Fiona McBride, BCom ’84: Destined for New York

August 12, 2015 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Gordon Pitts, DeGroote Writer in Residence

This article is part 1 of a 4-part series.

Wall Street. Madison Avenue. Broadway.

These legendary streets run through the heart of Manhattan. They also evoke the maddening, thrilling spirit of New York City, the epicenter of global finance, advertising and entertainment.

Success in this city is the crowning touch of a career, the confirmation of Frank Sinatra’s line from his classic tune New York, New York, “If If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

McMaster graduates have made it there, and they have done it by embracing the city — its good and its bad — and riding the waves of change in an intensely competitive world.

Fiona McBrideThe player: Fiona McBride was a top university tennis player at McMaster when she studied for her bachelor of commerce degree in the 1980s. The sports experience stoked her competitive fires; her business training helped nurture skills in teamwork and collaboration.

Both came in handy for a career in advertising – and they were particularly suited for her last dozen years in New York City, the home of those 1960s-era Mad Men and, now, one smart woman from Hamilton, Ontario.

“I wanted all my life to be in New York,” says McBride, in her office off Times Square in Manhattan, where she is managing director of APR Consulting, which consults to companies on how to best marshal their advertising production resources.

The daughter of doctors, McBride was born in Edinburgh and spent her early years in London, before the family emigrated to Canada, where her father was a founding professor of McMaster’s medical school. As she advanced through business school and a career in Canada, she became fascinated with the energy and pace of New York. She attended tennis’s U.S. Open in New York, and she worked for ad agencies that often had New York offices, and so the romance continued.

She was working in Toronto for the global agency BBDO when the agency’s New York CEO called her out of the blue. “We have a client here that could use your help,” he said — and that client was YUM brands, owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and a bunch of food labels. She made it to the Big Apple and she embraced the city and her job, while taking on some big accounts with multinational businesses.

Now comfortably settled with a home on the Upper East Side, she maintains family and work ties to Canada — her duties including running APR’s Canadian business. She has flourished in New York, but she has no illusions it is always that easy. “It can be a hard city and I know people who have come and left because it has been too hard to navigate here. But I knew what I was getting into.”

Fiona McBride, BCom ’84 is the managing director of APR Consulting. You can read her leadership advice here and here. This was part one of a four-part series.


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