In conversation with: Sarah Engerer, Head of Practice, Board & Advisory

By 29 September 2021 No Comments
Sarah Engerer

1. What was your role before joining Oxford HR? 

I started my career in executive search a few years after my university degree. I studied dance with visual arts at the University of Brighton and spent a lot of time in ariel dance and immersive theatre. I had in mind a career in dance but an accident and injury to my ankle unfortunately meant I had to stop dancing and whilst I was interested in the business of theatre and dance, my path was set when in my final year I landed a summer job teaching English as a foreign language. After finishing my degree I took the Cambridge Certificate in ELT, which enabled me to travel for years and meet so many interesting young people and adults and teach English, a language which I love.  

I came back to Brighton and joined an adventure travel company working as a Marketing Officer in the PR and Comms team, where I was responsible for writing travel articles, setting up press trips and working with the website team on web content. I really enjoy creative writing. It also enabled me understand the travel industry and logistics which I find really interesting.  

I knew the next move was to London so when I was approached by a search consultant at Gatenby Sanderson to join their research team on a graduate intake of only 2, I was compelled. I was taken on by the central government team, immediately thrown into so much research and learning, it kept me busy for at least two years, working out how things work in the UK. I moved from the Central Government team to the Local Government Team and worked across all departments at senior level appointing Directors of Finance, Children’s, Adults, Operations across the country. It meant lots of travel across the UK which was fascinating.  

I set a challenge to myself that wherever I went for work I’d make sure I visited the local swimming pool. I’ve swum in all kinds of Victorian baths, 60s pools, wild swimming holes, some quite dire, others absolutely beautiful,  all over the UK from Edinburgh to Kent.  

The LG sector was so closely linked to the third sector, that it felt natural to move into this area too. In the meantime I moved to smaller boutique search agencies, I really enjoy start up scenarios. I progressed in my career, and the best thing about it is that it enabled me to work part time and spend time with my kids in their early years. 

2. Why did you decide to join Oxford HR? 

I joined Oxford HR because I’m interested in more than search. I read a post by our CEO where he described supporting organisations to develop beyond just filling roles. It felt timely and something I want to be involved in. 

3. What do you feel you bring to our clients at Oxford HR? 

Since joining I’ve been able to build an area for myself in Board development and advisory. I am interested in changing the shape of Boards, helping organisations better reflect the communities they serve and building an inclusive culture from the top down. I’m excited by developments and in encouraging  younger, diverse Trustees onto Boards.  In all my projects I want to try and maximise the impact we can have in our position as consultants to the sector – from offering an objective, impartial view and listening with fresh ears to stakeholders – to enable organisations to be better fit for the future and serve their stakeholders more effectively. 

4. What issues keep you awake at night? 

My young family means I’m always busy, so when I lie down to sleep it is with immense relief. I do worry a lot though, about how the vulnerable people I know are coping, about poverty and our destruction of our planet. I am struck by the imbalance of power in communities, of the structures that protect the wealthiest, keeping it in the hands of a small minority who seek to preserve it over protecting the world we live in. Capitalism and the pursuit of profit goes hand in hand with exploitation – from resources to people.  I try to make conscious choices and be accountable to the generations behind me. I believe we should all pull as we climb and true happiness lies in making others happy. Robert Ingersoll, a lawyer, humanist, activist and writer who lived in 1880 – in the golden age of Free Thought phrased it well I think:  

“We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.” 

Sarah Engerer

Sarah has 19 years of experience in executive search within the public sector. Starting at Gatenby Sanderson, building market research, benchmarking and research intelligence into headhunting campaigns for UK central government, NDPBs & Local Authorities, she progressed to senior consultant positions for Peridot Partners and Hays Executive where she worked in the charities team focussing on UK & International For-Purpose Organisations. Sarah has led successful campaigns across the international development sector, appointing Chief Executives, Directors and Chairs / Trustees to INGOs, Charities, Trusts & Foundations. She has also worked in the education sector with Imperial College London, Durham University,  University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, & Eton College to recruit to their leadership teams. Some of her recent clients include: Sightsavers International, The Institute of Development Studies, The RSPB, Magic Breakfast, The British Pharmacological Society, The Motor Neurone Disease Association, Action for Children, The Institute of Conservation, The Mayor’s Office for Policing & Crime, The Pensions Regulator and the Ministry of Justice. Sarah is a Trustee of Project Yogi.