure companies who were keen to expand overseas but didn’t really know where or how to start. My job was to research opportunities and connect our clients with universities in their target countries to encourage knowledge transfer. It was an interesting learning experience.”

Unfortunately, the company got bought in Magda’s 4th year of working there and the new owner decided to get rid of the consulting function altogether.

“I never thought of going back into academia. I hadn’t done any scientific research for years and I wanted to keep working with people. However, at the same time I was looking for an opportunity where my background in chemistry wasn’t going to waste either.”

Magda had just started to look for a new job when a former colleague invited her to join the company he was working at, a company called Boyd & Moore Executive Search (BMES). Magda had never heard of that company, but her friend convinced her to give it a shot.

“To be honest, I didn’t know anything about BMES back then and my image of the recruitment industry wasn’t particularly great. The only thing I could think of were big Japanese recruiting firms where Consultants would just match keywords with jobs and spam people all day long.

I like the independence and trust we’re given to own our business. If you develop your own style and proof that you can deliver results, nobody will pressure you with meaningless numbers.

But this image changed quickly. When I talked with both Tony and Jon (BMES Managing Directors & Co-Founders) I thought that they were cool, very straight to the point. I really liked that.

After that I had an interview with my hiring manager. He almost made me decline the offer because for my taste he was talking a little bit too much about the fun company outings  (laughs).”

Fortunately, Magda did not decline the offer but joined BMES in the middle of 2015.

“I first joined as an Associate Consultant doing research and helping my mentor manage his candidates. But after a very short time I got my own retainers and started to make placements by myself.

Working on retainers has changed my image of the industry and BMES a lot. I always thought that as a Consultant I would need to work on 10 or more roles at a time and that I would be only evaluated based on raw KPIs.

To be honest, this kind of business model and working style never appealed to me.

However, BMES’s style is very different. First of all, by working only 2 to 3 projects at a time I can dedicate enough time to follow through and deliver high quality. My clients appreciate this a lot. They know that when they give me a position I am committed to get them the best results as fast as possible.

In addition, I feel that BMES isn’t that strict about KPIs. They’re important, for sure. But there not everything. If you develop your own style and proof that you can deliver results, nobody will pressure you with meaningless numbers.

I like the independence and trust we’re given to own our business.”

Being able to develop and apply her own style isn’t the only part of working at BMES Magda appreciates.

For me the most rewarding part of this job is filling positions that are extremely difficult but at the same time crucial for my client.

“Working with clients from the chemical sector provides me with the opportunity to apply my knowledge in this area. Just last week, I visited a hiring manager in Tsukuba who’s currently looking for a Head of RnD. At first, we were just talking about the usual topics: requirements, budget and so on. But when he found out that I had a PhD in Chemistry the whole conversation changed. We started to talk about products and innovation.

Having this kind of background is a huge advantage, especially as a foreign woman who’s consulting in a heavily male dominated area. It opens doors and helps me build the trust I need to support my clients effectively.”

Although the work as a Consultant requires a lot of hard work and creativity to find the right talent for her clients, Magda enjoys the challenge.

“For me the most rewarding part of this job is filling positions that are extremely difficult but at the same time crucial for my clients.

I remember this one particularly niche role, a site leader for a plant of one of the world’s leading chemical players. The position did not only require strong technical expertise but also relocation to a very rural area in Japan. I invested a lot of time and energy to find the right person who would be willing to make this move. After 4 months I could finally close the role although there were some major delays in the hiring process due to internal restructuring on the client side. I felt so accomplished after closing this role. The client was happy. I was happy. And then, several weeks later the same client came back to me offering me another at least equally difficult role to work on. I closed this role within a month. That helped me gain confidence in my ability to place those kinds if roles, which was a fantastic feeling.

After that more and more clients and placements followed. I guess everything just fell in place and I am still enjoying my run (laughs).

So, although the roles my clients give me become more and more niche and challenging, I am very proud of that fact since it shows that I earned their trust and that they rely on me with roles no other consultant would touch.”

The Industrial team at BMES as well as all other teams are always looking for motivated and ambitious people to join them. If you’re interested, check out our open positions.

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