Nita White-Ivy, CHRO, BlackBerry

Nita White-Ivy: A Proficient HR Leader Driving Organization’s Success

A company’s greatest strength is its people whose efforts drive its success. The biggest challenge is to appoint the right people for the job and manage them accordingly. This is where HR leaders come into the picture. They strive to build a team of excellent individuals through job architecture, performance definition and assessment, recognition, and reward for success, and developing leadership capabilities.

Being an HR professional means taking the responsibility of a caretaker for the company’s whole human resource functionality and helping members achieve their maximum performance. In the current pandemic situation, HR practitioners take front line responsibility for safeguarding employees’ health, morale, and productivity, in addition to preserving the company’s culture, team spirit and communication. Amongst those, one such expert HR leader is Nita White-Ivy, Chief Human Resources Officer at BlackBerry.

Seven years ago, Nita joined John Chen, Executive Chairman and CEO, at BlackBerry. She was hired to head and reshape the global HR function that would effectively support BlackBerry’s turnaround. As BlackBerry’s CHRO, she has been fortunate to witness, participate in and contribute to the transformation journey of the company with a small group of highly dedicated, collaborative, agile and ‘get-it-done/make-it-happen’ global HR professionals.

BlackBerry has been known throughout the world as the inventor of secure smart phones and handsets that changed the world and how we work, then transformed to a leading software company with a standard of security to manage the endpoints within the enterprise. Today, BlackBerry is delivering the next generation of cloudbased artificial intelligence (AI) cybersecurity solutions to address today and tomorrow’s cybersecurity threats and ensure organizations of all sizes remain safe, secure, and productive. BlackBerry is also a leader in the IoT and embedded software systems market with its software installed in over 500 million connective devices including over 195 million vehicles.

Leading with Employee Centric Policy

The pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge to companies including the computer software industry and their HR organizations. Unfortunately, there is no “bestpractice box” to draw from for HR practitioners to meet and solve the challenges, uncertainties, and issues each day brings. Nita describes, for the BlackBerry HR team, the most precious results of navigating the pandemic have been finding teams that bonded more closely together and cared for each other amidst the greater need and expectation for HR support, guidance and communication from global management and employees. It is an experience of satisfaction of seeing the company’s HR Business Continuity Program working effectively and timely in delivering global HR services and transactions.

At BlackBerry, the HR team is ensuring that the company achieves its foremost objectives of protecting the health and safety of its employees and maintaining ongoing and close HR communication with the people leaders and employees. The team is also keeping abreast of local government and health authorities’ directives/mandates and ensuring company compliance.

A Bridge Among all the Branches

According to Nita, to face certain predominant human resource challenges there is need to build strong partnership among HR, management, and employees. These challenges include recruitment, retention, and retraining of talent in highly competitive market as well as people leadership and communication that transcends physical boundaries (remote and office/on-site). Also, there are other factors such as preservation of the company’s culture, mission and purpose, competitive edge in product development/release, operational efficiency, DE&I program, customer relationship and satisfaction, and appropriate changes/modifications to employee benefits and compensation post pandemic.

The HR department at BlackBerry has outlined the following areas of focus and concentration:

  • Culture and core values are established and instilled in everything we do
  • Simplified, integrated, and updated IT infrastructure, communication tools and processes
  • Redirection and refocus of HR programs, processes, and communication to support both remote and office-based employees

Achievement and results-based performance management and use of 360 feedback for all leaders

  • Win the talent war in this extremely competitive market.

An End-to-End Protection Approach for Users

Besides, Nita believes that the pace of technological innovation and exponential growth of device interconnectivity creates vulnerabilities at a rate few organizations can handle. Furthermore, when one adds the steady rise of state-sponsored cyberattacks and global remote work to the equation, it is clear that today’s business environment is rife with cyber-chaos, forcing security teams to scramble to address an expanding attack surface in the face of an increasingly sophisticated threat landscape.

The biggest change that an individual/organization can bring about is to take a zero-trust approach to cybersecurity across all end points whether they are cars, smartphones, laptops, or any other device. This approach leverages artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to provide improved threat prevention and remediation, while offering visibility across all endpoints for better management and control. And these solutions should require little to no support from end users so that they can have a fully frictionless and secure experience with the endpoint.

Empowering Future Generation through Knowledge Enhancement

When it comes to giving back to the community, Nita states that BlackBerry’s charitable giving focuses on bettering the lives of disadvantaged youth and vulnerable women in the areas of shelter, nutrition, education, health, and wellbeing. Nita states that with the team of community-minded employees, BlackBerry believes there is great potential to make lasting impacts in local communities. “It is through our combined efforts, that we can truly help the communities in which we live and work,” Nita asserts. BlackBerry also recognizes that the security industry has a sizeable skills gap for AI cybersecurity professionals. As CHRO for BlackBerry, Nita and the HR team launched numerous internal training and mentorship programs, and work closely with senior management to assist several universities level up their cybersecurity offerings.

BlackBerry is constantly finding new ways to contribute to the community, from partnering with Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program to its partnership with Girl Guides of Canada. Both commitments reinforce the company’s pledge toward a future that empowers young women to carve out successful careers in STEM and strive for leadership positions.

Last year, BlackBerry announced a partnership with The University of Windsor to develop and deliver a cybersecurity curriculum for the University’s Graduate Master’s Program in Applied Computing. The curriculum, called BlackBerry Bootcamp, will be part of a required Network Security course, and completion of the curriculum will account for a portion of the student’s final grade. The Bootcamp covers a range of cybersecurity topics including AI, digital identity protection and privacy, software engineering, the latest techniques of cybercriminals, advanced threat detection technologies, and more.

Advising to Acquire In-depth Knowledge

Nita advises emerging women entrepreneurs to learning indepth, as much as possible, every facet of HR (HR Business Partnership, DE&I, Employee and Executive Compensation and Benefits, Talent Acquisition, HR Operations/Services, HRIS and Analytics, Employee Relations and Internal Investigations, University/Campus Recruitment/Relations, Talent Development & Training). She says, “Learn everything you can – not just what seems interesting or comfortable. In so doing, one will develop a solid and enriched HR skillset for career development and ability to mentor other HR employees.”