When did you decide you wanted a career in
Mary-Jo Hewat: I have to give my mother credit because she was
the one who suggested I explore HR. At the time, advertising was
the cool business option, and I originally thought I’d like to pursue
that. But as I progressed in my BComm at Ryerson University, I
gravitated toward the HR courses and had tremendous success in
them. That led me to pursue a career in HR coming out of school,
and to eventually complete an MBA to deepen that HR knowledge
and strategic thinking… from there on in, I stuck with it.
What was your first HR job?
MJH: My first HR job was at TD Securities working for Warren
Bell. That’s relevant because about 15 years later, he recruited me
to work at OMERS – we had not spoken in years. But that first
job at TD was as an HR assistant supporting the treasury team,
which was on the trading floor in TD’s downtown Toronto tower.
It was a very exciting time, back in the mid-1990s.
Tell me about your current job. What are your main
areas of responsibility?
MJH: I lead HR and the facilities function for Genworth Canada.
I have oversight for all facets of HR. Since I got here, I would
say I’ve been spending a bit more time focusing on the Genworth
culture. A year and a half ago, we undertook an initiative to identify
what makes Genworth special – the secret sauce, so to speak.
We talked with nearly 200 employees through 12 culture sessions
and distilled their input into five core values and the behaviours
associated with those values. It was a fascinating exercise and very
rewarding to see how quickly everybody related to those findings.
Since then, we’ve been carving a path to get to our aspirational destination
and that process impacts every element of HR.
What do you love about your job?
MJH: I think a business requires all kinds of resources and the
human component is so crucial, especially given how many businesses
are service-driven. Being able to harness that power to
execute against the business strategy is what I find so fascinating.
We are people from diverse cultures and backgrounds and
environments, so being able to communicate in a way people
understand and to be able to get them to execute that vision is a
never-ending challenge – but a fun one! I also really enjoy the ability
to influence business outcomes. That’s partly due to the size
that we are, but also because of the level of support I have from my
CEO and the board, as well as my peers. I am also lucky to have a
fantastic team. Without all of them, it would be a lot harder to do
what I am able to do.
What are the challenges you experience in your job?
MJH: I think one of the biggest challenges is assessing the organization’s
readiness for something and knowing when to keep
pushing – and when to put it on pause. Sometimes we fall in love
with an idea and we get ahead of the organization, and then it
What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a
MJH: I think listening is key and seeking to understand the “why”
behind things. Whether it’s why certain decisions are made or why
someone is behaving the way they are, once you achieve that clarity,
I think it’s a lot easier to identify a path forward.
hr career path
“THERE IS SO MUCH
COMING DOWN THE
PIPELINE THAT HR
PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE
IN – AND IF DONE WELL,
WE CAN HELP ENSURE
THE FUTURE SUCCESS
OF THE BUSINESS.”
– MARY-JO HEWAT
22 ❚ APRIL 2019 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL