As Director of People Operations, Tracy Iqbal has a clear passion for people.

In the second of our ‘Who We Are’ series, join as we tackle topics including a holistic understanding of people and emotional intelligence, neurodiversity as a superstrength and the keys to a happy workforce.

Welcome, Tracy. Would you like to kick off by telling us about your background and path to being Director of People Operations at Arrows? 

Well, this is an interesting one. I did a BTEC in Business & Finance at college and was intending to go to university. I needed to save money to go, so I got a sales job in a newspaper. I did well quickly and decided I liked earning money! So, I continued working.

In time, some of my colleagues left to join the wonderful world of recruitment. In 1996, I made that move too and joined Reed. The training and onboarding were exceptional – it was a big part of my inspiration to become a trainer. After 13 years there, I joined a smaller boutique agency. I worked my way up and managed large teams until I effectively made myself redundant!

In 2016, I set up my own training company, Talent IQ Ltd. It was while running this that I was introduced to Arrows Group. There was

something different about the company for me from the start. I was brought in to do sales training with consultants. I got to know the Directors and realised there was something missing for me running my own business. I wanted that sense of belonging you have as part of a company.

I took on the role of L&D at Arrows – for the first year, while also running my training company. I developed Thrive, which is our end-to-end candidate experience programme. As Arrows has evolved and grown, I’ve had the opportunity to become the Director of People Operations. The team includes HR, Talent, Marketing and L&D and we are all about ‘putting people at the heart’.

What was the motivation behind setting up your own training company? 

I’ve always been a coaching leader, that’s my default style! I get a lot of joy from seeing people develop.

My training company was the leap of faith to see if I could make it on my own. You need a commercial mind to set up your own business and to know your market. It was about putting into practice everything I’d done to develop people. It was me, a phone and laptop starting from scratch.

I’m privileged to have a great network. I’ve supported a lot of people as a recruitment manager, and I always treat people with the respect they deserve. Thanks to this, I finished work on Friday and had my first client on Monday!

What are the most important things people should know about you?

First and foremost, I have a passion for people.

I’ve almost finished studying to be a master practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). I’m already a trained practitioner in various mindset and behavioural tools. These help me bring language, behaviour and emotional intelligence elements into my coaching.

I’m a curious person. Every time I deliver a training session, I learn something too. We should all be open to continually evolve and develop.

I am neurodiverse; ‘delightfully dyslexic’ is a good phrase I heard recently. I think dyslexia is a superstrength and I don’t want anyone to think it creates barriers. We’re just wired in a different way; I like it!

Being neurodiverse also helps me when I write training. I know from the courses I have studied that I need to learn repetitively to absorb information. For my training, I vary learning modalities to be more inclusive. I combine videos, activities, and self-directed research. I’m mindful there’s not a one size fits all way of learning.

You are an advocate for a holistic view of people, based on understanding and emotional intelligence. How does this apply in a business context?

Understanding people holistically helps you recognize, respect and value differences. At Arrows, we use tools that help facilitate discussion. We don’t want to put people into boxes. But, by understanding behaviour and mindset preferences, we can better understand individual strengths and limitations. This means we can better rely on each other.

I’m a big fan of emotional intelligence. We can always build on it – it’s possible to be emotionally intelligent one moment and not the next.

We run an Emotional Intelligence for Leaders programme at Arrows. It helps people understand their own behaviours and the impact they have, as well as understanding others better. This is the building block of a high performing team; respect for differences and knowledge of what people are good at.

High emotional intelligence also helps you to recognise when someone goes from ‘mindful’ to ‘survival’. When we’re ok, we can build strong relationships and perform at an optimum level. But when we go into survival mode, we can go from high to low performance. It’s about recognizing the subtle changes and acknowledging when someone is not ok.

In your view, what are the keys to having a happy, motivated, productive workforce?

You have to be interested in people as individuals. Businesses are nothing without them!

There’s a fantastic model I use in leadership training called the Roger D’Aprix model, which is about creating buy in. This starts before a person even joins the company, through total clarity about the expectations of their role. If this is clearly defined, someone who is extrinsically motivated can then get the rewards when they meet these expectations. Or, someone who is intrinsically motivated can know they have reached those standards.

Feedback is something we all need to grow and adapt, whether you’re a senior leader or starting out. The way things are done now isn’t the way they will always be done. It’s good for people to know what their growth opportunities are.

People need time – someone to check in and show they care. On a personal level, stuff happens in everyone’s lives. Giving wiggle room when needed is important.

