About Us

With an expert understanding of their individual specialist sectors, our time-served team members bring a highly personal, consultative and can-do approach to executive search.

Each of us understands the importance of forging relationships built on trust, transparency and teamwork and we are always looking for innovative ways to source and secure the very best leadership talent.


Since inception, many of Scotland’s most influential and leading organisations have put their trust in Aspen People to support their Board and Executive level recruitment campaigns. Over 90% of our clients prefer to retain our professional service, and we are indeed very proud that return to place their faith in us to deliver further recruitment services built on authenticity, action and accountability.


As every successful professional services business knows, word of mouth and referral are fundamental to ensuring ongoing success. That’s why we are delighted that so many of the candidates and clients that we have assisted are prepared to toot our trumpet.

I cannot rate Aspen People highly enough.  I am so very grateful to them, in particular to Debbie and Katy, for all their help and assistance throughout the entire recruitment process.

I would recommend this agency to anyone who is seeking to further their career.

Linda Smith, successful candidate

I’ve known Debbie in a professional capacity for some time now and have no hesitation in recommending her and her team for the professional range of services she delivers. Debbie’s personal style makes her engaging and adds immense value to the relationships that are so key in the professional appointments field. I’ve worked directly with Debbie to secure my current appointment and can assuredly say with no fear of contradiction, how perfectly she matched the requirements she was tasks with from both my perspective and that off the other party. Should you need a highly connected headhunter or senior professionals recruiter, you could do no better than to work with Debbie and her team.

Karen Morrill – Head of Talent (Interim), Student Loan Company

Thank you once again for your amazing support. Our Directors are genuinely grateful for the insight and expertise Aspen brings to the table.

George Houliston – Recruitment Manager, SRUC

Just completed working with Emma on an Executive appointment within my organisation. During our initial conversation through to our successful appointment I found Emma to be highly professional, knowledgeable and extremely competent in her interactions and ability to source a wide range of potential candidates. Emma was easy to deal with, an excellent communicator and was fair and honest in her interactions with me. Emma was able to be flexible to our particular needs and exceeded our expectations of the process, providing a high level of service but also being friendly and helpful throughout. If you have the pleasure of working with Emma I am sure you will say the same.

Debbie Kerr – HR, Borders College

Aspen provided an excellent executive search service for recruitment of a new Director of Customer Services, following a recent senior team restructure.  The whole process was smooth, professional and produced the right result;  a high quality shortlist and an excellent candidate appointed, who is keen and ready to get to work.  Mike’s service was top rate throughout with very good support, advice and insights.

Jason MacGilp – Group Chief Executive, Cairn Housing

Debbie recently assisted us in the recruitment of two high profile senior roles at Scottish Canals. Debbie has a great up to date knowledge of the Executive market in Scotland across a wide range of sectors which was an enormous benefit during our recruitment process. Debbie led and managed the recruitment process professionally from beginning to end, selecting some of the best candidates at that level in Scotland for our consideration. Debbie is highly experienced and knowledgeable in her field, a highly effective and diligent professional that I would have no hesitation in reaching out to for recruitment support in the future.

Denise Miller – Head of People, Scottish Canals

Debbie was very supportive through the recruitment process, taking time to get to know the organisation and candidates. She has great knowledge of the charity sector and this was really valuable throughout the recruitment process. I’d recommend Debbie and the team at Aspen for offering a professional service that delivers considerable value during executive appointments.”

Gail Burden – CEO, Sleep Scotland

“I am delighted to have secured the prestigious role of Scottish EPA Chief Executive. Donogh and his team supported me brilliantly right from the first approach and at every subsequent stage in the process, I was never in doubt. This strategy enabled me to focus on my day job and concentrate on what really mattered.”

Terry A’Hearn – SEPA Chief Executive Officer

“Aspen provided innovative recruitment solutions to ensure the involvement and support of the entire SEPA Agency Board. I was very impressed by Aspen’s service throughout the recruitment process, particularly in identifying a very competitive group of candidates.

“Aspen’s support during the interviews and subsequent discussions throughout the appointment process was invaluable.”

David Sigsworth – SEPA Chair

Nigel Fortnum, Mike Orr and Katy Gall led our efforts to cast our net widely and deeply, supporting all the candidates in their ambition to succeed our CEO.

“Throughout the process their professionalism shone through, developing the talent identification strategy and delivering the recruitment details in equal measure. The outcome? A great result!”

