13:42 PM

First Data’s Blake Capitalizes on BU Education

First Data’s Blake Capitalizes on BU Education

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

An easily accessible campus, equally accessible professors, and small class sizes were among the many attributes that attracted Cathy Blake to Bellevue University in 1986. A lot has changed since then, but those attributes remain the same.

Blake earned her degree in 1990 double-majoring in Business and Communication. Her education has helped her advance during an 18-year career at First Data where she is currently the Vice President of Strategic Financial Services.

SONY DSC“I’m in our Global Financial Services business, so I call on some of the top financial institutions, retailers, and lenders in the US and convince them of the ways that First Data can help them grow their business,” Blake said.  “I love learning about the clients, listening to them, understanding their problems. It’s especially exciting when we find that First Data can solve a challenge through some of our capabilities. The best part is bringing solutions to a client that helps them solve their business challenges.”

Blake started her career at First National Bank of Omaha shortly after earning her degree.

“I started their in a management trainee position. I got to rotate around all different divisions of the bank and learn about banking,” she said “I became interested in our merchant acquiring function within First National, which led me to First Data. First Data is all about payments and payments processing.”

Understanding business and being able to communicate in a sales role has paid dividends for Blake.

“That double major has been really great for me in terms of my career path and progression here at First Data,” she said. “I have an understanding of the business side of everything that we do, but also the communication, which plays really well into the sales side of the equation. For me that double major was really important in terms of where I’ve ended up in my career.”

First Data champions higher education for its employees with no better example than its relationship with Bellevue University. First Data partners with the University to provide accessible, affordable, and relevant bachelor’s and master’s degree programs to First Data’s employees. In some cases, classes are offered right on the First Data campus.

“We have tuition reimbursement programs that are really robust. We have these great outreach programs,” Blake said. “I’ve seen some employees who I work with on a day-to-day basis take advantage of the Bellevue University outreach to enhance their career skills.”

Blake had a few options to weigh when making her college choice after graduating from Papillion-LaVista High School in Eastern Nebraska.

“I had a lot of options in the Omaha area in terms of places I could go to pursue my degree.  I did look at other Universities. I even took some classes at other Universities,” she said. “What I found about Bellevue University and why I selected it was the smaller class size -- the smaller environment as a whole. You could get in and park quickly and easily get to your classes. The professors had a much more hands-on approach. For me personally that was a great experience.”

Blake encouraged her colleagues at First Data to take advantage of the higher education opportunities offered to them.

“If you’re looking to pursue higher education opportunities what better place to do it than right at your work place where you can step out of your office, walk to class and get that done and with a University that is as flexible as Bellevue, that can work through issues you might have like major travel schedule challenges and those sorts of things.”