Meet the Team

Nicole Underwood

Nicole Underwood knows what it takes to create, build and grow a successful consulting firm. She has worked with hundreds of clients, coached her fair share of Consultants and placed hundreds of professionals into their dream job. Her desire to achieve and drive herself and others to greater levels of success just seems to be part of her DNA.

Nicole’s work ethic was instilled in her from an early age from her parents, both school teachers in the Barossa Valley. At age 15, Nicole was “encouraged” to get a part-time job at the local department store and earn her own way. This journey continued throughout high school and her university years with Nicole independently purchasing her first property in Norwood at age 19.

After graduating from the University of South Australia with a Degree in Management (Marketing & HR), Nicole launched her recruitment career in Adelaide with a small local agency as an Account Manager. It wasn’t until she was hired by Greg Savage and Ross Clennett to establish the Adelaide office of the highly successful firm Recruitment Solutions that she knew she had found her true calling. It was this experience that inspired her love for building a business, leading high performance teams and consulting with organisations to find them the best talent in the market.

In 2001, Nicole was headhunted to set up a new business in the Adelaide market at age 23. Nicole founded Entrée Recruitment in 2001 and rapidly built the company to achieve sales in excess of $3million in its first year of operation. This opportunity proved Nicole had what it took to build and grow a highly successful recruitment firm.

In 2002 and again in 2008, Nicole’s business and leadership achievements were formally recognised by the Telstra Business Women Awards. As a dual Finalist in the Young Business Women of the Year and the Private and Corporate Sector Award, Nicole lists these awards as a strong highlight of her corporate career.

In 2005, Nicole was asked to deliver a keynote presentation by CPA Australia for their Women’s Committee on her story of success. This sell-out event at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, spurred Nicole’s passion for public speaking and she has since spoken at a range of events for the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI), The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAA), The University of South Australia and The Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC).

In 2007, Nicole had her first child, a daughter Charlie. She was determined to lead from the front and demonstrate to other females that family and business success can co-exist, especially at an executive level. This journey proved successful with her second child arriving in 2009 and Nicole supporting a large number of women in her business to achieve the same balance

Nicole launched her blog “recruitment retention results” in 2010 incorporating her views on all things people, leadership and performance. Her blog is regularly published, read, re-tweeted and commented on nationally by industry and business leaders across the HR and recruitment community. It was through this outlet that Nicole discovered she had a calling to embrace her ambitions of owning her own business.

17 years since establishing that start-up, Nicole has harnessed her entrepreneurial spirit in the creation of an innovative business model with a holistic approach to executive search and talent management. Her view of the business world is centered on her people first philosophy. The creation of values that guide behaviors and high performance is at the core of establishing a sustainable and profitable business. Look after your people first, the clients will love the service and the numbers will look after themselves.

Nicole is a Fellow (FRCSA) and member for the RCSA (Recruitment Consultant Services Association) in South Australia. The RCSA is the leading industry and professional body for the recruitment and human resources services sector, with over 3,800 members.

Nicole’s love for business is balanced with her first love – family. She lives in Adelaide with her two children Charlie and William.

Vanessa Jones

Vanessa Jones is driven by delivering results. She is a natural high achiever who gains enjoyment from client and stakeholder engagement. Over her career, she has proven her ability to build positive working relationships and consult across various levels and disciplines with the communication skills and knack of winning people over.

Vanessa moved to Adelaide from a small town on the Eyre Peninsula (Cowell) to study a Bachelor of Business (Commercial Law). After completing her degree, she worked at Aged Care and Housing Group Inc (ACH Group), as an Executive Assistant to the General Manager Health and Community Services and to the General Manager Housing and Property. Progressing to this level saw her become their “right hand person” where she was trusted with a range of responsibilities and projects to assist the executive team. Being mentored by two highly impressive professionals in their respective fields was a career highlight, where Vanessa learnt the lessons of personal responsibility, effective communication and project management. Through her results and capacity to learn, Vanessa won a further opportunity with ACH in the procurement department to build on her legal and compliance knowledge, where she specialised in contract management.

A desire to expand her existing skillset and an aspiration to pursue a leadership career, Vanessa completed a Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management at the University of South Australia. She completed her degree with Golden Key accreditation and this was the moment she knew that a career influencing and leading people was her true path.

Her first opportunity to branch out from the corporate world into consulting presented itself with the Management Consulting Advisory firm, BRS, where she was involved with specific projects and consulting bids within the infrastructure, government and resources industries.

Vanessa joined Underwood Executive in 2017 where she feels she is putting her passion into practice. She is excited to be part of a consultancy dedicated to finding high performers and consulting with companies who put their people first. In her role, Vanessa builds specialised talent communities, engages with executive talent and supports executive search and recruitment campaigns with her research and analytical skills.

Vanessa lives in Adelaide with her partner Sean, daughter Tilly and their cat Wellington.

