Workday with Rollins

A Workday with Alexandra (Smith) Rollins, ’16

Uniting leaders in hopes of tackling the world’s biggest challenges is all in a day’s work at the World Economic Forum.

Bringing together unlikely parties to collaborate on global initiatives is a nuanced job. It requires empathy, relationship building, and strategy—all skills that Alexandra (Smith) Rollins, ’16, uses daily as a community lead at the New York office of the World Economic Forum. Though the Switzerland-based international organization is best known for its Annual Meeting of global leaders in Davos, its broader mission is to improve the state of the world by fostering cooperation across borders and forging collaboration between the public and private sectors. Blending her consulting background with her Booth education, Rollins helps make these high-level conversations happen. “It’s truly amazing to hear firsthand the optimism and concerns of major global CEOs as they relate what’s happening in our world today,” she said.

7 AM I do a quick scan of my emails when I wake up. My Europe-based team members have already been online for a few hours, so I want to be aware of any issues before heading into work.

Workday Out for a walk with Lady Bird

7:30 AM I walk our puppy, who’s named after Lady Bird Johnson—a strong Texas woman with a fiery spirit who used her role as first lady to promote the conservation and beautification of our country. She’s known for saying, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope,” which I always felt was a great way to look at the world around us. As Texans living in New York, my husband, Brody, and I chose a name that reminded us of home.

8 AM It’s a 30-minute walk to work. I grab yogurt, granola, and an iced coffee on the way to the Forum’s New York office by Grand Central station.

I often circle back to professor Linda Ginzel’s course on negotiation. She always said, ‘You don’t get what you don’t ask for.’

Alexandra (Smith) Rollins

8:30 AM I have my first call of the morning, with some of my European colleagues. The strategic partnerships team is distributed between New York and our Geneva headquarters, so my mornings are usually stacked with back-to-back meetings. About 120 companies are strategic partner members, the highest level of membership of the Forum. I manage 10 companies in the mobility, logistics, and energy space.

9:30 AM Our annual fall summit on innovation, science, and technology is fast approaching. My coworker and I discuss the agendas for those in our portfolio that are attending. It’s important that our C-level executives’ time is well spent. We look for opportunities to introduce them to other executives, government ministers, and public figures who share common objectives.

Workday At the Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland

11 AM All 20 people on the strategic partnerships team gather to discuss revisions to the master agenda for Davos 2019, which will take place in late January. With so many CEOs and global executives attending, a great deal of planning goes into making the experience meaningful and successful for all participants.

12:30 PM My colleagues and I grab sandwiches from a bodega nearby, and then we eat together back at the office. This is part of the European culture that’s infused throughout the organization. It’s rare to see people eating lunch at their desks.

1:30 PM I love having afternoons to tackle more challenging deep-work tasks. Today I’m reviewing a contract in detail to identify potential tax implications. All Forum events have certain CO2 emissions standards, and one of the partners in my portfolio has lent us a few of its vehicles. I have to ensure the vehicles meet those requirements.

2:45 PM An executive in my portfolio would be a great fit to speak on a cyber-resilience and cybertrust panel at an upcoming event. Every Forum panel is thoughtfully designed to bring forth diverse perspectives. I will have to make a strong case for what she can contribute to the conversation. Much of my work entails advocating internally for my partners. I often circle back to professor Linda Ginzel’s course on negotiation. She always said, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”

5:30 PM Toward the end of the day, I create tomorrow’s to-do list. One of my partners just made a big acquisition, which shifts my priorities. Though strategy involves planning ahead, I also need to stay cognizant of big events, shifts, or sudden organizational changes in our partners’ organizations.

7 PM After work, I head to yoga. Brody and I are expecting our first baby in October, so this is a great way to stay active. I’ll pick up a prepared meal for dinner on my way home.

10 PM I take a late call with a colleague in Beijing. Because most of my Europe-based team is asleep, evenings are typically pretty quiet work wise. But I can expect plenty in my inbox waiting for me in the morning.

—As told to Betsy Mikel