Saira Demmer joined Ignata as Head of M&A and became the CFO, before rising to UK CEO.
Her knowledge in recruitment and talent solutions was honed during six years spent in Deloitte’s M&A strategy team, where she was involved in a number of high-profile deals in the recruitment sector.
With her innate understanding of the industry, Saira knows exactly what it takes to build and lead a successful business. Her time is spent looking for new and innovative ways to grow Ignata and to provide clients with adaptable services they’ll genuinely love.
Outside of the boardroom, Saira is also a dedicated adventurer, she climbed half of Mount Everest in 2017 and loves to travel the world to pursue her love of open-water diving.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I grew up in West Yorkshire with a burning desire to become a poet. Unfortunately, I failed at that particular life goal, but did go on to complete a degree in French and German at Oxford. After I graduated, I joined Deloitte in the M&A Strategy team, where I was involved in over 40 M&A deals, including a number of high profile deals in the recruitment sector. After seeing first hand how the sector’s most talented management teams built and led their businesses, I decided to make the jump into recruitment myself! In 2014 I joined Ignata, initially as Head of M&A, with the task of building a portfolio of businesses. I then became CFO a year later and earlier this year became the UK CEO. I now spend my time looking for new and innovative ways to grow the business and provide clients with adaptable services they will love. Outside of the office you will usually find me diving in the oceans or climbing mountains, I have actually recently returned from a climb (halfway) up Mount Everest.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, I can’t say I ever have. Careers are built on what you enjoy doing; I enjoy variety and unpredictability, so if I could plan it, I would probably hate it!
Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
I have never had a ‘face that fits’, whether that’s because of gender, ethnicity, personality style or something else. I’m also not the tallest person in the world, so I’ve never particularly blended in, and it took me a while to realise that being different is a positive thing. I have brought different experiences and perspectives to the conversation, and that was something I didn’t think about until it happened. There is so much talk now about how diverse businesses do better, but a decade ago that wasn’t really the case, so I had to find my own peace with just being myself.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
If I could change one thing for women in the workplace, it would confidence. I would give us bags and bags more of it! I meet so many talented women who hold back because they don’t believe in themselves the way many of their male counterparts do. All too often we wait for permission to be awesome rather than just going out and trusting ourselves to do it! It’s never deliberate, but I find it’s a common theme with many women I speak to in business.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Mentoring is so important in business, it gives us the challenge and inspiration we need to constantly grow and develop. Businesses that don’t have a healthy attitude to learning are the ones that are ultimately outpaced and die.
Whilst I do have formal mentors and mentees, I tend to see every conversation as a learning opportunity, sharing ideas with people I trust and respect. I also see a great deal of value in gathering input from a variety of sources, as this is the way we all develop. None of us knows everything, and the more people we find ways to absorb from, the better we will be.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I love the job I do now, but I would have to say my biggest achievement was becoming CFO and board member at Ignata aged 31. It’s not the title, position or even the responsibility that I am proud of, but the confidence I built through doing something that I had no previous experience of. By simply putting my mind to it and ignoring other people’s preconceptions of my abilities, I discovered not only that I could do the job, but I could do it well.
It took someone else to see the potential in me that I couldn’t see in myself, but once I found it, that focus and confidence has been the key to power me through even the most difficult of times and finding that inside myself was the hardest, but best thing I ever did.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I work with an incredibly talented group of people and I am excited to be part of the next stage of their growth and success; there is so much potential in every one of them, and my focus is on creating an environment where they can all reach their maximum. I always think that if they love coming to work in the morning, even half as much as I do, then I will have succeeded.
Other than that, I might climb a mountain or two…when I have a moment!