Nita White-Ivy: Invigorating HR Leadership on a Global Pavilion

Nita White-Ivy

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HR leadership has emerged as a valuable asset on organizational levels in pivoting the company’s mission while ensuring employees’ wellbeing during challenging times. As Human Resources (HR) serves as the key link between a company and its employees, strategic HR leadership is crucial in measuring the success of an organization.

I am a believer that successful HR leadership starts with the definition of the company’s HR mission statement and the team’s operating principles & objectives, all of which need thoughtful tailoring to synchronize with and support the company’s business needs and requirements,” says Nita White-Ivy (CHRO at BlackBerry). During the beginning of her career, Nita was in quest of a field that would leverage her finance, business management, and psychology education and she considered HR as the suitable field. The foundation of her high-technology and leadership career was with a notable mainframe computer company. She spent 15 years as the head of global HR with Sybase, Inc., until it was acquired by SAP. She concurrently served as Chief People Officer for SuccessFactors (another SAP-acquired company) until she joined BlackBerry. Nita thrived in her domain and became an active participant and contributor in the organization.

Reinventing Global HR Model

Founded in 1994, BlackBerry is globally recognized as the inventor of secure smartphones and handsets that changed the world and transformed into a leading software company with a standard of security to manage the endpoints within the enterprise. Today, BlackBerry is delivering the next generation of cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) cybersecurity solutions to address cybersecurity threats and ensure organizations of all sizes remain safe, secure, and productive.“BlackBerry is the third turn-around company that I had been fortunate to join as their Head of Global HR,” gratifies Nita.

Nita joined BlackBerry more than seven years ago to reshape the global HR function to support the company’s new business strategy for its turnaround. During that time, the company’s HR organization comprised a well-built team and had numerous critical functions outsourced to third-party vendors. Currently, BlackBerry has a compact team of highly dedicated, collaborative, agile, and highly responsive global HR professionals, and has not outsourced any of its critical functions and programs.

Propelling the Operational Wheels

Being at the company’s forefront, Nita is responsible for leading, engaging, and working with the global HR team to design and deliver programs, initiatives, partnerships, solutions, and services in all facets of HR, to support the achievement of the company’s operational goals and strategic objectives. Her additional responsibilities include HR business partnerships, mentorship, supporting the Executive Chairman and CEO in preparing the quarterly meeting materials, and presenting to the compensation, nomination, and governance committee of BlackBerry’s Board of Directors.

Nita believes in being a leader who equally carries the HR mission and purpose with the rest of the team. She highly values BlackBerry’s HR team who constantly strives to walk the extra mile to support the company’s internal customers and bring a difference in the local communities. The team’s hard work and dedication has garnered various awards with the support of multiple company stakeholders, people leaders, and employees. Nita also believes in active listening, empathy, compassion, vulnerability, and humanity, which goes a long way in earning the trust, respect, and sense of belonging of the team.

Strategized Crisis Navigation

BlackBerry’s HR team successfully navigated the challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also derived positive outcomes such as strengthened bonding and caring for each other, effective and timely functioning of the company’s HR Business Continuity Program, ensuring achievement of foremost objectives, to name a few.

BlackBerry successfully converted most of its HR programs to be delivered virtually and online. These included aspects such as university recruitment and student internship/co-op employment; employment interviews/job offers/new hire orientation and onboarding, training and development programs, and many more.

Nita estimates the following shifts and trends in the business sector:

  • Preservation of the company’s culture, mission, and purpose, competitive edge in product development/release, operational efficiency, and customer relationship and satisfaction;
  • More use of, and transformation to, AI and digitization;
  • Utilization of lessons learned from the pandemic such as crisis management, business continuity, decisiveness, and others;
  • Decrease in demand for big corporate campuses/offices, and re-imagining the remaining spaces to support a new way of working;
  • Prioritizing business travel to necessary business requirements, revenue generation, and customer in-person visit/interface/support;
  • Sustained demand for online shopping and home/office delivery, and the re-invention of large, indoor shopping centers.

Nita’s Candid Views on Business Women Leadership

As a woman business leader, how do you focus on surpassing the challenges presented to you throughout your journey?

For me, entering the high technology world and succeeding in it as a woman and a minority was challenging, to say the least. I worked hard every step of the way, did my “homework” to be prepared and demonstrate proficiency, and earned professional respect accordingly. I took note of the qualifications, communication style, and professional traits of the people around me who were successful and respected, and had a few of them as my mentors. In my mind, these are inherent in leadership and are there to overcome and navigate with purpose and determination.

According to you, what are some of the crucial skills necessary for women to thrive within the business sector?

I believe women will need the following critical traits and skills to thrive in the business world:

  • Strong purpose, determination, and focus;
  • Reflective, problem-solving, and analytical skills;
  • Emotional connection to her work and career;
  • Good understanding of and being up to date regarding the company’s business objectives and strategy;
  • Time and priority management;
  • Effective communication, active listening, and presentation skills;
  • Leadership, team building, and collaboration skills.

What would you like to convey to the budding women leaders who are aspiring to make a mark in the business sector?

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 reflections and useful tools. Enhance your network to expand your professional horizon and find mentors to guide you. Get noticed by and connect with upper-level leaders who could champion your career advancement.

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Read full Magazine: The 10 Global Business Leaders to Watch in 2022

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