Alexandra Birchall
Cambridge University, '14

 

Alexandra Birchall is probably one of MBI’s most well-traveled managers.  Prior to joining the company, “I played bridge internationally (and have continued to do so whilst working at MBI), which has given me the opportunity to travel to many different countries and meet people from all around the world.”  So it is singularly appropriate that being in charge of the new Digital Marketing channel for MBI UK, which includes taking the responsibility for the running of their website, Alexandra works closely with her counterparts “across the pond” at MBI US, learning from their Digital experience.

“This collaborative nature enables me to grow the Digital business much faster than I would be able to if I had to rely only on UK experience alone (although UK testing and learning is still an important part of the role). In addition, I have to work closely with the other product management groups when choosing products to market digitally, as well as working with IT, Finance and Operations to address the practical implications of marketing via a completely new channel. These opportunities have enabled me to have a visible impact on the company, and it’s very satisfying to see the Digital results grow!”

“Having the opportunity to build the department up from scratch was hugely exciting, and we now market heavily on Facebook, as well as using paid search and e-mail marketing.” Alexandra also benefits from straddling the online and offline worlds:  “I still have some involvement with offline marketing, mainly by taking on some of the marketing plan-writing during our busiest periods, and I think that this is important because it lets me stay involved with all areas of the business, which helps me to understand processes and take on projects to improve the way they run.”

The leap into that brave new world was also a leap of faith in her:  “When we first started marketing on Facebook, we did so via an agency. However, I felt that it would be more effective if we brought it in-house, despite having no prior experience of Digital Marketing, as we would be able to be more opportunistic and have more control over the testing and learning process. I got approval to run it myself rather than via the agency. The fact that MBI gave me the opportunity to take responsibility for this despite my inexperience reflects the emphasis they put on developing staff to reach their potential.”

Globe-trotter Alexandra knows that the Earth is not flat, but MBI’s organisational structure definitely is, with its “focus on moving the business forward regardless of the staff member’s level of experience. This offers more opportunities for growth for both the business and individuals. In addition, we have a collaborative approach where managers take responsibility for their own work, but can share knowledge and work together on challenges (both within MBI UK and with MBI US). This lets us tackle bigger challenges than if we worked alone. MBI focuses on developing managers to reach their potential.”

The road to MBI taught her as much about what she didn’t want as what she did want out of a career:  “I took a graduate Operations Management position at an online supermarket, but quickly found that, whilst I enjoyed the people management side, it didn’t give me the opportunity to make changes and have an impact on the company. Yet I learned to ask lots of questions and think about the best strategy to achieve tangible results, and was used to balancing study and extracurricular activities, which equipped me for a varied role where there are often several projects running at once.”

Alexandra’s role within MBI has evolved considerably:  “As a new manager, I started out running the Cat and Dog categories of products. This included working with Product Development and suppliers, writing marketing plans, analysing results, and writing advertising copy for mailings and media ads. During the first two weeks, I met with a wide variety of people to learn about their roles and how everything fits together. I then started working on running my category, with guidance from my manager. Learning on the job rather than from theory meant that it was easier to get to grips with it from day one.”

Of course, the fast pace and diverse responsibilities never change: “I usually have lots of projects running alongside each other, as the success of Digital depends on a variety of IT, Marketing and Operational factors, including the product mix and approach to campaign-building, our website functionality, and the quality of our customer service.” But Alexandra’s life is not all work with no play, and her fondness for games extends far beyond the bridge table.  “I enjoy semi-regular board game nights with colleagues. A favourite is War of the Ring (a Lord of the Rings-based strategy game).”

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