■■ First (full-time) job: My first job after university was as a staff nurse at the Moose Factory General Hospital on
Moose Factory Island in James Bay. I believe I learned more there in one year than I would have in three years at an
■■ Childhood ambition: There were two: nursing and law. I remember when I was about 10, I’d fold a Kleenex and
pin it in my hair, and then I’d wait on my dad. I’d bring him sandwiches and snacks, but then I realized that wasn’t
nursing, it was waitressing! In high school, I thought about law. But at that point, girls tended to be directed toward
secretarial, teaching or nursing careers.
■■ Best boss: Donna Roe. She was the national CEO of VON Canada for most of my career. She led with confidence,
knowledge, integrity and kindness.
■■ Current source of inspiration: My daughter, Katie. She’s 26 years old now, and she continually amazes me with
her dedication to helping people and making a difference in the world. She inspires me. I also get a lot of inspiration
from my colleagues and friends in human resources.
■■ Best piece of advice I ever got: Stop and really listen to what people are saying, and listen actively. This advice came
from my assistant executive director at our VON branch in Algoma.
■■ Favourite music: I absolutely love music and always sing in the car on the way to visit clients. I love ‘70s music; The
Eagles have been one of my favourite groups for over 30 years.
■■ Last book: I am constantly reading and researching for work. So, I tend to look to fiction to take my mind off work
for a while. I just finished The Fear Index by Robert Harris, and I really enjoyed it. I love reading something that is
totally different from what I do at work; it clears my mind.
■■ Time away from work: I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my daughter and my friends; they are very impor-tant
in my life. I like to travel, relax, go shopping, go out for walks and talk to my daughter and my best girlfriend,
HRP: Describe your current job.
AB: I provide service to many different types of clients: hospitals,
health units, social service organizations, police services, munici-palities,
universities and First Nations organizations. Consulting
in the north is a little bit different. In Southern Ontario, there are
many different companies that provide HR consulting; you find a
lot of specialists. But I really need to be a generalist with a lot of
specialty skills, so I can provide a broad range of services. I’ve done
pay equity, compensation, workplace investigations, collective bar-gaining,
HR policy and procedure and recruitment. A little bit of
everything, but it has to be at a higher level.
HRP: What do you love about your job?
AB: I have always loved working with people; I enjoy meeting new
people and helping them resolve their problems. Also, I really like
challenges. I never know which client is going to call and what the
problem may be. I have to listen, understand the issue, research
and keep learning to be able to help them.
HRP: What are the challenges you experience in your job?
AB: Weather and geography can sometimes be a challenge, since
some of my clients are several hours away. Also, just dealing with
so many different types of clients can be a great challenge. For in-stance,
with First Nations organizations, I have become familiar
with the culture. I have built traditional and culturally significant
requirements into HR policies for them.
HRP: What are your career highlights?
AB: The volunteer work I have been privileged to do with
HRPA, and before that with CCHRA, is a highlight. I’m still a
volunteer on HRPA’s professional regulations and standards com-mittee.
In 2013, I was very honoured to be awarded the FCHRP
designation; and at the same time, I was awarded an honourary
life membership in HRPA. It was unbelievable; I was very proud
of what I had done.
HRP: What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a
AB: During difficult times, especially as a consultant, you need
to understand the nature of the client’s business. You really need
to ensure you have all the pertinent information before you can
recommend a resolution. I always look at considering alternative
approaches, too, and weigh out the probability of success for each
HRP: What skills do you think are important for success in
an HR career?
AB: I think that at all levels, relationship management is one of
the critical factors for success in the HR field. It ensures that ev-eryone
you are involved with is treated with respect and dignity.
How people communicate with one another is usually a part of
the problem. Of course, the other skills that are becoming more
critical are business acumen, strategic skills, talent management,
governance, leadership skills and communications.
IN A NUTSHELL
50 ❚ SEPTEMBER 2014 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL