Consultant In The Spotlight – Alexandra Burdfield
Alexandra Burdfield heads up our technology desk specialising in recruiting candidates for cyber security jobs and other technology positions. In this interview she shares her insights for candidates and clients, and any one considering a role in technical recruitment.
Alexandra (Lex) Burdfield is our Principal Technology Recruitment Consultant. She recruits candidates primarily for cyber security jobs as well as other IT and technology job roles. This is a departure from Energi’s building and structures niche, but builds on our experience of recruiting highly technical candidates in very specialist fields.
Lex joined our team in 2017 specifically to head up our technology desk. She’s built this up from nothing to now being in a position to recruit team members to the desk. Here I talked to Lex about the technology arena, what it’s like working in technical recruitment and, most importantly, what it’s like working at Energi People.
Jemma Kittle: What do you do at Energi People?
Lex Burdfield: “Here at Energi I was brought in to establish the technology desk about 18 months ago. Day to day my job is to speak to candidates on the technology market, particularly in the cyber security arena and obviously find them jobs against clients in the secure area arena.”
JK: Before joining Energi People where did you work?
LB: “I worked at a technology recruitment organisation for five years where I worked in different arenas of technology recruitment. I worked in everything from support roles to project managers and then in the last couple of years before I moved on I began to specialise in technology roles within the secure arena.
“I was recommended to Energi by Kat Jefferies [a former colleague at Lex’s previous agency] and she sold me on the culture. Obviously I’d worked for five years in the technology sector, whereas Energi is all about construction and engineering, but Energi was able to offer me a route where we set up the technology division.”
JK: What do you most like about working at Energi People?
LB: “I like that I’ve got the autonomy to put my stamp on what I do. I like that we have enough support and are part of a larger organisation, but are able to run our desks as our own. We can make our mark on that and manage it to the best of our ability with the assistance of the seniors. Also Energi is not KPI driven, instead we can get on with what we do and do it well.”
JK: Since joining Energi People what have your learned, how have you progressed your career?
LB: “I’ve learned to take risks, before I was in a comfortable position but it wasn’t enough for me. Energi has given me an opportunity to develop and work with what I knew, but make it bigger and better. Taking a risk can be successful and I’ve also learned that I work well in a bigger team. Recruitment is often perceived as being quite a ‘lone wolf’ career path but actually at Energi we’re all team players.”
JK: What are the challenges companies face when recruiting candidates in your area of expertise?
LB: “Because it’s a specialist market, and it’s [cyber security] a newcomer to the technology market (awareness and engagement around cyber security is relatively new), many people want to get on the ladder but don’t necessarily have the opportunities to train. That makes bringing in people of the right calibre difficult.
“I also think that because of the niche element of the arena, more screening needs to be done to establish how knowledgeable and skilled candidates are. Of course, technology is also constantly evolving so to look for experts in an arena that’s only really in its infancy (you can’t find people with 5-10 years experience in it) is challenging. Having realistic expectations is the main issue my clients face.”
JK: What is the biggest challenge candidates face when looking for a new role?
LB: “I think a top tip for candidates in cyber security is to engage with a recruitment organisation that is very aware of the arena. Someone who has worked in it for a length of time. I’m not a techie but specialist recruiters learn a lot from our candidates and our clients. So find a recruiter where you’re confident that they’re talking to their clients in the same way they’re talking to you and asking the right questions. You need someone who’s able to represent you in the right way.
“Because there’s a lot of demand for cyber security experts, because there’s a skills shortage, you can get misrepresented. So find a recruiter who knows what they’re talking about and you feel will represent you in the best way to clients.”
JK: How has recruitment changed since becoming a recruitment consultant?
LB: “Social media is a huge difference. AI is also a big thing in recruitment, helping recruiters to screen candidates. The thing we’ve got to be careful of with using technology for recruitment is losing the human factor. Fortunately I don’t think that has changed since I started out in recruitment, we see lots of benefits of meeting with our clients to understand their business, culture etc. and the same with our candidates. The human-to-human element is still there.
“Technology does give us more access to talent. Social media has obviously had a big impact allowing recruiters to connect and source candidates that we might otherwise never have found.”
JK: What advice would you give someone thinking about becoming a recruitment consultant?
LB: “Be prepared to talk a lot! If you can talk to people you’ve done half the work. It’s the relationship building side of it that’s important. And be prepared to multitask. There are so many skills that are transferable into recruitment and that makes it an amazing career for a lot of people. It’s not easy and there are a lot of recruiters out there, so you really need to stand out and sell yourself to clients and candidates.”
JK: What do you get out of being a recruitment consultant?
LB: “I like the fact that I can see something grow from A to B. I can see the full process, the full lifecycle. Here at Energi we’re able to take full ownership of that process, nothing is taken away from me, nothing is account managed, nothing is exec-ed, it’s all mine. When you start that process and you get to see it finished there’s a huge amount of satisfaction.
“I also enjoy speaking to people and so I get to do that all day long, and I like meeting people from all walks of life and this job allows me to do that. We can access people from all corners of the earth and so it’s great to hear their stories and help them.
“The main thing for me is that I can keep learning. I didn’t have a clue about technology until I got into this arena, the amount of knowledge I’ve gained from clients and candidates means I’m able to confidently recruit in this space. I’m not as big a technophobe as I thought I was!”
JK: What are your plans for the future?
LB: “Workwise I would like to see the technology desk become a key player in the Energi market. We’ve built an incredible reputation in the buildings and structures arena. So I would like to see technology become as credible and as niche as the rest of Energi, and hopefully grow tenfold – that’s the five year plan!”
JK: How do you take your tea?
LB: “Builders tea, one small sugar (can’t be too sweet otherwise it’s like drinking syrup), and yes I love dunking a biscuit. Can’t be a Rich Tea as they can’t stand the heat, instead a good sturdy Hobnob.”
JK: What has been the highlight of your time at Energi People so far?
LB: “Being able to grow the tech desk from nothing in 18 months. We’ve been able to bring in enough clients to start expanding the desk and recruiting team members. The fact that it’s taken off the ground and taken off so successfully is my highlight.”
JK: What do you like to do outside of work?
LB: “I like to spend time with my fur babies! I have a Labrador called Ruby and a Jack Russell called Poppy who are also called Scrappy and Scooby for short! So I like to go exploring with them, being out and about, and spending time with friends and family.”
JK: Who’s your office superstar?
LB: “The back office team. We genuinely wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the support of the back office team. They do our marketing, payroll, accounts, client interaction, we wouldn’t be able to give the amount of customer service and time to our clients and candidates that we do if Marcia and Jem weren’t supporting us from the back. The Fab-min team!”
I hope you found these insights from Lex’s interesting. If you are looking for role in cyber security she’s the person to speak to!
Energi People are also expanding, so if you would like to join our growing team please get in touch. In the first instance send your CV with a covering letter / email to me to this address – [email protected]