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Alexa Joyce is an MBA graduate of Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, which she attended in 2000. She now works as senior corporate development manager at European Schoolnet, a network of ministries of education from 30 European countries, where her role is to build and develop partnerships in education, entrepreneurship, science and technology. She has also edited and authored policy documents such as the Schoolnet/Cisco white paper on Women and ICT.

In her spare time, Ms Joyce enjoys Italian cinema, playing computer games and listening to Indian classical music. She also has a masters degree in biological science from the University of Oxford.

1. Who are your business influences?

I admire Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard for their amazing success in a very masculine domain. I was also impressed recently when I saw Jennifer Correiro speak – she founded TakingITglobal, a charity helping young people connect and work together to solve social problems. These kinds of activities are great in inspiring young people to see the value of technology in society.

2. Why did you choose to do an MBA?

In my working life, I started to win small contracts with various clients and ended up running them as a reward for having successfully pitched and negotiated them. At that point I thought it was important I took up business administration, especially project and budget management, rather than just play it by ear.

3. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

Don’t worry about problems along the way to a goal or get too concerned about setbacks – how you deal with them is much more important and they can be great opportunities to change for the better.

4. What is the strangest thing you have ever done when studying?

As an undergrad, I created a fluorescent mindmap that covered the whole of my bedroom, including every topic of my degree, complete with cartoons to help memorise names and dates. It actually looked pretty cool and I still have it in a box at home.

5. What would you do if you were dean of a business school for the day?

I would probably inject more technology into business school curricula, as well as corporate social responsibility. In some parts of Europe, there has been a trend away from tech-related courses at business school, but tomorrow’s leaders really need a thorough understanding of technology to achieve the most in the business world. Tech applications – and developing e-skills for every employee of a business - are critical to making productivity gains and achieving competitive advantage.

6. What advice would you give to women in business education?

Stick at it and go with your instincts. If you face resistance, it doesn’t mean you are wrong, it just means you need to argue your case harder and find the right levers to pull. Often, the best ideas are those that face a lot of resistance in the beginning. Lobbying skills can go a long way – get others on board with your ideas and give them a feeling of ownership – then your objectives become the objectives of others too.

7. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

Laugh off any sexism and don’t take machismo too seriously. I also find that it’s best to put aside the depressing statistics about women in business and think of oneself as an exception to the rule. It’s important to remember that statistics always reflect the past and that strong women still have time to change the present and the future. The next generation may not be the same.

8. What is the worst job you have ever had?

As a student, I had a job programming fax distribution software to mass distribute faxes – either “fax spam” with special offers or financial news wires like Asahi Shimbun to be sent out overnight when phone charges were lower. The newswires weren’t too bad but the spam was pretty soul destroying – especially when you arrived in the office in the morning to lots of upset faxes from people complaining they were awoken at 3am by the fax machine beeping away in their home office.

9. What is your favourite business book?

I don’t have a particular favourite, I tend to turn to different books to get ideas to solve problems I’m facing. Some which stand out for me though are Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, Robin Sharma’s The Leader Who Had No Title and the classic treatise on the internet, The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid.

10. What are your future plans?

I’ve mostly worked in the public sector so I’d like to go to the other side of the table to work on similar issues but from a commercial perspective, preferably in the tech sector. From a personal point of view, I’d like to strike a good balance between career and family – thankfully technology makes this much easier than in the past.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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