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Destination EMBA: Q&A with Alexandra Blum, EMBA ’14

  • Communications
  • |
  • Oct 21, 2014
Destination EMBA: Q&A with Alexandra Blum, EMBA ’14

With a passion to explore the world, the travel and tourism industry is a natural fit for Alexandra Blum, EMBA ’14. Since 2004, Blum has been working in public relations at FRHI (Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel International) Hotels & Resorts. In 2012, she decided to turn to education to further develop and expand her leadership potential by enrolling in Ivey’s Executive MBA program. You may remember Blum from a 2013 video about the Ivey EMBA experience. She completed the program in January, and we followed up with her to see the impact the program has had on her career:

1) Who is Alexandra Blum?

I am the Vice President of Global Public Relations and Partnerships at FRHI Hotels & Resorts and have over 20 years of experience in strategic brand marketing and communications. I am extremely family-oriented and value spending time with my lovely husband and wonderful son as much as possible. With over 110 properties in the FRHI worldwide portfolio, my profession takes me on adventures all over the world and I am fortunate to work for such an amazing organization.

FRHI embodies the same values that many of us strive for: memorable experiences, more time with loved ones and an enhanced quality of life. It’s wonderful to wake up every day and do your utmost to deliver experiences that can affect the lives of our customer so profoundly. Whenever I can, I love to take my family with me on my travels.

2) Tell us about your career path so far

With over 20 years of strategic marketing experience, I began my career in the publishing world, working at many national media players, including Rogers Media.  My career path led me to create and lead teams in new business development, strategic partnerships, advertising and public relations.  I started at FRHI in 2004 and I am currently responsible for developing and leading the company’s global communications strategy and managing our worldwide partners.

3) When did you start thinking it was time for your Executive MBA? Why?

I decided to pursue my EMBA as a result of looking to inspire new thinking and to view business dynamics through a different lens. The Ivey Business School is home to one of the most renowned and high-performing Executive MBA programs in the country.  Ivey looks at the business industry through a distinct lens and through the case method, it provides its candidates with extensive and comprehensive business fundamentals and core knowledge, paired with leadership skills to ensure its graduates stand out in the business world – that framework was the perfect fit for me.

4) What was the highlight of the program for you?

The program constantly inspired me and was filled with so many highlights.  One in particular was learning to utilize new approaches to strategic business thinking in the workplace. I frequently applied the business frameworks and best practices featured in the cases upon leaving the classroom and it had such a positive effect on the teams that I manage. It allowed me to inspire new thinking and creativity while I was in the program.

5) What was the biggest challenge?

Balancing my career, education and a personal/family life can be challenging, but I was able to manage through it. The flexibility of the program helped a lot. I was able to fulfill all of my additional responsibilities outside of the classroom including being a mother, wife and friend to the people closest to me, without compromising my studies and my enjoyment of the program. Additionally, the support of my Ivey peers, who were all in similar situations, made the experience much more manageable.  

6) Now that you’ve completed the program, how do you feel you’ve changed from start to finish?

I’ve embraced so many new key learnings and skills and have been so fortunate to utilize these into my life on a daily basis. Strategic thinking and accompanying frameworks have been at the forefront of my learning throughout my Executive MBA.  I believe that the program has opened my mind to a broader set of factors and implications that need to be addressed when developing global business strategies.

7) How has your work changed?

The EMBA program has allowed me to take a step back and strategically evaluate a situation and its objectives with a more powerful lens. I like to think of it as exchanging great eye glasses for a microscope. You see things differently.

Through the business fundamentals taught at Ivey, I was able to embrace new leadership skills and share key learnings with my team, which has been a great benefit to us all.  My new senior role at FRHI has kept me very busy since graduation, but I was able to embrace all the new challenges of the job with new confidence and a powerful set of skills.

8) What advice would you give an executive only a few years into his or her career?

It is never too early to further develop your skills. I encourage young executives to seek out as many opportunities as possible, ask questions and to embrace change. We all face challenges, but maintaining a positive attitude, being open minded and compassionate and having a great work ethic goes a long way.

And pick the right partner in life – you are going to need them.