Nikki Hentschke

Nikki Hentschke is an experienced HR professional with over 15 years experienced gained in the Adelaide market in generalist HR positions across consumer, local government, infrastructure and aged care. A passion for business partnering and empowering leaders to get the best out of their people, Nikki has forged her career with the philosophy of seeing the best in individuals and working with their strengths.

Her foray into a people and culture career commenced early within local government, where she cut her teeth supporting a HR team. This is when she first discovered the human resources career path and followed this desire with further HR and Management studies at the University of South Australia. A love for learning and continued interest in studying human behaviour led Nikki to become accredited in GeneSys Integrated Assessment and Hogan Assessment Tools. These extra skills allowed Nikki to complement and expand her recruitment experience including profiling high performance teams and understanding the key drivers for their success.

After 6 years with rail provider, TransAdelaide where Nikki moved through a range of HR roles, she was appointed to her first leadership role as the HR Manager of aged care provider LifeCare. Working closely with the CEO, Nikki formed part of the LifeCare leadership team. A successful 3 years saw her master the art of building working relationships across various functional teams and working on a cultural change program, involving a redevelopment of company values and behaviours. One of her career highlights, Nikki loved providing coaching and advice to leaders across employee relation, awards and agreement interpretation, recruitment and selection and various HR programs and initiatives.

2013 saw Nikki take a risk and spread her wings beyond the Adelaide market. Nikki took an opportunity to move overseas and live and work in Belfast, Northern Ireland where some of Nikki’s family still lived. Winning a role as a HR Investigator for the Northern Irish Civil Service, Nikki further developed her critical thinking and problem solving skills in a fast paced and unforgiving environment.

Returning to Australia, Nikki entered the dynamic world of consumer/retail with Kmart Australia as the HR Advisor for South Australia. This role provided first hand support, coaching and mentoring to 15 stores and their associated management teams. A fast paced role, there was never a dull moment with the pressure of a sales and performance based business.

Nikki has been a key part of the Underwood Executive team for over two years. She is thrilled to be using her generalist HR knowledge coupled with her business partnering skills, working with C-suite clients to help raise the bar of their existing talent and to improve leadership capability.

Rachel Norman

What matters to Rachel is people and their success. She is passionate about working with others to fulfil their potential by coaching and developing them through their career journey. Resilient, focussed and driven, Rachel has led teams over the past five years, so she knows first-hand the importance of hiring the right people and the impact of recruiting, engaging and retaining the best talent.

Rachel has worked in the banking and financial services industry for over 12 years, spending the majority of her time working with executives and high net worth clients at ANZ Private Bank. In these leadership roles, she served the needs of highly sophisticated clientele, becoming their trusted advisor through various financial, business and personal matters. She continuously delivered on a range of requests whilst ensuring an exceptional, high-touch client experience. Her technical skills spanned credit risk, transactional banking, financial planning and wealth management services.

Rachel’s ability in coaching and developing emerging talent in the Bank became known, landing Rachel a multi-geographical senior leadership role, bringing together the South Australian and Western Australian lending businesses. This included driving all the recruitment, training and performance management needs of the team; and she critically reviewed and approved multi-million-dollar lending transactions.

Due to the failing health of a family member, Rachel decided to take a career break at the end of 2018 to be a Carer. She also used this time to strategically add value to the community, volunteering across a wide range of causes and investing in the lives of people around her. Rachel then took some much-needed time out to travel, visiting her extended family across the world.

Rachel’s year of reflection has helped cement in her mind that people are the lifeblood and motivation behind everything she does. This passion, combined with her natural coaching skills, have led her to undertake formal coaching qualifications, so she can maximise people’s professional and personal potential. She sees executive search as the place to hone her passion for taking talent further, and is really excited about joining Underwood Executive!

Mily Nielsen

Mily Nielsen’s driving force is to contribute to other people’s success. It’s her genuine desire to deliver and support others that has facilitated strong professional bonds and networks, as well as forged Mily a rich and varied career.

Starting in administrative support roles in her early twenties, Mily was exposed to a vast number of different industries and has relished being the “go to person” for these key decision makers and business owners. Over this time, she developed a keen interest in leadership styles, business ethics and formed the firm belief that the key behind a successful business is its people.

Working in executive support roles for over a decade, Mily moved into a project coordination role within education, with the University of South Australia. This afforded Mily the opportunity to be exposed to, and work closely with, a variety of organisations, leaders and industry experts.

Mily’s broad career experience, as well as her unique position as being the “right hand” to a range of successful executives, gives her an advantage in understanding different industries, roles and career paths.

Joining Underwood Executive in 2019, Mily balances her analytical mind, attention to detail and project management skills with intuition, and she expects the best from not just herself, but everyone around her.

An Adelaide girl, born and bred, Mily enjoys spending time with her four-year-old daughter, Asta, who herself, incidentally, also has some impressive executive leadership skills!

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