Meet Marni Johnson, a Passionate HR Guru with an Unconventional Path
With experience in several industries and over 25 years in financial services, Marni Johnson provides overall leadership and strategic direction in the areas of human resources and corporate and internal communications at BlueShore Financial. Her passion for human resources developed after a bold career switch, and since then she has fully embraced her role, becoming a Trustee of the BC Credit Union Employees’ Pension and Benefits plans, and serving on the boards of the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon. With a background in math and marketing, Marni is the perfect example of what a woman can achieve when she realizes that boundaries are in fact merely suggestions, and forges her own path.
My first job out of school…At a financial institution in Toronto in a back office role. In my role I identified a gap in processes, which I raised to my manager. It was dismissed. I decided to trust my instinct and explored this further to realize that in fact there was a gap, which had financial implications for the company. I learned a very valuable lesson from this first job and that is to trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.
I decided to enter the world of HR because…I was given an incredible opportunity for a career change from marketing to HR by the CEO of BlueShore Financial (back then the name was North Shore Credit Union). She offered me the role of VP HR because she believed I had the right leadership attributes and could learn the technical aspects of HR. The switch was the best career decision I ever made.
“Trust your instincts even if you are a junior in your role. Each person can bring a great deal of value to the table no matter their place in the org chart.”
My proudest accomplishment is…Having worked with my teams to create and maintain a very positive culture and a great place to work that is client-focused, results-driven and nurtures diversity and inclusiveness, since research shows a clear link between a strong culture and organizational business performance.
My boldest move to date was…Making a career change from Marketing to HR at the executive level. I faced some skepticism because my formal experience was not in the HR function. I persevered, achieved my CPHR designation, and over time established my credibility as an HR leader. I learned a lot about empowering and trusting my team, as they had more technical expertise than I did. I believe as women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.
I surprise people when I tell them…That I have an undergraduate degree in math, because often they don’t see that math and HR go together. To be successful in HR, you need to understand and be able to speak the language of business, which is usually numbers and money. Having strong math skills has been an enormous benefit throughout my career.
“As women, we need to allow ourselves to reach for stretch goals and pursue them with confidence in our abilities to learn and grow.”
My best advice to people starting their career is…Take responsibility for your own career by seeking opportunities to gain experience and transferable skills. Ask for “stretch” assignments even though they will take you out of your comfort zone — you’ll be amazed at the skills and lessons you’ll learn that you can take with you as you build your career.
My best advice from a mentor was…Don’t expect anyone else to care as much as you do, or to look after your best interests. This advice instilled in me a strong sense of accountability for results. It’s equally applicable to managing your personal life and career; you must take ownership for getting what you want and not abdicate that responsibility to someone else.
My biggest setback was…In my early 30s I accepted a job with a company that enabled me to move from Toronto to Vancouver, but it required that I take a 10% pay cut. That was a big deal, not just because of the reduction in income but because of my perception that career success meant making more money with each job change. I almost didn’t take the job because of what I saw as a step backward.
I overcame it by…Taking a longer term view of my career and the potential the new job represented. It was the right decision — if I hadn’t taken that job, my career would have taken a very different direction and I wouldn’t have ended up at BlueShore Financial. I learned through that experience that a great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.
Work/life balance is…Different from person to person, both in terms of how much of each feels right, and how that balance is achieved. For me, it’s more of a “blend” vs. a strict delineation. I frequently check my work emails in the evenings and on weekends; but also have flexibility in my days where I can attend a meeting if needed for a not-for-profit board that I serve on.
“A great career move doesn’t always have to be a move “up”.”
I feel successful when…I can see the impact I’ve had on my team’s or the organization’s results. One of my favourite things is coaching my team and seeing them develop their abilities and confidence as an outcome.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know…That I am a hobby chocolatier. I’ve taken several courses over the past 25 years, continually learning new techniques and creating recipes. I take a week of vacation from work in early December and make more than 2,000 chocolates. Not surprisingly, my colleagues are incredibly supportive of “Chocolate Week” and the product of my time off!
I stay inspired by…Connecting with people who have a positive outlook and a passion for what they do. That kind of enthusiasm and commitment is infectious, and a source of energy for me.
The future excites me because…As an organization we have a very strong vision and an aligned and engaged team to execute on that vision. That’s a magic combination, and there’s no end to what we can achieve.
My next step is…To be determined. I’m loving my role at BlueShore and am continually looking for ways I can make an even greater contribution. What that will look like, who knows, but I’m open to the opportunities!
Want to hear more from seasoned HR professionals? Purchase your ticket to our April 26 Luncheon, Untapped Resources: How to Hire, Advance, and Retain Women.