We are thrilled to continue our Humans of Aspire series with an amazing person, Alexandra Fasola. She is our 2022 Aspire Professional Alumna. She completed her Bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering and Management at Jacobs University Bremen and her MBA at SDA Bocconi and Duke University-The Fuqua School of Business.
1. What are you working on right now (both on a personal and professional level)?
I am currently part of the Strategy and M&A Team at Heidelberg Materials, one of the largest cement and construction material manufacturers in the world. Day to day, I am involved in sell-side and buy-side transactions for the Group ($50m-$1bn EV), as well as strategic projects, for example, achieving our CO2 targets by 2030. I report directly to the Head of Strategy and M&A, working in a relatively small team for such a large company. This means I have a broad and diverse view on the company’s strategic and financial initiatives. Working closely with Country Managers on local initiatives is also a very exciting part of my job.
Currently, I dedicate my free time to a very dear project to me: mentoring for young professionals. I have done it constantly since I entered my first job, whether with Jacobs University students, Bocconi students or even former interns/team members. Recently, I have attended a “Speed mentoring” activity with the Bocconi Alumni community in Frankfurt, and I remembered how much energy I get from talking to aspiring professionals, how enriching it is support them in reaching their goals and to have this exchange. I decided to do it in a more formal way, together with other Bocconi Alumni – currently working on building a platform, open to everyone – should be up by December, stay tuned!
Other than that, given my passion for music and opera in particular (I studied for a second Bachelor’s degree in opera singing) – like every summer, I am looking forward to seeing a few special productions this August as well: Traviata at the impressive Arena di Verona and Madame Butterfly at Bergenzer Festspiele, on a stage built on the lake.
2. What do you consider your best achievement is?
I would say it’s hard to choose, since I am a generally an optimistic and dedicated person – where I am today could be my best achievement to date – however, it is an ever-moving target.
If I had to choose an important achievement that I am especially proud of in my professional life, I would say that my MBA at SDA Bocconi and Duke Fuqua is a very important one, for 2 reasons: (1) it allowed me to make a considerable advancement in my career and get me to where I am currently and (2) it was a leap that I accomplished with limited personal financial resources, but with willpower, discipline, creativity and support from my network.
To put things into perspective: I was working in consulting in Bucharest, on quite intense projects (“putting in the hours” as one would say in consulting slang), mainly with multinationals based in Bucharest, but let’s say that financially it was not sufficient to put me into an international and prestigious MBA program. So, I decided to invest in myself and put in place an aggressive personal and financial plan. I could only afford to take the GMAT exam once (so I had to nail it on the first try) and apply to 4 Business Schools. The plan worked, I got in to 3 out of 4 schools (Oxford Said, Cambridge Judge and SDA Bocconi), all of them with a scholarship. In the end, I decided for SDA Bocconi, where I was awarded a full Tuition scholarship from BCG, as well as the opportunity to study for a semester abroad at Duke Fuqua – which turned out to be one of the most enriching periods of my MBA student life.
I guess I could define myself as the underdog who dared to dream.
Above all, I believe in having willpower, a well-crafted plan, discipline, and sacrifice. This experience helped me realize that investing in yourself pays off, and that there is no limit in what one can achieve, for themselves and for the organization they work with, especially if one has the right resources to manage.
3. What does Aspire mean to you?
Inspiration, excellency, motivation, rewards. During the year, when I am not attending one of the 2-3 Global Weekends with Aspire Alumni, it helps to know that I am part of a network of talented people that I can learn from, inspire and get inspiration from. I love to bounce ideas with Aspire members, I even share a Blinkist account with one of them – we tend to listen to the same audio books.
I am looking forward to end of July, refreshing those interesting connections and with new opportunities to outgrow myself.
4. How do you feel Aspire impacted your personal & professional growth?
It is motivating to see that there are so many like-minded people from a diversity of fields, and that together we can make a meaningful impact on the world around us.
The ideas that are being shared when we meet 3-4 times a year are very actual, and this gives me the opportunity to stay well-connected and informed, but also to choose the areas where my efforts will have the most impact. At the same time, I feel better, knowing that someone somewhere in the world, most likely someone that I know, is working on one of the major Global Challenges of today, and I can either support or reach out and learn from them.
5. What is the most treasured memory you have from Aspire?
The days of the Aspire Professional Program were quite intense for me and led to a shift in my perspective towards the end of the program. My most cherished memory is during the last day of Aspire Professionals 2022, but the build up until there is important: initially, I went to Brasov hopeful and participated in elevating sessions on: Redefining charisma, Public speaking and influence, Sustainability, What it takes to be a leader, Storytelling, 21st century skills. During every break, during lunch and dinner, I got the opportunity to speak to Steve Jarding, Sam Potolicchio, Suzana Carp, Ciprian Stanescu or Dani Oros about topics that interest me the most: leadership in business and politics, climate change, future of tech. Every evening, I got to bounce ideas with very interesting, like-minded individuals. On the last day of the program, I was exhausted, in a very good way.
Steve Jarding held the closing speech during Aspire Professionals 2022. We had familiarized ourselves in the past days to the idea that leaders who have an impact can come from every background, every nationality. At some point, we all watched the video with Obama’s speech after the shootings in Newtown. The background is that Obama was advised to use the opportunity for his campaign but chose not to. By not exploiting an event to turn it into a personal gain, he showed integrity and ethics, two leadership traits that I stand by and aspire to further cultivate myself. In the video, Obama is tearing, speaking as a parent and president, not vice versa. His speech and actions define the kind of leader Obama is, a kind of leader most of us would aspire to be.
I got very emotional, and I remember thinking of my own journey into leadership, and how the experiences in the last years had shaped me: I had studied at 3 international universities on 2 continents, lived and worked in 4 countries, and I spoke 5 languages. Not to mention the immense personal and professional experience I had gathered. The only way from there is up.
I left the program feeling very inspired and hopeful about my future and our future as humankind in general.
This time I am going to Brasov with high expectations. And I know that I won’t be disappointed – looking forward to it!