This month, we spoke with Aurélia Chaudagne, Executive Search and Business Development Consultant at DSML, an executive search recruitment firm with offices in Chicago and Boston. Aurélia is our second most tenured team member and focuses on increasing the reach of DSML to help with recruiting for European companies expand their business in the USA in cities likes Chicago.
Q: Can you share your background? How did you get into executive search recruitment?
A: My professional background was mainly focused on non-profit work. After studying political science in France — specifically international relations and politics — some acquaintances and I launched a non-profit in education and humanitarian action. I ran it for almost 10 years. Then, I moved to the US for my husband’s job. This is when I became an ex-pat wife.
Because I was raising our two children at the time, I had part-time jobs. When I started to seek out a full-time role again, I was looking for humanitarian work. While Chicago doesn’t have the best scene for that, I did find work as an interpreter for French- and Russian-speaking refugees. Unfortunately, given the nature of the work, it couldn’t be a full-time role, which is what I was really looking for. This is when I found executive search recruiting.
Q: How did you come to DSML?
A: When I started seriously looking for full-time opportunities, I was put in touch with Myriam. She was so well known in the French community in Chicago. When we connected, of course, she was transparent that unfortunately, DSML didn’t often work with clients in the non-profit space.
So, I continued on my path. Several years later, I decided to reach out to Myriam for advice and maybe some supportive coaching. My expectations were low, knowing that DSML works with executive search candidates, but that she had a strong network and might know of someone with an open mid-level role. What I thought would be a casual conversation turned out to be a meeting with both Myriam and the co-founder of DSML, Doug Seville. I shared with them a recent experience of mine in the recruiting process that I didn’t agree with: the recruiters had been dragging their feet and then simply stopped responding, ultimately making the situation feel really disrespectful to candidates.
They shared that while they still did not have roles in non-profit, they were actually looking to expand their own team. I suppose they liked my answer to their question, “What are your main strengths?” I shared that I’m an organized and detail-oriented person who doesn’t mind doing the tasks that some may view as tedious. I had some incredible experiences in my non-profit career meeting and working with prestigious people and organizations, but I don’t let that give me an ego. My working experience with a diversity of people going through hardship taught me to be very adaptable and diplomatic. After sharing that, they exchanged a look and asked me if I wanted to join the team.
Q: What has kept you at DSML?
A: Before starting, I had never considered recruiting for my career, so I wasn’t sure if it would be the right match for me. But I took a chance. And of course, I stayed quite a while. I stayed partly for the opportunity for progression and growth. But another big part of it was the team. That’s really what made me want to stay and develop myself as a recruiter.
Even when my family and I decided to move back to France a few years later, I stayed in the role for approximately 6 months. Eventually, though, we realized that it wasn’t sustainable. I felt a bit disconnected from the actual operational work — like the searches and screenings — and, given the distance and the time difference, I couldn’t attend all the team meetings or follow through the way our clients, our candidates, and the DSML team deserved. But I still didn’t want to leave. I spoke with Myriam and that is how my role shifted into business development and I became the person of contact in France.
Q: What is your current role at DSML? How do you spend your days?
A: Today I am the Executive Search & Business Development Consultant. I’ve been in this role for over two years now. I do a lot of networking and bring the most current French perspective to the table, as the boots on the ground here. I am also currently working part-time. So naturally, my day-to-day looks considerably different than my team member Ricarda’s, for example, as she is in an executive search recruitment role in Chicago. Although after her, I am the team member with the longest tenure!
Networking is definitely my top priority, across different industries. I attend seminars and events for French companies expanding their business into the USA. Sometimes I am speaking at these events to promote DSML.
Q: What do you feel is important to DSML? What are its core values?
A: After the last few years, the impact of the Great Resignation on executive recruiting is becoming clear, and it’s no small one. But I think seeing its impact, we’re prioritizing flexibility and agility. As a smaller company, luckily, that’s much easier for us.
High ethics is a core value of DSML. We really respect our candidates and our clients. When we discuss a search with a client or candidate, we’re also very clear about ethics. There are things that some firms might do that DSML doesn’t feel comfortable doing, as a result of conducting our business with high ethics.
Another is prioritizing the human experience. As I mentioned, I didn’t know how long I would stay in recruiting. But, a combination of my humanitarian work and the principles on which DSML conducts business kept me here. Transparency and ownership are two big ways we prioritize the human experience. We keep communication channels open. We do not believe that ‘ghosting’ candidates is acceptable behavior, just as we do not believe rushing a search is either. We respect the time and effort that all parties are putting in and know that mutual respect makes for the best executive search matches possible. That’s why I deeply respect Myriam and Doug and have really enjoyed developing my relationship and career with them.
DSML is an executive search and recruitment firm in Chicago and Boston that specializes in recruiting for European subsidiaries in the USA. We are proud to have Aurélia as part of our team and are deeply appreciative of her dedication and her work to help DSML expand.