September 2, 2021
Drax is at a pivotal point in its search and predicative analytics journey. To reflect on this, we asked three of our 2020 and 2021 new joiners about their working backgrounds, their first impressions of the private equity market and what has pleased them so far about Drax’s culture and vision.
Meet Annabel Weeden (Partner, Consumer), Lara Belanyi (Associate Director, CFO) and Eoghan Byrne (Associate Director, Tech and Tech-Enabled).
Lara and Annabel, your careers started in different disciplines. What prompted your move into search?
Lara: I started my career in consulting and qualified as an accountant. I really enjoyed the people and client-facing aspect of consulting (other areas less so). Search was suggested to me by a friend and I thought it played to my strengths and preferences in that regard. Being an accountant, CFO search naturally made sense!
Annabel: I also started in finance – in PwC, but then soon realised didn’t want to be a Chartered Accountant, so I joined Mars Confectionery as I wanted to get a strong commercial grounding. My roles were in sales and marketing and I ended up running a division of the UK business. However, I also took a significant period of time off when my daughters were very small and ex-husband was a serving Army Officer, so mainly away from home. I ended up in Exec search after seeing a head-hunter about my career options. Consumer search makes sense because of my FMCG network and when I reflect on my time at PwC, what I enjoyed was the constantly changing client interaction and trying to make sense of a business quite quickly – which I do through the people more than the numbers!
To the unacquainted, private equity can seem mystifying. Does that assumption hold up?
Eoghan: All industry sectors have their idiosyncrasies and specific terminologies which need to be learned if you are operating within them. However, behind the terminology are businesses with a detailed plan, clear objectives and aligned motivations to achieve them. Coupled with the calibre and accessibility of senior level stakeholders, the sector becomes demystified very quickly.
Lara: Not at all. Private equity is very interesting, largely because there is always an exciting story to tell and a clear vision for the businesses we are working with. It is also a lot more dynamic; having worked on a lot of PLC roles in the past, I found that those engagements were often bogged down with bureaucracy! Beyond some terminology you have to become acquainted with, there is nothing complicated about it.
Annabel: I think it’s easy to make private equity seem complicated (and perhaps even there is a tendency to overcomplicate it!) but in fact working in private equity search allows you to truly build relationships with the key stakeholders who are holding the tiller of the business, running the P&L and actually making the key strategic decisions. When headhunting in the corporates you often don’t get to the key stakeholders and have to deal with a Talent Acquisition Leader, so there can be confusion about the search within the hiring business itself.
What has encouraged you about Drax’s working environment?
Lara: Having worked in both large international organisations as well as very small businesses, Drax offers a perfect hybrid of the two; still relatively young, growing and ambitious whilst having solid foundations in place, a clear strategy and the infrastructure to support you. It’s a very open and meritocratic environment.
Annabel: Drax is at a really pivotal stage in its development where it is being taken seriously in the market and winning more than it is losing. It has great ambition and energy which drives performance and it looks set to continue to take market share. Coupled with our Leadership Dynamics offering it has an interesting USP in the market – offering tools which validate and add robust IP behind often very difficult strategic hiring decisions faced by the private equity houses and their portfolio company Boards. As a new starter in the business this is really encouraging and presents endless opportunities for success in the future. We seem to be taking the time to step back, think carefully about how we grow and what that means in terms of our messaging to the market and indeed our team dynamic and the broader company culture.
Eoghan: Drax, along with our predictive analytics capability Leadership Dynamics, are taking an interesting, innovative, and necessary approach to search. Robust processes are being informed by tools which have been specifically developed to help build great leadership teams. The ongoing development of these tools and processes speaks to Drax’s commitment to increasing the quality of executive search. Drax allows you to work with exceptionally talented colleagues to achieve these objectives, in an open and learning-oriented environment.
Associate Director, CFO
Associate Director, Tech and Tech-Enabled