This year our Legal practice is celebrating its 20th anniversary! Our last video from this series of interviews features Hayley Still, who is our Chief Operating Officer across EMEA. You can watch the full interview here.
Hayley's journey with Hydrogen started 14 years ago as a Legal Graduate, who then moved into the In-House Industry & Commerce team and gradually moved up the ladder to look after the whole In-House team. Last year she got promoted to MD for the EMEA region and not long after that she became the Chief Operating Officer across the EMEA business. She's got some interesting stories to share about her time at Hydrogen, how things have changed over the past 14 years, and some insights about the Legal In-House market.
"I came to Hydrogen as a legal graduate in 2007, fresh from travelling, and not really knowing what recruitment was. I joined the In-house Industry & Commerce team to focus on the Tech & Telecoms sector and then moved into Media & Sport, over time graduating into management and taking over the Industry & Commerce practice. From there, I went on to look after the whole of In-House and we launched our Europe practice, and I started to get more involved with Hydrogen as a whole. Last year, I was promoted to MD for EMEA so now I'm responsible for Legal as well as Life Science, Accounting & Finance, Sales & Marketing and Oil & Gas. That has taken 14 years so far, which is a bit terrifying, but it has been hugely rewarding and I have loved every minute of it.
Over that time, the practice has evolved a lot culturally. Back in 2007, there were no tools like LinkedIn, so it was very long days, trying to speak to people on the phone outside of office hours. We’ve moved with the times and now it’s a much more grown-up environment where people keep their own hours and can focus on their professional and personal goals better. In the wider recruitment world, people move jobs more often today too, so we have also become genuine career advisors in our long-term relationships with candidates, which is even more rewarding.
A key milestone along the way for me was an exclusive project I worked on for BT when they were expanding their Media & Sport business. I had to fill 14 roles, all exclusive, all at the same time, and it really taught me how to spin a lot of plates at once. I worked day and night and learned so much in a short space of time about pushing myself and what I could achieve if I really worked hard. It was an invaluable moment.
I’m not alone in my length of service and I think there are four reasons why we have such good retention at Hydrogen and why people stay. Firstly, it’s the people. I love coming to work and have some of my best friends here. We work hard, but we don’t compromise on our values and integrity, which is something I’m passionate about. Secondly, it’s the high challenge, high support environment that we have. We always try and push ourselves and with every new challenge that comes our way, we are always supported to meet those goals. Next is our amazing platform. I think we have 130,000 candidates now and some wonderful clients, which is a fantastic setup. And the final thing is that I've just always really loved my sector, my clients, and my candidates. So, I've had no reason to ever look anywhere else and I think that would probably be the same for most of the people in the Legal practice.
The most memorable moment of my career so far was one of our annual incentive trips that I qualified to go on. We went to an incredible hotel in Ibiza, all expenses paid, and I can remember sitting at a dinner with some of my best friends, thinking how lucky I was to be getting paid to be there as part of my job. I couldn’t believe the company was doing it for us in such style, and it really motivated me to want to earn more and afford that same kind of luxury experience again!
On the surface, the practice is very different now compared to when I joined. It was on one floor in what was almost like a house back then, but we've moved office three times since and are now in a much more corporate, swanky office as part of a bigger organization. However, we've maintained the building blocks and pillars that were in place then and made sure that we haven't changed the things that have always worked for us. We've evolved our strategy along the way in the types of clients that we work with: we still have Industry & Commerce and Financial Services, but we've grown our market share in Sport and Media. Within Financial Services, while we've always worked with the big banks, hedge funds and asset managers, we now do a lot more in new sectors such as fintech, and we have a much wider range of opportunities for our candidates now, from huge businesses to start-ups. Launching in Europe has been a major change too, with a wide range of clients in several countries meaning we get involved in relocating candidates now, which is very interesting.
Our plans for the future will be using our amazing platform to expand, both internationally in the US, APAC and Europe, and also within the UK. For example, we now do Business Transformation & Change and Sales & Marketing in law firms, and we want to do more in Life Science and Renewables. Whichever direction we focus on, though, will be underlined by maintaining the quality of service and the relationships that we have, and helping our own consultants, as well as our clients and candidates, realise their goals. The world has changed. It’s no longer just about salaries and job titles, but also work/life balance and mental wellbeing. We ultimately want to be a one-stop shop for people to come to us for their international moves, private practice moves, in-house moves, whatever their criteria, we want to be able to help."