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At Fairmont, happy employees lead to satisfied customers Add to ...

Alexandra Blum is executive director of brand development and global partnerships at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts . She has held the position for seven years.

What’s your background and education?

My background is media. I started in the publishing industry. Very early in my career I had a global scope, which really benefited me, working for a brand like Fairmont, which is expanding rapidly around the world.

I have an honours bachelor of arts with a major in English and minor in philosophy from McMaster. Then I went to Ryerson and took their business management certificate program.

How did you get to your position?

Our senior vice-president of human resources, Carolyn Clark, approached me through a mutual friend.

I came to Fairmont pregnant and I worked part-time. I went and had my child and they held a position open for me and I was able to come back working three days a week for a considerable period of time. It’s a wonderful environment that really cultivates balance.

What’s the best part of your job?

The ability to create global programs from scratch, rapidly prototype them, refine them and launch them beginning to end, and be able to see the positive results of those programs.

What’s the worst part of your job?

The ebbs and flows of global travel is something that I have to balance, and that requires a very supportive husband, which I have, thank God, and an incredibly well-organized home front. You can never have too much help.

What are your strengths?

I think that since I’ve been a mother, I’m a much better boss. I have such an engaged team who are truly happy and feel very positively about what they’re doing. I think that I’ve been able to create an environment where people do their best work, and Fairmont, the culture, allows me to do that.

Our training options for our young employees are extraordinary. And I encourage them to have a plan every year, and take full advantage of it. Some bosses would say that’s lost productivity on the actual work side, but they come back so engaged and motivated that it pays off in spades. I’ve been able to attract a lot of great talent and also get the best from them.

What are your weaknesses?

Sometimes we have to do more sitting back and reflecting. Perhaps the be all and end all is not always to be so focused on where you’re going but how to bring people with you along for the journey and have them be as invested as you are. I don’t always get that right.

What was your best career move?

Coming to Fairmont. As a working mother, I am doing the best work of my career and that’s largely due to the phenomenal corporate environment at Fairmont. I’ve been very lucky in my career to work for great employers and great bosses, and I’ve also had a healthy dose of the opposite, so I know what it feels like to have good and bad.

It’s great to be a part of such a rapidly growing, global organization. There aren’t a lot of those in Canada.

Are there any career moves you regret?

Going into an organization that didn’t reflect my personal attributes. You really need to scrutinize the leadership in an organization before going there and that’s a very difficult thing to do until you’re in it. I would say that my worst career move was staying too long in an organization that I knew was counter to my own personal beliefs.

What’s your next big job goal?

China is a huge opportunity for our company and I’m spending a lot of time there and a lot of time developing partnerships in that part of the world. That’ll be a big focus for me.

We have the best year planned: 2012 will be by far the most exciting year for us in global partnerships. We have so many industry firsts happening and we’re so excited about bringing those to life in North America, in Europe, in Asia and the Middle East.

What’s your best advice?

Stay in school for as long as you can afford to. Get a graduate degree. Supplement your university with a college degree, even if it’s for one year, in a specialty area. And then set your sights on getting hired by one of Canada’s top employers.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Dianne Nice is the Careers & Workplace Web Editor.

If you know a Canadian executive with an interesting career, contact Globe Careers .

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Follow on Twitter: @diannenice

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