The Fold Woman: Desi Kimmins

The Fold Woman: Desi Kimmins
March 27, 2015 The Fold

Can you give us a brief background of your career to date?

I grew up in Geneva and moved to the Netherlands to study Occupational Psychology.  I was fascinated by maximizing potential in the workplace, whilst at the same time achieving strong business results. I then spent 10 years in Amsterdam at ING in a number of HR roles including HR Business Partner, Implementation Manager for the merger of our two retail brands, Head of Talent Acquisition, and most recently, Head of Talent Management and Leadership Development for the European Investment Management business.

As my 10 year anniversary with ING crept up, the desire to broaden my experience, live in a different country and work in a different environment grew. I was offered the opportunity to join a London-based boutique Leadership Development firm called Mannaz as an International Client Director and couldn’t resist. My husband and I had recently married and he was hugely supportive.  Although he had a great career in the Netherlands, he decided that moving together would be an adventure and within a couple of months he had secured a job here in London too. Korn Ferry then approached me to help build their Leadership Development business in the UK. I was inspired by the people, vision and ambition and joined in September last year. I am now an Associate Client Partner.

 Desi Kimmins

Tell us about Korn Ferry and your role within the company

My passion for people development has only increased, and my current role is to help develop the UK leadership development business at Korn Ferry.  Interestingly, my company’s history lies in executive recruitment and nowadays, while around 40% of our business is from other areas of talent management, many still think of us as an executive recruiter. What I love about Korn Ferry is how, by combining leadership consulting services and executive recruitment, we help companies deliver the talent strategies that allow them to achieve their business goals.  In a nutshell, we  1) determine the talent implications of their business strategies, 2)understand the talent gaps (through assessment) and 3)create the plans to close the gaps (buy, build or develop).  I spend most of my time working with organisations in equipping and developing their leadership teams.  I also do a lot of work specifically for women at senior levels – it’s extremely rewarding work.    

In your role you help individuals to achieve their full potential at work. What are your tips for success in the workplace? 

I find that work and home life increasingly overlap and I apply my guiding principles to both:

  • Manage your energy more than your time –support your body and mind in enabling you to take on your life
  • Live your life by design and not by default
  • It’s not the stimulus, it’s your response that counts

I feel extremely fortunate that a large part of my work is centred around a passion which is to support leaders in defining their key drivers and success criteria, in their own particular context.  Spending so much time advising others on this helps keep me on track! 

 Desi Kimmins

Your role also encompasses leadership development. What advice would you offer to those managing teams in their careers?

Most people get promoted into leadership roles as a result of being technically excellent at their jobs. As you move up the career ladder the skill set required to be successful shifts. Relationship building and influencing skills become exponentially more important as people rise through the ranks.  This shift in skillset is where most individuals trip and often, without the right support, will continue to trip – costing them and the organisation important energy as well as having negative financial implications.

My advice is: be mindful that what made you successful in the past will not ensure success in future. Ask for support to help maximise your potential and impact.

For women in leadership roles, I look predominantly at three areas:

  • Perception: How are you perceived? How do you want to be perceived?
  • Power: How well do you influence and navigate your organisation?
  • Professional presence: How do you ‘show up’?

Women in business tend to face additional ‘headwinds’ that make navigating the relationship and political landscape even more complex, for example:

  • Lack of advocates & sponsors
  • Negative stereotypes
  • Longer proving periods
  • Conflicting gender norms
  • Family/work balance
  • Low exposure/risk taking

Once you become aware of this reality and define how to be effective in this context, your level of confidence hugely increases and you see great results.

Desi Kimmins

You’re a busy working mum – how do you go about achieving a work/life balance?

Any working mum knows that with both parents in full-time work, planning  is absolutely essential. My life now is about both family and work and I put all my energy in trying to get these right. Having flexibility at work is essential in achieving this.

I am able to work relatively flexibly and manage my diary so that I get home in time to spend the end of the day with my two boys, I am very strict in sticking to this. Once he’s in bed I tend to grab a cup of tea and finish my work for the day.

How do you like to unwind outside of work?

Although life is full-on, spending time with my family taps into different energy resources. I work out three times a week and my husband and I like to keep some time for just the two of us. It may sound like the basics, but it’s amazing how getting the basics right can be a challenge!

I spend time learning about nutrition and enjoy experimenting with foods that that help maximise my energy. And finally, being Swiss – I love everything to do with mountains; hiking and skiing are my passions.

 desi kimmins 2

Tell us how you go about dressing for work?

One of the reasons I love The Fold is that it represents the type of clothes I associate with drive, creativity and being a true woman. 

It’s so easy for men to look professional and well-dressed – their work uniform is a well-fitting suit. For women it’s more complicated. I look for clothes that are feminine, yet support my credibility in working at the highest levels – it’s a fine line to walk. I find that The Fold masters this art – in fact, too well. Every time I think I have my wardrobe sorted, something catches my eye which is too good to resist!

What are your favourite pieces from the Fold spring/summer collection?

My absolute favourite is the Arlington dress, and close behind it is the Ebury.

And of course, everything from the Le Marais collection!

Shop Desi’s Look >

Pictures by Amelia Allen Photography

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