Businesses need to have a clear vision. People should feel empowered to take control of the support and resources they need. And, there should be ownership, so people get a sense of satisfaction.

These elements are a framework I live by as a manager, leader and trainer. If one of these things is missing, that’s usually when people become disengaged and unhappy.

How do you go about embedding things like feedback and a clear vision?

At Arrows, we do regular team huddles as individual teams and company-wide across different geographies. There are constant updates on company strategy and progression. We let people know in advance about any change on the horizon – as some people need time to acclimatize.

No-one’s perfect and we’re always trying to be better. For example, we’re very good at talking about what and why at a business level. We’re working on making sure that translates into what that means for individuals.

In the last couple of years, COVID has of course had a profound effect on the way we work. What are some of the biggest changes and challenges you have seen as a result?   

This has been a very difficult time for lots of people – those who were put on furlough, for example.

One of the positives was recognizing that hybrid working can work and the accompanying increased trust. Traditionally, recruitment hasn’t been a home-working industry. There was a perception that people needed to sit in a team of salespeople to be successful. We now have clear evidence people can perform as effectively remotely, giving a better work-life balance.

Mental health has definitely been affected. I know it impacted me mentally; I’m someone who likes working with people. There was a lot of uncertainty and guilt as we didn’t have all the answers. Those on furlough were questioning their contribution and value. Those working felt a huge responsibility to pedal fast to try and get those on furlough back in.

I feel very loyal as a result of this storm we’ve weathered. We’ve come out with more clarity about what we need to do as a business.

You’ve touched on mental health already and it’s a topic you are keen to bring even more into the open. Do you think it is becoming easier for people to talk about it? What more can companies do to support people? 

I think mental health was discussed more during Covid than it has been previously. I have suffered with mental health, which means in times I’ve been diagnosed with depression. Would I have admitted that earlier in my career? Probably not. I think something has changed a bit.

Most of us will have suffered with our mental health. How we experience that will vary, for example from feeling a bit low to being actually depressed. If people felt comfortable to be more open, and businesses were better able to recognize the triggers that take someone from ok to not ok, that would be a big step forward.

It can also be about the right support.  Ask, “are you ok, what can we do to support you?” Sometimes leaders think if someone is struggling, they need to be a rescuer. But sometimes people just need to say they’re not ok and need someone to listen or give wiggle room. By being understanding you build loyalty and trust.

It’s also important that people take their annual leave, so they can renew and don’t continue to burnout. It’s about ensuring people have balance.

In your role, you champion Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). How can companies make sure this is truly embedded and not just something they pay lip service to?

You are what you present to the market. If you want to build a diverse culture, but people can’t see anyone like them, how can you attract a diverse workforce? For example, maybe my talking about neurodiversity will get others thinking ‘recruitment is an industry I can be successful in if I’m neurodiverse’.

It starts as a business by recognizing sources of unconscious bias, which we all have. If everyone commits to making incremental changes, it can evolve over time. If you can be open to change, that’s the starting point. Then work on what you can do differently. This could include little changes, like having pronouns on emails / LinkedIn to show a level of awareness.

We have representatives from some people with some protected characteristics, but not all. We have to ask what we could be doing differently. Our office has wheelchair access, but we don’t have any imagery of someone in our office using our wheelchair. We may need to be more explicit about encouraging wheelchair users with our job adverts.

It’s something that needs to evolve, taking account of feedback, ensuring it comes from the top down. I like to think we’re open but what if that’s not what other people think?

Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration? 

My parents have always been my inspiration. We’re a working-class family; my dad worked for the same company for 30 years. My parents gave me a strong foundation and a belief I could reach for the stars. I also respect that they have adapted and embraced change – like their use of technology. They’ve demonstrated being really bold and brave!

I see different things in different people that inspire me, of any age in any circumstance. Understanding people’s stories is inspiring to me.

And finally, you’re a fan of fitness and have a busy family life. What are your tips for keeping things in balance?        

I do group HIIT workouts and a lot of running – every morning I’m at the gym as the doors open! Balance for me means keeping this as a priority; training is an investment in myself. I get so much from the group activities – I talk to people while doing burpees / dancing!

Fitness links to mental health. You have to look after yourself, or you can’t then look after others – it’s the oxygen mask analogy.

Invest time in what you enjoy – don’t run if you hate running! There’s a lot to be said for being happy. It can be a choice. You can cultivate and change your environment to make sure you stay happy.

