Gaines International Names Chicago Office Co-Leader

November 1, 2018 – Shadin Maali has re-joined executive search firm Gaines International as a principal and co-leader of its Chicago location.

She will lead the office with Donna Gaines, who founded the firm and recently returned to the fold as well.

“I am pleased to welcome Shadin back to Gaines International in a new leadership capacity,” said Ms. Gaines, who is managing partner. “Her work ethic, intuitive sense for understanding the goals and passions of others and ability to match organizations to the most advantageous candidates, will make her an asset to both our firm and clients as we execute searches globally.”

Gaines International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Allen Austin, is an executive search and recruiting firm serving the architecture, interior design, engineering, construction and real estate development industries.

In her new role as principal and co-leader, Ms. Maali will be charged with implementing and executing a purpose-driven approach to guide and empower employers and employees to make the best possible hiring decisions for long-term career growth and personal fulfillment, the firm said. She will co-lead the searches for the firm’s architectural/ engineering/ construction clients both domestically and internationally, as well as oversee business development and marketing for the Chicago offices.

Invaluable Knowledge

“Shadin’s experience in the education, healthcare and not-for-profit market sectors have given her invaluable knowledge and insights into unique and distinct work environments and the cultural diversity that exist across all organizations,” said Rob Andrews, chairman and CEO of Allen Austin. “She values building relationships and connecting people to help fulfill mutually beneficial needs, which synergistically aligns with the personal, relationship-driven mission and values at Allen Austin and Gaines International.”

Early in her career, Ms. Maali was the research manager for Gaines International, managing the firm’s databases and generating analytical reports on industry trends. She then took time to raise her children and manage her family’s dental specialty practice. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“It is with great pleasure that I return to Gaines International and work alongside my lifelong mentor, Donna Gaines,” said Ms. Maali. “I am drawn to changing lives for the better, to building healthy and lifelong working relationships that foster a creative and productive work environment and the retained search industry affords just such an opportunity.”

Ms. Gaines returned to the firm as managing partner of the Chicago-based firm this spring. Gaines International was acquired by top 40 management consulting firm Allen Austin four years ago.

New Possibilities

“The growth in the AEC sector in the last several years has opened the door for new and exciting possibilities,” said Ms. Gaines, who left the firm two years ago. “I am thrilled to return home to Gaines International and Allen Austin, and to begin focusing on new initiatives and strategic growth for the company. The opportunities available today for both organizations and individuals are unique and dynamic, and I look forward to furthering the success of the talented people in this creative sphere who ultimately shape culture and society.”

After her departure, Ms. Gaines provided transition coaching services to design firms, assisting in setting up ESOPs, advisory boards, value acceleration programs, valuations and more.


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“Donna is affectionately known as ‘the godmother’ in the AEC industry for her ability to acquire the highest-caliber talent, as well as strategically place individuals in positions best suiting their goals and expertise,” said Rob Andrews, chairman and CEO of Houston-based Allen Austin. “Her success is truly unparalleled. We are excited to welcome her back to a leadership role, and know that as the AEC market is booming, she will once again play a significant role in talent acquisition, career advancement and bottom line success.”

A New Phase

Ms. Gaines started the firm in Atlanta in 1981. With a passion for creative arts and design, she found a niche in the architecture, design, engineering and construction industries and subsequently relocated the firm to Chicago. Gaines International soon became a leading firm, executing more than 3,000 search engagements from project managers to C-suite executives. After three decades at the helm, Ms. Gaines sold the organization to Allen Austin, then stayed on to provide her experience in accounting, research, organizational structure and database management to help expand the firm prior to her transition.

She leads the firm as it begins a new phase of strategic growth in the AEC and related industries. She is expected to split her time between the Chicago, Houston and the East and West Coast offices while serving clients domestically and internationally.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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