Get to know Sam Birkbeck

Welcome to our second 'Internal Big Interview' featuring Sam Birkbeck - Manager across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

Tell us about our professional journey that brought you here…

I lived abroad for 10 years, working in the holiday industry. Most of that time was spent as a Ski instructor but I also spent some time moving boats around the Caribbean and running huge campsites in France and Spain. Just before I came home I did a ‘transatlantic’ – I took a 47-foot yacht from Dover to Columbia via Cape Verde, Brazil, Trinidad and, Venezuela!

On my return to the UK I spent some time finding the right career to step into and Rupert, Procurement Heads Founder & MD, gave me some really good advice that led me to join a FTSE 250 Recruitment Agency in Berkshire. I loved every second of it and very quickly worked my way up to Senior Manager, responsible for a team of 4. Over the space of 5 years I built up a vast network of Senior Leaders across Berkshire and developed an in-depth understanding of the market.

It was a brilliant experience but ultimately I wanted to take more of a consultative approach to recruitment so I got back in touch with Rupert – and here I am!


What does the average working week in the life of Sam look like?

Transferring into Procurement recruitment, my average week has changed a lot – it’s a lot more networking focused. Each week I try to talk to about 70 – 100 people, keeping the networking side of my role really active, but while also trying to source great new clients and candidates. I spend lots of time in meetings as I feel that face to face is the only way to really get to know a candidate or a client.  I try and have at least one day on the road in Reading, Maidenhead, Slough or Oxford meeting my network and discussing their needs.


What is your favourite thing about working with Procurement Heads?

It’s the opportunity to work within a team of highly experienced recruiters. Here at Procurement Heads everybody (whether they are a Director, a manager, or a Senior Consultant) has been recruiting for over 5 years. This means that as a team we can assess situations and give advice that has stemmed from over 50 collective years of experience within the market. We’ve seen pretty much all recruitment scenarios as a team, so we can confidently apply solutions we know will work. In larger recruitment agencies, you don’t get that collaborative approach to problem solving and business decision making. We call it an ‘inch wide – mile deep’ approach, because we are an extremely knowledgeable team, and it’s great to be a part of that.


Describe your personal self in three words

Fun. Focused. Direct.


What does success mean to you?

Bringing things to a conclusion. In recruitment, it’s not uncommon for things to start but never come to an end – roles can get dropped or candidates can pull out, so for me success is reaching a point when everything is concluded, and everyone is happy with the end result.


Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?

Keep in touch with more people. I have networked well over the last decade, but I think of the people I met while I was living abroad, and I can’t even remember half their names! I met a Senior Admiral from the Royal Navy and I wish I had swapped business cards with him. I spent time with some really senior people who, at the time, I promised to keep in touch with, but that’s always easier said than done. Initially I did reach out every 6 months or so just to touch base, but had I made more effort to keep those relationships going – imagine the contacts I could be introduced to now!


How do you personally achieve work / life balance?

By not worrying too much about things beyond my control. I have to make sure I’m confident that I’ve done everything I can, and only then can I switch off. There is no point obsessing about things out of your control.


Where would you go if you needed to unwind?

Every day, I try and get out of the office for at least an hour – usually I go swimming. If I really need to unwind I’d put repeats of the Tour de France on and get lost in that.


What qualities do you value most in people?

Honesty, but also the ability to have a bit of fun and not take life too seriously.


What is the best place you’ve ever visited?

Two places, both in Guatemala! Firstly, Semuc Champey – a series of natural, turquoise pools right in the middle of the jungle, close enough to jump between them.  Secondly, Tikal – an ancient Mayan city in the jungle of northern Guatemala. They filmed Star Wars there, and the pyramids are probably the most incredible man-made thing I’ve ever seen.


What is your greatest achievement?

In 2012 I sailed across the Atlantic as First Mate on the Black Dragonfly, a 47-foot sail yacht.


What are you currently reading?

Marching with Caesar by R.W. Peake



If you could spend a day in someone else’s shoes, whose would they be?

Probably Obama. It would be interesting to see how he’s viewing everything that’s going on in the world right now!


What job would you be genuinely terrible at?

Oh, anything to do with cleaning.


What is your signature drink?

Caipirinha – the national cocktail of Brazil!


Who or what always makes you laugh?

Eddie Izzard.


Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Dairy Milk Whole Nut – I actually used to get it shipped out to America when l lived out there because it tasted different!



Sam’s favourite photos!

Sam at High Force Waterwall, County Durham.


Sam sailing a 47-foot Black Dragonfly