In autumn 2021, we proudly announced to the world that Berlin-based Caissa Recruitment had joined the Arrows Group Global family.

In the first of our ‘Who We Are’ series, join us in conversation with Caissa Recruitment’s Founder, Konstanty Sliwowski. From the critical responsibility of recruitment to proud feminism and extreme ownership, discover his thoughts on work, life and the best things about living in Berlin.

Welcome, Konstanty. Can you kick off by telling us a little bit about your background and the path that led to you founding Caissa Recruitment in 2009?


My academic background is in history and politics. I studied at Oxford and after university, I worked for an NGO tasked with restructuring local governance in Iraq. It sounds very interesting, but it also exposed me to the realities of how slow this work can be. I wanted to make an impact more quickly.

Luckily, the owner of an Austrian executive search firm took me under his wing. This sparked a genuine interest. I am one of the few who has chosen headhunting and not fallen into it!

By 2009, I’d spent several years working for recruitment companies as well as in executive search and had built teams. The time felt right to go out on my own. I started Caissa Recruitment from my kitchen table in London, offering staffing solutions for engineering roles. Those were the early humble beginnings, when all I had was my belief that I could do it better than anyone else.

The connection between Caissa and Berlin started early on. Many of my first clients were based there; people I had built relationships with over my career. There became a clear need for Caissa to have a permanent base in Berlin. We opened an office there in 2015 and I relocated in early 2017 with my family. In 2018, we closed our London office to fully focus on Berlin.

Why the engineering sector?

We focus on engineering and product, which I see as the sharp end of the spear when it comes to innovation.

Most of the companies we work with are VC backed and at advanced stages. I love working with companies that are building the future and new solutions, innovating and being fast, breaking things, pivoting and adapting to the market. As for being close to the product and engineering side – well, that’s the fun part of the business, isn’t it?!

How did the partnership with Arrows Group Global come about?


There’s very little in the form of alliances between companies in recruitment. I was always open to having conversations with companies where there were synergies.

A mutual contact introduced Caissa and Arrows. We found a lot of similarities in terms of values, how we operate and a vision for how recruitment can be improved. We spent more than a year in discussions before making it official.

Now we have announced the partnership, it’s very exciting. It’s still early days, so the integrations and how we function are still being processed.

Read about the partnership of Arrows Group and Caissa here.

For Arrows Group or Caissa clients and candidates, how will they experience the partnership / how will it impact them?

Caissa will remain a separate brand under Arrows, with our distinct feel, culture, and way of doing things. One benefit for all candidates and clients is the access to additional services, information and wider data that we are working on pooling together. As a group, we can provide our clients with more insights and opportunities than they had before.

From the business to you personally. What should people know about you and what makes you tick?

I’m a third-culture kid. Born in Poland, I’ve since lived in Vienna, Moscow, London, Berlin, Oxford, and some time in Mexico. I was raised by Polish parents, going to American schools receiving Anglo-Saxon education, and speaking four languages. Adding to that mix, my wife is half-German, born in Hong Kong and our children are a mix of all the above. This makes for a fun setup!

“What you can learn from conversations, even when you disagree, is an artform I hope is not lost in this day and age.”

I have a lot of appreciation for different cultures, religions, and perspectives. What makes the world interesting is that there are multiple ways of looking at things. What you can learn from conversations, even when you disagree, is an artform I hope is not lost in this day and age.

Being with my family and showing the world to my kids is important. I travel mainly for food and photography and enjoy exploring. It doesn’t need to be 5* hotels. We like to show the world as it is.

How do you translate your feminist principles into your professional life?

InterviewI’m a proud feminist. There are a lot of strong women in my life, including my daughter who is turning eight soon. I want to make sure her world is better than the one I grew up in, with more equality, opportunities, and space for her to be who she wants.

I believe in hiring the right person for the job, regardless of anything else. It so happens Caissa Recruitment is predominantly female, and I love that. I get to work with amazing women and men.

The engineering sector is an interesting one. Companies should be thinking about how they can develop engineers internally to support their diversity ambitions, not headhunting from one another. About 17% of engineering graduates in Europe are female. With that in mind, how can companies possibly have a 50:50 gender split? There are not enough graduates to enable it. It’s a grassroots challenge.

You are very upfront about the shortcomings of recruitment, describing your approach as challenging the status quo. Where do you think the traditional recruitment process goes wrong?

Recruitment has traditionally been very transactional. As recruiters, we have a big responsibility for people’s careers, growth, and prosperity – including that of their families. We need to take this seriously. We’re not just selling a doodad!