Ross Martin – Link Group Chair

“We received great support from Debbie Shields at Aspen People in our search and appointment of our new Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ron Culley”.

Alice Harper – Quarriers Chief Executive Office

“Social Investment Scotland has now been supported by Donogh O’Brien and his team at Aspen during two cycles of recruitment for a Board Chair and other Trustees.

“During both processes, we have found Aspen’s input to be first rate – not only in terms of their networks and reach, but most importantly allowing us to focus on having quality interactions with candidates.

“We would have no hesitation in recommending Aspen to other charities and social enterprises”

Alastair Davis – Social Investment Scotland Chief Executive

Debbie Shields placed me in a fantastic interim role with Changing Faces. She was informed, helpful and highly skilled at aligning the organisation’s and candidate’s needs. Personally and professionally she was a joy too. I highly commend both her and Aspen.”

Marie McQuade – Changing Faces, UK Charity Consultant and Interim Head of Scotland

“We engaged Aspen to support the search and selection of a new Chief Executive for the Charity and Housing Association. Throughout the process Nigel Fortnum provided wise counsel and support whilst Kelsey Sinclair administered with great care. Aspen generated an impressive list of high quality candidates that more than met our aspirations. We were delighted with the eventual outcome of the process”.

George Lowder MBE – Scottish Veterans’ Residences and Housing Association Chair

“We engaged Aspen to help recruit a Head of Policy. Catriona Mackie and Katy Gall quickly established what we needed and put together a plan to achieve this. Throughout the search process the professionalism and support was first class, coupled with warmth and humour.

“Not only has it been hassle free and value for money, it has resulted in the appointment of a super candidate. I would not hesitate in recommending Aspen to other organisations”.

Harvey Tilley – ILF Scotland Chief Operating Officer

“We have used the services of Aspen over a number of years to assist with our senior level recruitment. Without fail we have been impressed by their understanding of the needs of our unique organisation and the strong field of candidates they always attract. Nigel Fortnum and Kelsey Sinclair have built a very good working relationship with us.”

Alan Laidlaw – RHASS CEO

“Aspen managed the process for recruitment of our new CEO. We were impressed with the efficiency and attention to detail that characterised each stage from advertisement to final appointment.

“We appreciated the quality of the guidance we received and are confident that the successful outcome is right for the Trust”.

Malcolm Noble – Royal Caledonian Education Trust Chairman

“Working with Aspen from the start was a pleasure. Catriona Mackie understood our needs and our sector. Alongside Kelsey Sinclair, she worked with us every step of the way to deliver a very customer focussed process which I would recommend to anyone else looking to work with a recruitment organisation.”

Orla Cochrane – The Conservation Volunteers People and Change Director

I find Aspen to be professional, responsive and reliable. In a recent search they provided value for money, demonstrated a good understanding of the needs of the position and exercised sound judgement on the range of candidates. I valued their assistance from start of the search to the final selection.

Maureen McGinn – Convener, Children in Scotland

With an expert understanding of their individual specialist sectors, our time-served team members bring a highly personal, consultative and can-do approach to executive search.

Each of us understands the importance of forging relationships built on trust, transparency and teamwork and we are always looking for innovative ways to source and secure the very best leadership talent.

About Us

Partnerships & Accreditations


APSCo (The Association of Professional Staffing Companies) is the only membership body dedicated to representing excellence in the professional recruitment industry. Since its founding in 1999 it has grown rapidly to become the authoritative, trusted and innovative voice for the professional recruitment sector, representing organisations and affiliates from sole proprietors and boutiques to international blue-chips.

The APSCo badge is recognised by candidates and employers as the differentiating quality mark in professional talent acquisition.


We are strategic partners of ACOSVO, the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations.   ACOSVO exists to inspire, excel and develop leaders by providing a wide range of topical events, development opportunities and relevant services.



Aspen is proud to be accredited by the Living Wage Foundation. The real Living Wage is the only UK wage rate that is voluntarily paid by 7,000 UK businesses who believe their staff deserve a wage which meets everyday needs – like the weekly shop, or a surprise trip to the dentist.



Cyber Essentials is a Government-backed, industry-supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common online threats. Aspen sees this accreditation as essential reassurance for our clients that our IT is secure against cyber attack.

