Guest Blog: Owen Francis, Director of Higher Education and Non-Profit, Alumni
I joined the Harvey Nash Group five years ago, almost to the day! I have always been passionate about working with universities and organisations with socially purposeful missions. People leadership fascinates me, particularly in a sector as complex, scrutinised and challenging as Higher Education.
One of the aspects that I find most rewarding about my job is supporting universities to attract and appoint senior leaders from underrepresented and minority backgrounds, and since I was appointed to establish and take on leadership of the Higher Education Practice, I have been immensely proud of what we have achieved as a team in this time.
From a standing start, we have grown our client base significantly, and have moved from having little to no presence in the Higher Education marketplace to now working with a wide range of universities at executive, non-executive and board level. We are now a major competitor to some of the more longstanding and established search firms, and have been able to utilise our unwavering and authentic commitment to diversity and inclusion as a key differentiator and disruptor in the market.
In the past twelve months we have worked on senior and high profile appointments such as Vice-Chancellor, Chair of the Board of Governors, Chief Executive and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. I am very fortunate to love my job, and I get real sense of value from making a tangible difference to both clients and candidates.
I’ve always felt a close connection to the Higher Education sector for a few reasons.
I am first generation in my family to have gone to university, and then went on to study my Masters degree at King’s College London. University was also the place that I found a really strong friendship and support group, and was able to come to terms with my own gender identity during this time, and so Higher Education changed my life, quite literally!
My professional career has meant that I’ve been able to marry my passion for equality, diversity and inclusion with the sector that I am fascinated by, and I enjoy working with the brilliant colleagues, clients and candidates that make our team what it is and – importantly – challenge me to think differently every day. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow and develop in the way that I have as a fee-earning consultant and Head of Practice in any other organisations I’ve worked for previously, and so I am immensely grateful to my line manager, Frank McKenna, who somehow spotted a spark of something (I’m still not sure what) and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and into a senior leadership role.
This, for me, is inclusive leadership in action; identifying value in potential, commitment and capability, rather than basing judgement purely on past experience. It’s also very rewarding to work for a global brand with such a reputation in the international market, and be valued for the difference of perspective that I can hopefully offer.
I think that the outstanding growth and commercial success of the Practice is genuinely a reflection of a business like ours that identifies and develops talent proactively and equitably; putting people at the heart of what we do, both internally and externally in equal measure. Our values as an organisation are based on ‘unleashing potential’, and so we can’t claim to commit to this unless we are authentically valuing people on their scope for growth and potential.
Looking to the future, I’m really keen to ensure that we continue to deliver outstanding results for clients and candidates in a meaningful and insightful way, and we can only do this by continuing to grow our team and capabilities. One thing is for sure that change is the only constant, and no two days are ever the same, so thank you to my team for always being on hand to support and for keeping me grounded on a daily basis.
The future is very bright!