Meet the Team: An Interview with Millar Cameron’s Consultant Joe Sharpe
We sat down with Joe Sharpe to discuss his career in executive search, his role at Millar Cameron and the exciting developments he is looking forward to within the T&T sector in Africa.
1. Who are you and what is your role at Millar Cameron?
Having been a Consultant at Millar Cameron for just over 6 months now, I am responsible for our Technology & Telecommunications Practice. From identifying the companies that we are best placed to support, through to identifying the candidates that will contribute to the ongoing success of those businesses, I am driving the ongoing growth of our presence in the sector.
I have taken a somewhat meandering path into Millar Cameron and the world of executive search, learning a lot about myself along the way. As a fresh faced undergraduate, I wanted to be a Neuroscientist, studying Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge. A quarter life crisis, sparked by the realisation that a career in science can be a lonely one, led me to seek opportunities to solve problems in a more collaborative environment. Having gained an additional degree in Management Studies from the Judge Business School, an experience augmented by internship experience with telehealth start-ups, I embarked on a career as a Management Consultant with Bain & Company. Across my 3 years with Bain, I learnt more than I have done in the rest of my life combined, but that came at the cost of a complete lack of work/life balance, and the problems I was solving, while interesting, didn’t lead to visible positive outcomes in the real world.
After some time off, reflection, and my own (unsuccessful) attempt at building a business, I pondered how I could have a more meaningful impact, while leading a healthy life, and being present to support my partner as an academic at the University of Oxford. What would allow me to combine problem solving, a collaborative environment based around interaction with exceptional people, and doing something that will tangibly improve lives? The answer to that question is what led me to Millar Cameron.
2. What makes you the right fit for a career in executive search?
To me, the interesting question has always trumped the interesting answer, and it is curiosity, the desire to ask that next question, that I believe is vital for success in a search career. It feels like I analysed nearly as much data as Chat GPT has across my time at Bain, and as such, problem solving has always been a strength. However, I find problem solving far more fascinating (and indeed difficult) when combined with the empathy, patience and understanding needed when dealing with people vs. data.
3. Outside of work, what are your personal hobbies?
I have always taken a “breadth over depth” approach to my hobbies, leading me to be a jack of all trades, from running through to musical theatre, but master of none… except of course executive search. Recently I’ve been learning salsa with my partner, trying to push the envelope of my cooking abilities, and (finally) getting back to sport after 7 months out with a knee injury.
ABOUT MILLAR CAMERON
4. Why work for Millar Cameron when it is arguably easier to build a successful recruitment career in developed markets?
Very simply, a huge factor in my desire to work with Millar Cameron above firms focussed on developed markets is that I get to work with companies that are:
- Providing affordable internet to those who historically have been digitally excluded, allowing them access to education, employment and so much more
- Investing millions in the development of the African workforce from technical skills through to general management
- Driving novel mechanisms by which to disburse credit to those who most need it
Even if there are many challenges, and those challenges can be very complex to solve, I love being part of this company and doing this work.
5. What sets the work Millar Cameron does apart?
Beyond the nature of the work we do, which I have discussed above, I believe that Millar Cameron is also set apart in its people, approach, and importantly, outcomes.
Believing that a business is only as good as it’s people, we apply this ethos internally as well as externally. From our in-house Research Team through to our Consultants and Partners, we dedicate a huge amount of effort and resource into hiring and development. Beyond the obvious recruitment experience and skillsets that are required for this type of work, we also hire those with:
- Exceptional academic backgrounds
- A natural curiosity for understanding people and the professional contexts in which they operate
- A passion for the work we do, a persistence in the face of the challenges we face, and an honest, positive attitude
Our approach is always to focus on driving long term relationships, where we build an understanding of not only the direct client need, but also the company and industry context. A huge part of recruitment at this level is guiding clients through the journey of refining their initial conception of their own needs. The more context and understanding that we have, the better we can do this. We pride ourselves in being creative in the approach we take to sourcing candidates, be it through our cross-sector pan-African network of Executives/Investors, or through our direct search strategies built from first principles.
As evidenced by the ongoing growth of Millar Cameron as a business, we have consistently delivered positive outcomes for the clients we have had the fortune of working with. To give one example, we recently placed the group CFO for a pan-African data centre operator who has since been instrumental in that company raising well over USD $100M. We are excited to see how the deployment of this capital will continue to improve the severely underinvested digital infrastructure landscape across Africa.
6. What have been a stand-out moment in your career at Millar Cameron so far?
The joy I have experienced so far at Millar Cameron is primarily a function of the amazing people I have met, both within the company, as well as the clients we work with and candidates we represent. Picking a single moment does not do justice to diversity of these relationships and the joy they bring. That said, a moment that comes to mind is a cold mid-week winter afternoon where Conor, the founder of our business, and I were bleary eyed from a complex CEO search. Conor lit up with excitement, having found a potential candidate that fit within the multitude of parameters we had established with the client. As his description continued, I kept glancing at my own computer screen as it dawned on me that after weeks of searching, we had stumbled across the same ideal profile at the same time. This candidate remains in the final stages of offer negotiations, and we hope will make a huge impact should the process conclude successfully. Moments like that make the inevitable frustrations inherent to this career more than worth it.
ABOUT THE SECTOR
7. What are you most excited to see within Technology & Telecommunications (T&T) sector in Africa from a recruitment perspective?
There are multiple ongoing developments within T&T in Africa that have interacting effects serving to exponentially improve opportunities for those on the continent and beyond. To illustrate one example, as the talent pool within digital infrastructure in Africa increases in size, the deployment of those skills leads to increased coverage and speed of connectivity. This then serves to significantly reduce the barriers to employment opportunities for others on the continent. It is only getting incrementally easier for entrepreneurs to launch their own ventures, and for African nationals to engage in highly skilled remote work for international companies, wherever they are based.
Such developments can be accelerated in different ways depending on the time frame considered. Currently, in the short term we are supporting multiple companies to acquire the niche skillsets needed to continue improving digital infrastructure in Africa by conducting borderless international searches. Simultaneously, we are exploring avenues via which to improve the pipeline for highly skilled African T&T talent in the longer term through collaboration with private companies, governments, educational bodies, and funding sources. I believe that over the next 5 years, skillsets and employment opportunities will vastly increase for what is to become the largest global workforce. I hope to play a small role in facilitating this.