Professor Lorne Crerar
Non Executive Chairman

As well as leading the Aspen Board of Directors, Lorne is a founding Partner and Executive Chairman of leading law firm Harper Macleod LLP. He has held numerous appointments in the Public Sector including Convener of the Standards Commission and Chair of Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Lorne has carried out a series of independent reviews for Scottish Government across a wide spectrum of disciplines and is an expert in Governance matters.

A keen rugby enthusiast, He was in charge of rugby discipline for Scottish Rugby Union, European Rugby and 6 Nations for many years and was a Judicial Officer in four Rugby World Cups. Lorne is Emeritus Professor of Banking Law at the University of Glasgow and was awarded the prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award “at the Scottish Legal Awards in 2019. On top of this he was appointed a CBE in the 2019 Birthday Honours List for his “Contribution to economic and community development in Scotland”

Catriona Mackie

Originally from Ireland, Catriona moved to Scotland in 1997 to work in the financial services industry before moving into a leadership and management capacity at various public sector tourism agencies. She joined Munro Consulting in 2009 specialising in senior public sector roles and extensively expanded her network into the not for profit and third sectors upon the establishment of Aspen People Ltd in 2012.

She is a qualified Accountant with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and has a Commerce Degree from University College Dublin.

Catriona has worked on numerous CEO and Director level appointments within the Third and Public sectors, in particular the NHS and social care. She also has vast experience of working on Board level appointment of Chairs, Trustees and Non-Executive Directors and in particular, has worked with a number of Boards where advice on recruitment strategy has been required to offer effective, values driven and fair processes. Her passion is for finding candidates with the best cultural match and person fit for an organisation. She is qualified in psychometric assessment and has also been trained in assessment centre design.

“We have used Aspen’s services to recruit twice, for Trustees and a Chief Executive. Both exercises were successful and we were highly impressed by the responsiveness, support and results. In particular, the advice and professionalism of Catriona Mackie, was first class.

“It is evident that Aspen has a strong network and understands the Scottish public sector scene well. I would recommend their services”.

Alastair MacDonald – Victim Support Scotland National Chair

Nigel Fortnum

Having worked right across the UK, including six years in London, Nigel has been a part of the executive search industry since 1994. Born in rural Galloway, where his home remains, his earlier commercial career brought 18 years in Agribusiness, working with some of the leading names of Agrichemicals, Pharmaceuticals and Animal Nutrition, and now provides executives search for clients within this sector. Since helping to found Aspen in 2012, Nigel has developed a specialist niche in Housing, where Aspen has earned a respected market-leading position.

Outside of work, he is a Board Member with Ancho Housing Association, which is a member of the Cairn Group. This enables Nigel to understand what it takes to run an RSL from the inside. He is also asked to provide insight on succession planning and attracting talent to the sector by the SFHA where he is a highly active Associate Member. In addition, Nigel is a mentor with RBS Entrepreneurs and also with Adopt an Intern – which helps develop and grow the next generation of business leaders.

Nigel Fortnum’s enthusiasm, understanding of our needs and insight into the market ensured two successful appointments into business critical roles and a field of strong candidates to choose from.”

Julia Mulloy – Scottish Borders Housing Association Chief Executive

Donogh O’Brien

A co-founder of Aspen in 2012, Donogh is passionate about assisting people and a firm believer in going the extra mile in delivering a professional partnership service to both candidates and clients during and after each executive search campaign. Perhaps not surprisingly he began his career in the professional services sector, initially training as a CA.

Donogh has successfully transferred this industry’s fundamental ethical values of integrity, transparency and trust into the executive experience, adopting the virtues of continuous improvement, added value and generating impact through the provision of governance and leadership appointments within public life.

Since 1995, he has been instrumental in the recruitment of senior individuals to executive and governance board positions across a wide variety of sectors. Donogh holds a joint honours BSc in Chemistry and management studies from Royal Hollow, University of London, he is a proud father & family man, active with outdoor pursuits and a reasonable golfer.

“Having worked successfully with Donogh O’Brien and the team at Aspen a number of times, I would recommend them as one of the “go to” organisations for leadership appointments in Scotland and beyond”

Damien Yeates – Skills Development Scotland Chief Executive

Debbie Shields

As Director, Debbie heads up the Interim and Third Sector divisions of Aspen’s business. She is a highly experienced recruiter with more than ten years experience covering a wide variety of sectors.

For the majority of her career, Debbie has worked with Senior Leadership Teams on key appointments in the Executive and Non Executive space across a broad spectrum of Public, Private and Third Sector organisations. Although she has predominantly worked in Scotland, she has additional experience of working in London.

