Operating an efficient business requires effective communication, a skilled workforce, and effective work culture. These all can be achieved by having a proficient HR team that is also responsible for moderating errors, increasing employee engagement, forming the foundation for better client relationships, stimulating innovation and creativity, and helping in building a positive culture. Meet Nita White-Ivy, Chief Human Resources Officer at BlackBerry, who holds on experience in best-in-class global HR practices/management and interface with the compensation committee of company’s board of directors mostly in the areas of officers’ and board of directors’ compensation, incentives, and benefits.
At BlackBerry, Nita is responsible for leading the HR team to design and deliver global programs, initiatives, partnerships, solutions, and services in all facets of HR, to support the achievement of the company’s operational goals and strategic objectives. This includes
HR business partnerships, talent development, talent acquisition, total rewards, employee relations & compliance, DE&I, HRIS/HRIT & analytics, HR operations, support and services, and strategic programs.
Nita considers her entering the high technology industry as HR manager of professional employment and compensation for a notable mainframe computer company was the true beginning of her HR career. Prior to joining BlackBerry, Nita spent 15 years as the head of global HR with Sybase Inc., until it was acquired by SAP. She says, “We became part of SAP and I concurrently served as Chief People Officer for SuccessFactors (another SAP-acquired company) until I joined BlackBerry.”
At the beginning of her career, she was termed “the feisty” and “most productive recruiter” for developing and driving successful university relations and recruitment programs which accelerated recruitment of top-notch college graduates to fill engineering and development employment requisitions. Nita was also fortunate to be selected at that time as one of the high-potential employees for the company thereby receiving a promotion to the next grade every 15 to 18 months. She asserts, “It was my desire to be in high demand, energized, and forward-looking-industry and work environment. I always aspire to be where technology addresses current global requirements plus the foresight for the future.”
A Woman of Persistence
Nita was a single mom at a very young age. Then, she was taking the responsibility alone for the child, and being a new immigrant to the U.S. and living with the sole purpose to provide a good life for her son as a responsible parent. She set out her “to get the proper academic preparation” to be able to compete in the job market and qualify for a good job and pay. It was an unwavering goal for her to secure a stronger future for both of them (for her and her child.) The challenges of not having friends or family members to assist her, working full-time while going to school full-time, did not derail her from the goal.
Nita considers that the reason she is thriving and feeling strengthened in the sector is because of being an active participant and contributor in a turn-around organization. BlackBerry is the third turn-around company that she had been fortunate to join. There is the ultimate reward and the sweetness of success when the company succeeds in achieving its transformation objectives. She deems, “Employee morale, performance and retention, recruitment of talent, and company stock price all get the positive boost just to name a few.”
For Nita, success is having a strong purpose to achieve with focus and perseverance, overcoming challenges, acknowledging any fear of failure, and managing it until the completion of what one sets out to accomplish.
Thriving in Male-Dominated Sector
Nita states, “Challenges, setbacks, roadblocks, and the lessons we learn from them do make a person stronger.” From her journey experiences, she points that as a woman, and a minority, entering the high-technology world and succeeding in it was most challenging, to say the least.
Nita recalls that she worked doubly hard every step of the way, did her “homework” to demonstrate knowledge and proficiency, and earned professional respect accordingly. She asserts, “Being a corporate officer for three companies in the last 20+ years has its own set of challenges. But they are just that – challenges to overcome and to navigate with purpose and determination for one to succeed and make a difference.”
The biggest lessons of Nita’s professional journey are:
(1) Ability to juggle, prioritize and re-prioritize what needs to get done as days usually do not go as planned;
(2) Understand, keep up to date, and deliver to the company’s business needs/requirements; and
(3) Balance mind and heart when leading and developing your team members. Accept that there will be some failures and disappointments, but witnessing mentees grow, and blossom professionally are the precious rewards to savour.
The Brand; BlackBerry
BlackBerry is delivering the next generation of cloud-based, AI cybersecurity solutions to address today and tomorrow’s cybersecurity threats and ensure organizations of all sizes remain safe.
BlackBerry is poised to extend this position by accelerating the adoption of emerging automotive connected services with its BlackBerry IVY platform, co-developed with AWS, as well as by expanding its footprint in safety-critical connected endpoints found in industries such as transportation, medical, manufacturing, and robotics.
The Roots of BlackBerry
According to Nita, integrity and innovation are fully embedded in BlackBerry’s core values, which are well communicated to its global employees and posted on the internal website as shown below. She says, “HR models these Core Values in everything that we do.”
Innovation: The Company leads in its chosen markets by constantly innovating. “We learn equally from our successes and failures, and never rest on our laurels.”
Integrity: The business is based on the trust customers place in BlackBerry to secure their most valuable information. “We conduct ourselves at the highest level of business ethics by complying with our internal controls and procedures.”
Customer Focus: BlackBerry is successful because customers trust it to secure their most sensitive information. “Each day begins by focusing on our customers first and being as responsive as possible to their secure communications needs.”
Accountability: The teams are knowledgeable, fully engaged, and accountable. “By cultivating and rewarding individual passion, creativity, and achievement, we meet and exceed our commitments to our colleagues and the business.”
Teamwork and Mutual Respect: All employees work as one team, united behind the same goals, and always with respect for each other as professionals. “We have each other’s backs and do whatever we can to support each other, including colleagues in other workgroups.”
Ensuring the Company Leads with Best Work Practices
The pandemic has altered the “normal” or regular workday. Nita leads the HR team to ensure the company delivers what is best practice in the industry in terms of programs, systems, processes, and policies to serve the business needs and in compliance with the employment laws of the countries where BlackBerry does business. She mentions that due to COVID-19, there is no “best-practice box” to draw from for HR practitioners to meet and solve the challenges, uncertainties, and issues each day brings. At this time, and until the teams return to a near-normal or normal company operation, she is leading the HR team in protecting the health and safety of employees and maintaining ongoing and close HR communication with the people leaders and employees. Furthermore, the team is also keeping abreast of local government and health authorities’ directives/mandates and ensuring company compliance.
As a Leader
Nita sees herself as a ‘tenacious’ leader. Prioritizing, being resilient, and taking time to recharge including taking a ‘mental health day off’ is her mantra of having a balanced life.
At the company, she keeps everyone motivated by having and sharing a common purpose and focus, maintaining ongoing communication and collaboration, and recognizing team members for their contribution and support of each other. She asserts, “I am committed to seeing, and be a part of, the completion of BlackBerry’s successful turnaround.”
A Note for Young Leaders
“Have a sense of purpose that is strong enough for you to not yield to challenges, roadblocks, and setbacks, each of which carries a lesson to be learned for future reflection and draw from as a useful tool,” says Nita. She further suggests that do your best to achieve a balance between mind and heart. She thinks, “Applying emotional intelligence, especially in today’s world of pandemic fatigue and mental stress, will connect you positively closer to your colleagues and customers.”