Alum catapults from MBA to senior VP at Sony
Elicia Felix-Hughey, senior vice president of HR for Sony Music Publishing and MBA ’11, doesn’t just casually scroll through today’s news while drinking her morning coffee.
For Felix-Hughey, staying up to date on all the latest news in 20+ countries is just the start of her work day. Whether it’s civil unrest in South America, flooding in Germany, or a global pandemic, Felix-Hughey is responsible for the safety, security, and well-being of every employee in Sony’s publishing division.
She describes her role pre-COVID as taking a company through an HR process and culture overhaul. She’s an expert at creating a more automated and innovative culture. From an HR perspective, change initiatives are typically adopted in about three to five years.
While Felix-Hughey credits her Johns Hopkins MBA for providing the skills to become an HR executive, the path to senior management wasn’t always so clear. She originally planned to pursue a master’s degree in human resources. When her then manager asked her about her long-term goals— to be an impactful business leader who can affect change— she began considering an MBA.
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An MBA for aspiring HR executives
Felix-Hughey realized she needed a holistic view of business practices and operations to make it to the top.
“I needed a holistic view of business to grow and become the business leader I am today,” said Felix-Hughey. “I understand why technology is important. I understand strategy, finance, and legal. You have these really important pieces of this bigger puzzle to consider. And I strongly believe if you are going to be an impactful leader, you have to understand the business outside of just HR.”
And it wasn’t just the business skills that set her apart.
“The MBA was so worth it because it made me confident in my own worth. I knew if I could get this experience and this acknowledgement that I have an MBA, then I knew I could do more. I was confident I could grow and take it to the next level with my MBA,” Felix-Hughey said.
And with group projects and collaborative course dynamics, both Felix-Hughey’s confidence and worldview grew.
“At Carey, we had an extremely diverse cohort. It showed me the benefit of having diversity. I already knew diversity was important, but experiencing the broad range of ideas and perspectives throughout my courses was critical in setting the tone going forward in my approach to business,” said Felix-Hughey.
COVID-19 upends HR
Despite having her MBA and 20+ years in HR, Felix-Hughey was stretched with the onslaught of COVID-19, along with the rest of the world. Seemingly overnight, the pandemic put the spotlight on the role of HR. Felix-Hughey’s response has been both that of listening to employees’ needs and pivoting as needed.
But the pandemic presented a few silver linings as well.
“[COVID] forced us to pivot very quickly, from both a technology perspective and an innovation perspective,” said Felix-Hughey. “We had to address questions like ‘How can we get the work done while being effective and efficient?’, ‘Is it necessary to keep doing something one way just because we’ve been doing it this way for 20 years?’, and Do we still need to do it this way’? It has forced companies to work smarter.”
COVID also brought mental health and wellness front and center. Under Felix-Hughey’s leadership, and in collaboration with Chairman and CEO, Jon Platt and Towalame Austin, EVP of Philanthropy and Social Impact, Sony Music Publishing partnered with ‘Silence the Shame’ for monthly mental health programming for its employees.
And for someone who is normally the go-to expert when the company is facing tough questions, Felix-Hughey says the pandemic “created a level humility.”
“We have to admit we do not know all the answers. We often find ourselves communicating to our leaders and staff that we are trying to figure it out. And we are asking for grace because we don’t have all of the answers,” said Felix-Hughey.
Advice for HR professionals
Reflecting on navigating COVID for Sony and her career in HR, Felix-Hughey says experience is helpful, but an MBA makes all the difference.
She suggests first reflecting on your end goal and what you want to achieve in your career.
“People pursue their MBAs for different reasons. For someone in HR, the MBA is advantageous in a change-management capacity and also for those looking to excel to executive leadership within a corporation. An MBA education provides a different perspective that you may not acquire from work experience, it also adds breadth and depth to your knowledge of business in general.”