Debbie has a deep, personal interest in the Non-Profit sector and in particular she possesses a strong commitment to ensuring diversity. She is President of Scottish Women in Business, Chair of the SAY Women charity and in 2020 was appointed as a Trustee of the prestigious Judy Murray Foundation. The latter have a specific vision to bring tennis into rural and disadvantaged areas of Scotland.

Debbie Shields is a highly professional and skilled individual who took great care when supporting me through my journey to become CEO of a remarkable charity. Never too busy to take a call or answer a message, she provided a first class service throughout the recruitment process.

“I cannot thank Debbie enough for her support, guidance and most of all her encouragement.”

Rob Murray – Cancer Support Scotland Chief Executive

Ken Dalgleish
Non Executive Director

One of the best known figures in the Scottish recruitment industry, Ken was a founder of Aspen People in 2012 and continues to act as Strategic Advisor in his capacity as a Non-Executive Board Member. Before entering recruitment he was a Chartered Accountant with international audit experience with KPMG before becoming Finance Director at the adventure clothing brand North Face.

Ken originally entered the recruitment profession in 1989 with London based Norman Broadbent, progressed to Lead Scotland and the Northern Region before launching Munro Consulting Ltd in 1998, which subsequently grew to the largest independent executive search firm in Scotland. Having sold the business, in 2012 he established Aspen People Ltd with his long term colleagues Donogh O’Brien and Catriona Mackie and later led the acquisition of niche recruitment firm, Fortnum Select.

Ken sits on the Board of several charities including Trades House of Glasgow where he is currently Deacon Convener and ‘Third Citizen of Glasgow’ after the Lord Provost and Lord Dean of Guild. Additionally he is Non Executive Finance Director at Robert Burns World Federation.

Melissa Scholes
Client Partner

As a Client Partner within the wider Aspen team, Melissa provides essential support to the business by overseeing and carrying out all project management and administrative tasks relating to recruitment assignments and the administration of tenders.

In addition to performing this function, she provides a quality customer service experience to all internal and external clients in line with Aspen’s long-established vision, values and behaviour framework. Over the course of several years, Melissa has supported individual and multi-recruitment projects for a vast array of public and private sector clients.

CIPD qualified, she also assists with all aspects of GDPR data governance, process control, communications and due diligence, ensuring that these are maintained at the highest quality levels and adding significant added value to our clients.

Katy Gall
Client Partner

As an experienced Client Partner within the Aspen team, Katy supports our Consultants with the administration of each recruitment campaign and is a key point of contact for both clients and candidates.

Her role includes arranging advertising, social media posts, creation of microsites and recruitment videos, as well as the recording and processing of enquiries and applications. Katy also facilitates interviews and assessment days, and carries out checks associated with final offer processes.

Having been with Aspen for many years she has provided support across all of the company’s specialist sectors and a great many of the campaigns Katy has worked on have been at Chief Executive or Director level within Housing, Third Sector, Education and the NHS.  She has been an internal auditor and currently looks after the facilities for our offices.

Kelsey Bettoli
Client Partner

Having joined Aspen in 2014 to take up a graduate role, Kelsey qualified as a PRINCE2 Practitioner in 2016 and has since transitioned to become a key member of the team.

In her role as Client Partner, she supports Aspen’s Consultants and Directors on the administration of recruitment campaigns from the initial research phase to eventual completion. This involves assisting with the administration of tenders, regularly communicating with both clients and candidates as well as organising advertising, social media, microsites and recruitment videos.

In addition, Kelsey arranges candidates assessment days and interviews and provides due diligence for the successful candidates throughout the entire process. She has delivered support across all specialist business sectors and many assignments have been at Chief Executive and Director level within the Public and Third Sectors.

Sarah Shah

With 30+ years of experience, my background and work experience are very varied and covers different aspects of administration and customer service; from working within the voluntary sector to the finance sector. Within these roles, I was able to develop my communication skills, ensuring that I convey sensitive information tactfully, and working in these different environments has allowed me to become flexible and adaptable. Throughout my extensive administrative experience, I have worked with individuals with additional needs, asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants.

I am bilingual and am an empathetic and friendly individual who sincerely enjoys helping others. I hope to bring all my years of experience, knowledge and skills to Aspen People to help provide a great service to everyone.

