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22nd Apr 2024

Meet the Team: An Interview with Tracy Dawson

Filed under: Meet The Team, Blog Articles

22nd Apr 2024

We sat down with Cape Town based Partner, Tracy Dawson, to learn more about her career, why she chose Millar Cameron and what she sees as the biggest opportunities within the International Development space for the upcoming year.

What’s your current role at Millar Cameron?

As Partner in Millar Cameron’s International Development practice, my role revolves around executing executive search projects and programmes of work across the continent. I'm deeply involved in identifying top talent, fostering client relationships, and ensuring the seamless execution of recruitment strategies tailored to our clients' specific needs.

Why executive search? What led you to a career in this space?

I’m high-energy, people-positive and intensely curious. These qualities served me well through seven years of hospitality work in consistently superior establishments, voluntary conservation work that led to paid field work in exotic locations, and teaching in the best and the worst schools in Cape Town and London. I took my first job in recruitment under a remarkable woman – Ingrid Going of Selective Search – and was hooked from my first placement.

Over the past twenty-five years, I’ve made it my business to meet and learn from two new human beings, every day. These interactions thrill me, and I take my responsibilities to clients and to candidates equally seriously. The right person in the right role at the right time is a powerful influencer of organisational success, and can be transformative for individuals and teams. Strategic and tactically sound talent management drives sustainable growth.

Joining Millar Cameron provided the platform to align my passion for Africa's advancement with my professional expertise, in particular my appreciation for the highly nuanced and diverse cultural, political and socio-economic environments on this beautiful continent.


What made you choose Millar Cameron?

I’d been hearing really positive stuff about Millar Cameron from candidates and clients, and when Conor reached out I knew within minutes that he’d be supportive of my occasionally audacious goals. Millar Cameron's commitment to sub-Saharan Africa and emerging markets resonated deeply with me. The company's ethos of supporting impact through strategic talent acquisition mirrors my own values and aspirations. Furthermore, the collaborative and innovative culture at Millar Cameron fosters a dynamic environment where ideas flourish, making it an ideal platform to effect meaningful change.

How would you describe Millar Cameron and the work you do?

At Millar Cameron, we go beyond traditional executive search to offer comprehensive solutions for business growth and development. Our tailored approach combines deep sector expertise with a profound understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities within emerging markets. From senior management placements to strategic advisory services, we partner with our clients to navigate the complex landscape of talent acquisition.

Millar Cameron is unique in their passion for and focus on roles in sub-Saharan Africa and emerging markets. Do you have a tie to these countries?

I was born in the Caribbean to a British father and South African mother who’d run away from Apartheid-era South Africa. We moved to South Africa while I was very young, in order to care for ageing grandparents who lived well into their nineties and had a huge influence on our development and perspectives on the world. I was a student at the University of Cape Town when Mandela was released from prison, and my first vote in 1994 remains a treasured moment.

My search work has fostered relationships and friendships across the continent – alongside regular travel, it feeds my need to bring people together in a positive and future-first manner.

Is there any one single placement which you are most proud of? Or feel has had the greatest impact on the communities you are so passionate about?

Executive search is a team sport, if you will. Bring together the sectoral, cultural, geopolitical and commercial nous, the relationship real-estate and a strong organisational backbone, and that’s a recipe for many memorable appointments. My confidence in the Continent is bolstered by daily interaction with Millar Cameron’s fabulously diverse team, amongst whom I can call on every major language group and cultural background for local insights beyond my own.

My confidence as a headhunter is largely due to a twenty-year track record of hires throughout which I’ve measured my metrics and success factors. The first search I concluded, a Mechatronics Engineer (in 2000), is today a CEO. The first CEO I placed over a decade ago, is still in the job and credited with turning the business around. I’ve supported many phenomenal men and women into roles which would terrify me, and confess to a warm glow when I see them thrive and prosper.

What do you see as the biggest recruitment opportunity and conversely challenge, currently playing out within the International Development space over the next 12 months?

In the International Development space, the upcoming year presents both opportunities and challenges. With the evolving global landscape and shifting priorities, there's a growing demand for agile, forward-thinking leadership. However, navigating the complexities of talent acquisition in emerging markets requires a nuanced understanding of local dynamics, cultural sensitivities, and regulatory frameworks. Further – ID work often serves consortia of stakeholders, donors, constituents, public and private participants. This presents a special set of challenges for a search team, which engages and enthuses me.

At Millar Cameron, we're poised to leverage our expertise and network to capitalize on emerging opportunities while addressing the unique challenges inherent in the International Development sector.

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