This problem has a historical context. In the 1940’s/50’s, executive search developed from strategy consultants. They would help companies with their strategy and then suggest the best person to lead it. At the same time, job centres were there to fill positions in factories, hospitals and large blue-collar organisations. Then came the question of who’s going to manage the factory or hospital.

Executive search firms didn’t want to touch that middle level of management. So, it was the job centres who filled the gap. This is where things went wrong, and we still see perpetuated to this day. This transactional mindset focuses on ‘bums on seats’, time on the phone, number of CVs sent out, etc. This dilutes the value we can bring as recruiters and what we can do for people.

If we do our job right, we have an incredible view of what is happening in the job market. We can see where shortages will be, what salary and employment trends will be – such as hybrid working – and inform our clients and candidates. We can be mentors/coaches, supporting our candidates’ growth trajectories.

How do you do things differently?

It doesn’t matter what type of company you are; it is your people that make you. No other function functions without them. How you hire, how you engage with the candidate market, how you treat your employees, how you are able to create career paths, how you ultimately retain the right people – this has the biggest single impact on your business.

This is why recruitment matters and is such a critical job in an organization.

It is also why we share information with our clients and candidates that we observe from the market. We do annual surveys on how candidates perceive being hired and salary surveys based on actual offers. This means we can advise companies on the sort of benefits that will land with their hires. People don’t want ping pong tables or free fruit anymore. That’s not what it’s about.

We work with our clients to create the best employment proposition for their candidates.

You mentioned your annual surveys, which Caissa Recruitment has run for the last five years. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in this time?

The number one motivator for people to change jobs is still money. When we started running our surveys, over 80% put money as their number one reason to change. This year, while it is still number one, less than 50% of respondents put it top.

“[Candidates] are now asking “how does the job fit around me,” not “how do I fit around the job.”

Zooming up behind money is flexibility of work. It’s by far the next biggest reason. People have certain expectations of what flexibility is. They are now asking “how does the job fit around me” not “how do I fit around the job.”

Has flexibility become an expected norm?

It’s not yet the norm that companies offer. But candidates expect it. This is the Grand Canyon of hiring; it’s a huge divide.

Companies are debating how many days people will go back to the office for. Two? Three? How about instead asking what people want, then supporting them to ensure they are able to deliver on their work obligations.

There are some Caissa team members I have never met in person. It works for them. I’d like to meet them for a beer, or lunch, but I don’t need them to sit next to me in an office to make sure I can look over their shoulder. They’re adults. It is time employers embrace the fact they have employed adults.

How people own their work is what distinguishes them as good or bad employees. The definition of ‘extreme ownership’ is that you own everything that impacts you. It’s not about waiting for someone to get back to you. It’s about taking ownership of why that person is not getting back to you.

Companies will miss out on the best hires if they are not flexible. The negotiation used to be on salary and days holiday. Now we are seeing people ask; “what’s my flexibility?”

People are asking what time they are being given. Time is an unrelenting currency. You can always get more money. Time, you’re not going to get back. It has become a serious bargaining chip.

“People are asking what time they are being given. Time is an unrelenting currency. You can always get more money.”

For companies, this is difficult to figure out. There is a set-up for when everyone works in the office, or for when fully remote. But a hybrid workplace is the most difficult because there are so many variables. How do you build a framework which, by definition, is inflexible to accommodate for the flexible employment the market demands?

What do you think is driving “The Great Resignation”?

The Great Resignation is multi-faceted. There are more jobs right now. People’s priorities have also changed or been seriously readjusted. Some people have moved from cities into the countryside. They want a company that will, say, allow them to surf at 5am before work. Two years ago, this would not have even been a conversation.

This new way of working is not better for all, though. Some people – like me – need a dedicated space for office vs home life. The point is, there should be room for all.

At Caissa Recruitment you have a 90% offer acceptance rate, way above the industry average (of around 65%). Why do you think that is?

Any hiring process is a relationship-building exercise. A good relationship needs to be relatively equally balanced.

An interview is as much an opportunity for a candidate to interview a company as it is for a company to interview a candidate. The ‘product’ here is as much the company’s position, job, values, and mission as it is the candidate’s skillset and experience. These things need to match up.

We work on creating valuable interactions and relationships. We ensure both sides have all the information they need to make the best decision. There’s never a ‘perfect’ match. You need to ensure there’s enough flexibility on both sides to make it work.

“We work on creating valuable interactions and relationships. We ensure both sides have all the information they need to make the best decision.”