Mike Orr
Senior Consultant

In his role as Senior Consultant with Aspen, Mike provides recruitment management and Executive Search services to clients, whilst engaging with candidates and industry networks to continuously grow the company’s reach and establish vital connections across a multitude of sectors.

His specialist areas of activity include Social Housing, Infrastructure, Property, Construction and Estate functions across a wide range of client organisations. Mike has delivered assignments across a variety of levels, from development officers to Group CEOs and board members. The common theme is that all are delivered with passion, enthusiasm and great success.

In terms of sectors, Mike has delivered search & selection campaigns for key property and estates functions within HMRC, the NHS, Further Education, Higher Education and the Private Sector.

Kate Kennedy

In her role as Consultant at Aspen People, Kate works on executive search for clients across all our sectors.  She is engaged from the briefing through to the search and sift of candidates.

Prior to her role at Aspen People, Kate worked in the public sector at the Department for Work and Pensions and previously abroad as a teacher. Kate has a Master’s and Undergraduate Degree from UCL and the University of St Andrews.  Kate enjoys working in the Aspen team environment and meeting people from diverse backgrounds looking to make a difference in the public sector.

Lauren Crichton

A recent graduate, Lauren initially joined Aspen People as a Talent Partner and has since progressed to Consultant. As a Consultant at Aspen People, she enjoys meeting with candidates and clients throughout the executive search campaign and is especially keen to build relationships with candidates and clients across sectors.


Prior to her role at Aspen, Lauren completed a master’s degree in Education, Public Policy and Equity at the University of Glasgow and has spent the last five years balancing studying and working in widening participation to higher education. She is particularly passionate about equity and diversity in education. Lauren is keen to build on her previous experience and embrace new challenges at Aspen People.


David Currie
Talent Partner

A passion for people and for relationships brought David to Aspen and to the position of Talent Partner. Working with our team, our clients, and our candidates to deliver tailored executive search campaigns sensitive to the needs of all, David enjoys recruitment as a relationship-driven professional service.

With an M.A. in English Literature, David applies his research skills throughout the recruitment experience: from market mapping and client history through to the search process and into the final placement. He loves the variety working at Aspen affords and enjoys the learning opportunity that comes each new appointment.

David also lived in France for a year to teach English, is an avid golfer, and a qualified badminton coach.

Katharine Price
Associate Director - Research

Katharine is an International Business & Language graduate from Newcastle University. After a successful career in marketing and administration, she joined a leading headhunting firm as a specialist researcher and has now gained over 15 years commercial and international research experience, nearly 10 years of which has been with Aspen. She is adept at conducting senior search assignments both in the UK and in Europe, together with due diligence research, corporate mapping and other related projects such as remuneration surveys.

Katharine has extensive public and private sector experience across all of the major functions and her industry experience includes Higher Education, Local Authority, Housing Associations, Agribusiness, FMCG, Aerospace, Retail, Manufacturing and Professional Services.

Lorraine Porteous
Associate Director - Research (Health & Care)

Lorraine is an Associate Director – Research (Health & Care). Qualifications include an MBA, M.Litt. Middle East & Central Asia Security Studies, also a qualified nurse, midwife and health visitor.

She has over 25 years’ programme leadership experience internationally and in the UK within health and education sectors covering strategic reform, policy design and implementation, health systems strengthening and stabilisation. A confident and diplomatic communicator with excellent networking skills, she has extensive experience working for and with international NGO’s/IGO’s and Governments within Middle East, Central Asia, Afghanistan, North Africa, South Asia, South Pacific and Eastern Europe.

Lorraine provides innovative solutions to complex issues which can solve clinical recruitment shortages. She can build in house capacity where clinical leadership capacity is challenged; her research has helped successfully recruit senior clinicians and candidates at CEO/Director level for Health and Care organisations in Public, Private and Third sectors. She is an Honorary Fellow and Guest Lecturer in the School of Political & Social Science, a member of both the Global Health and Global Development Academies and a mentor for students in the Business School at the University of Edinburgh.

Aileen Baker
Financial Controller

With a BA Degree in Accountancy from Glasgow Caledonian University and in excess of 30 years experience, Aileen is the Financial Controller at Aspen and has worked with the team since 2005. She is responsible for dealing with all aspects of finance within the business. During her extensive career, she has provided accountancy services to a wide variety of companies in various sectors. Aileen is able to draw on skills developed during this time to provide the variety of expertise required to managing the finances of the company as it continues to increase brand awareness, grow and prosper.