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Introducing Jenny Tester, Education Leadership and Talent Senior Consultant

Jenny brings over 10 years’ experience working with Higher Education institutions, coming to us from Advance HE as their Head of Membership.  This role involved supporting universities in the UK and internationally to navigate challenges and adopt best practice in equality, diversity and inclusion, leadership development, governance and teaching and learning.  Prior to this, Jenny supported clients as a consultant in an executive search firm.

What brought you to GS?

GatenbySanderson offers the opportunity for me to combine two parts of my career; my five years of executive search with my more recent experience in Higher Education leadership development.

It is good to be working closely with colleagues who have deep Education sector expertise both from a Search and a Leadership and Talent Consultancy perspective.  A lot of my colleagues are Occupational Psychologists and others bring lots of great experience, so I now have a really good opportunity to learn from them. I am in the process of training as an Occupational Psychologist as part of my study for a professional doctorate at Birkbeck.

Finally, it was a real big draw to continue working within the higher education sector in an organisation that’s focused on the public good and not-for-profit organisations.  Working for and with not-for-profit organisations has been a theme throughout my career so continuing that was really important as well and aligns well to my values.

What are the drivers for you personally in the higher education sector?

I believe that education can add a lot of value to society, to people’s lives, to students’ lives and to the communities in which universities or colleges are placed. There’s a huge amount of benefit and reward to working with organisations like that.

Strong leadership is really important and can have such an impact on the effectiveness of organisations and ultimately on people’s lives, so I value playing a part in leadership development within universities.  There is a lot of opportunity to support leaders to navigate the challenges in the sector, and to equip leaders to be authentic, inclusive and effective.

What is your view on the priorities for leaders in education?

I can see there’s a lot of opportunity to help leaders build their skills through the range of leadership development programmes that we can design specifically for different needs.  I do think these programmes should be bespoke and designed specifically with the needs of the people and teams at the forefront, and that is the approach we take at GS.

I think there is a real need to support people to be authentic in their own leadership style. There iswork to be done in terms of providing people the opportunity to reflect on their own leadership practice and apply that as part of their own development as a leader.

As part of the agenda for equity, diversity and inclusion, it’s important that leaders understand how to bring people with them as they navigate through change and uncertainty.  Leaders need to have the skills to build an environment where people feel comfortable and safe to challenge effectively, to have constructive debates, where ideas can be shared and creativity can happen.

We can help organisations build inclusive cultures, so they can navigate change effectively and everyone gets an opportunity to play a part. In the higher education sector, working towards creating environments where the research culture, for example, is one of collaboration is really important and I think should be an area of more focus.

What’s your reflections on your first 3 months with GS?

I love GS’s challenger brand perspective, where things are done a bit differently, coupled with bringing a strong evidence base and really robust design processes to the work.

My experience as a new starter has been really positive both in terms of the induction process but also in the depth of expertise and knowledge in the team.  There’s a lot of shared great practice from across the different sectors which is brilliant.

I also appreciate agile working and the flexibility in how you can work. I don’t think you get this everywhere and it’s a great opportunity to balance work and life in a way that’s beyond words.

I can see there’s an opportunity in being able to offer institutions that holistic cycle of support to identify and develop leaders.  We provide search support for both interim and permanent positions, we bring the assessment expertise and once the person’s in place, we support the on-boarding of your candidate. Subsequently, we can help them to develop their teams and support the institution to build up its leadership capability and governance effectiveness.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

Besides studying for my doctorate, I’ve just got a puppy.  He’s now 12 weeks and is adorable but a lot of work.  I’m not getting a lot of sleep at the moment! I’ve also got involved in fundraisers at GS like the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge for our Charity of the Year, Alzheimer’s Society!

If you’d like to speak to Jenny about your leadership development needs in higher education, get in touch at or on Linkedin.

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