From relationship-building to personal inspiration. Who or what inspires you most?

I read a lot and listen to a lot of audiobooks. I seek inspiration in daily life, through the people I talk to. I believe there’s something to be learnt from every conversation.

I’m often inspired by what my kids say! Sometimes asking your kids to help with difficult problems is the best solution you can get.

All the knowledge you need is already out there. It’s about opening yourself up to it and being able to embrace it – and having the confidence to admit that sometimes your perspective is wrong.

And finally, what are your insider tips on the best things to do/see in Berlin?   

InterviewCome talk to me if you’re ever visiting!

Berlin is a wonderful city, with very distinct neighbourhoods. You can find anything you want: crazy parties, outstanding dining, superb art from galleries to street art, amazing coffee, very good wine bars. Berlin was a divided city, but the result is that it’s got almost two of everything. Two opera houses. Two philharmonics. You have access to all of that.

If you go to a party, you will invariably find a founder, an engineer, an opera singer, an artist, a world traveller who pops in. You will be exposed to a richness of conversation in a melting pot of the world. It is that eclectic mix that makes the city what it is.

On Thursday 15th June, we held our annual Sales Conference and AGM at OXO2. The entire offices from London and Amsterdam, and 15 from our Indian office got together for a full day designed to focus on collaboration and agile working across the four tribes. The Sales Conference involved cross-tribe workshops to help us improve the services and quality of work we offer.

The day finished with Colin Burgess, the Director of Operations at Sky, sharing his knowledge and experience of the media and communications industry. He spoke through three main themes: being the real deal; being agile and focusing on the essential, and used his experience to explain these to us. Colin gave us a great insight into what makes good business practice and the importance of building successful relationships, and it was entertaining to all to hear and learn from one of our biggest Clients.

The AGM started in the evening with a champagne reception as everyone arrived back at OXO2 after changing into black tie. Our CEO, James Parsons, spoke about our performance and achievements over the last year and we celebrated the outstanding performances with awards in a variety of areas. He spoke about industry trends, our challenges and our strategy for the year ahead. We learnt about the company he saw Arrows being by 2020 and how we could use our roles and positions in the company to make progress towards this.

The day finished with dinner, drinks and the opportunity to spend time with colleagues from the different offices across the world – something we don’t have the chance to do often enough.


Arrows Group Global, the strategic resourcing group, releases trading update for the full year ended 31st March 2016.  The Board is pleased to confirm that the Group revenues for the full year grew to £40m representing a 23% increase on the previous year with NFI increasing 19.5%.

During the year the Group followed up the successful demerger from its sister company ICG Medical with a share buy out for the original owners that gives James Parsons, CEO, full share ownership of the business moving forwards.


“We are pleased to release such a positive trading update for the past year. We saw a strengthening of demand for both permanent and contract skills in the UK Technology market which grew at 33% and an increase in permanent demand across the European market (15%). As political turbulence continues to affect the UK market this year, our international expansion strategy goes from strength to strength as we experience an increase in demand from European, Asian and US tech hubs which appears set to endure over the next 12 months.”

Attracting and retaining the right talent is an important part of any business, especially those that are expanding quickly. Yet, as the fight to entice and retain talent gets tougher, maintaining a strong talent pipeline has never been so necessary. James Parsons, CEO and founder of Arrows Group shares 3 easy ways to improve employer branding and appeal to current and potential employees.

– B2B Marketing

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Whether to manage scalability or encourage collaboration, cloud skills are in demand across businesses and industries. James Parsons, CEO, Arrows Group shares the three general trends the company has seen amongst its own clients in terms of the specific cloud skills in demand, along with how businesses can manage their search to find the best cloud talent out there.

– Compare the Cloud

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Following the release of exclusive Arrows Group data revealing a 10% reduction in skilled tech workers from within the EU locating to the UK, James Parsons, CEO, Arrows Group shares his position on what the triggering of Article 50 means for the future of the UK’s digital skills landscape, and how we can make sure the UK remains an attractive place to work.

– IT Pro Portal

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As Article 50 is triggered, James Parsons, CEO and founder of Arrows Group Global comments on the impact this could have on the UK technology sector and those workers that make it tick.

– Information Age

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As Article 50 is triggered, James Parsons, CEO and founder of Arrows Group, comments that while many of its implications are still unclear, from a digital skills perspective, we’re already seeing how Brexit is making top digital talent reluctant to come to the UK and flock elsewhere.

– Recruitment International

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