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Embracing Change: How Susy Martins’ Cross-functional, Multi-country Career Led Her to a VP Global HR Role for the Largest Insurance Company in Canada

Susy Martins has had one constant in her career: change. And it’s her ability to embrace it that’s been the secret to her success, leading her into her current role as VP Global HR Operations with Manulife.


By Hailey Eisen



Given the rate at which things change in the business world these days, adaptability and flexibility are must-have qualities for success. For Susy Martins, vice president of global human resources operations with Manulife, these skills are like second-nature, thanks to the significant diversity she’s experienced throughout her career.

Since completing her HBA from the Ivey School of Business in 2001, Susy has worked for a number of different companies, across many functional areas (from Finance to Operations to HR), in 17 different countries. She’s also participated in a number of leadership and development programs within the organizations she’s worked for. Add in two maternity leaves, and it’s obvious that Susy is no stranger to change.

After working for 3M in London, Ontario for a few years, Susy took her career overseas in 2003 when she joined General Electric, first in the Finance Management Program and then as Corporate Auditor. Based out of the Netherlands and then Spain, she worked in dozens of countries across Europe and Latin America. Susy says having this experience early on in her career taught her a lot about communications across languages and cultural norms — and prepared her for the international work she’s doing today. “I wasn’t just a visitor in these countries, stopping in to take a few photos and moving on, I was working with the people, in a variety of languages, and I really got a sense of how things differed country to country.”


“I really got a sense of how things differed country to country”


That understanding has come in useful now that she’s responsible for 150 people globally. With more than half of her leadership team located in Asia, she’s also learned to adapt to a non-traditional work schedule. These days, it’s not uncommon for Susy to start meetings at 9pm, once her sons, now 3 and 7, are fed, bathed, and tucked into bed. Working from her home office in Waterloo, she always takes 5pm to 9pm off to be with her family, but often works until midnight to accommodate the work-hours of her overseas teams.   

“When I started in this role five months ago, I was having late meetings every day of the week and working full days as well,” she recalls. “I was getting really tired.” Thankfully, Manulife is highly supportive of work-life integration and this flexibility has made it possible for Susy to balance her time better — using a few hours in the middle of the day, plus Fridays (which are already the weekend in Asia) to run errands, drop off and pick up her kids, and make time for self-care. “As women, we need to decide what we want to do with our time,” she says. “When I was younger I had more time for travel, to sit on boards, volunteer, and get involved in extracurricular activities. Having kids has changed how I use my time and I’ve had to step back from a few of those responsibilities to make time for my family.”


“As women, we need to decide what we want to do with our time”


Despite the balancing act, Susy is as dedicated to her career as ever. This being her first VP role, she’s had to adapt to new responsibilities yet again. “I’m really a generalist in a lot of ways, I like HR because the function is a critical part of the business’ strategy and there are many facets to HR – talent management, analytics, operations, systems, etc.” Currently responsible for global payroll, the contact center, and knowledge management, Susy is once again learning new areas of the business. “When I started this position, being new to payroll, ADP reached out to me directly and their sales and support teams met with me and my leadership team to go over where we were at and where we wanted to be,” she recalls. “It’s extremely helpful to have partnerships like that to make transitions easier.”

When it comes to managing people across borders, Susy says the key is to find a common purpose and goals and rally around those — that’s the essence of engagement. “Engage the team you’re working with and make it fun to come into work every day, make it very clear what you’re trying to achieve, and then hold them accountable.”


In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.