Q&A Spotlight – Shazia Mazhar

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Shazia joined McLean & Company in September 2021 as an Executive Advisor. In this Q&A, Shazia talks about her background, what drew her to this role, and what challenges are top of mind for HR leaders.

How did you get your start in HR?

I’m one of those accidental HR folks. After university I was somewhat adrift and fell into learning and development for a major telecommunications company. From there, I have had an interesting and winding path, experiencing most functions of HR, as well as taking time to work directly in the business. My biggest passions are Culture, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, HR Change and Transformation, and leadership of large HR teams. A career highlight for me was living in Bogota, Colombia to navigate building out an operations business for a large financial institution. I will also never forget my first time supporting an employee through their gender transition, and them coming to me after saying it was the first time they felt like a whole person at work. Those are the moments that really stick.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My favorite words I use to describe myself are connector and nomad. To me, connection is everything. I love connecting people, ideas, and journeys – trying to find those little nuggets that make things make sense. I am also often a hub to put great people in contact with each other. The word nomad may seem off-beat for an HR professional, but it’s very resonant to me. I like to seek new ideas, find new ways of doing things, and absolutely thrive in change. I also have explored much of the globe physically, having visited all continents, and lived/worked in five countries.

What does your role as Executive Advisor involve? What drew you to it?

As an Executive Advisor, I partner with our clients to build out meaningful and executable strategies for their HR priorities. I think of myself as a catalyst that helps them get to the research faster, and a curator, who makes sure the right connections are made, and we are prioritizing what is most important. In 2021, after 20+ years in corporate organizations, I felt it was time for a change. I finally felt confident in my depth of knowledge to take the leap to helping many others, and I am so glad I did. Hearing feedback from clients I have helped makes a real difference and reinforces how valuable this role is, every day.

What is top of mind for HR leaders right now? What challenges are they facing?

  • Resilience – In almost every conversation with clients right now, we talk about the resiliency of both the workforce and their HR teams. We have been collectively going through some of the biggest change in our lives over the past few years with the pandemic, let alone the evolution of business. Integrating resilience techniques into programs can make a big difference.
  • Workplace – This is an ever-moving target for many organizations right now. While the pandemic unlocked huge potential for hybrid work, organizations are still adapting to how to maintain culture and connections, as well as finding the right balance for them.
  • Strategy – With more accountabilities moving into the HR space, often the tactics become the star of the show. I often talk to clients about “two parallel tracks,” where on one hand we need to focus on results and deliver tactical HR needs, but on the other hand we also need to create time to step back and consider strategy, so that we focus on what matter most.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

Before the pandemic, travel was a big part of my life. I’m based in Toronto, Ontario and now I cherish the time I spend at my cottage on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia with my partner and two cats. I’m an avid surfer and spend as much time as I can in the ocean (or Great Lakes) year-round. I love many other sports too for cross-training, such as running, cycling, heavy lifting, and stand-up paddleboarding.

What advice do you have for someone starting out as an HR leader?

Always come back to your roots – why you are in HR. We come under so much pressure to deliver, to strategize, to support the business, and those are all important! But at the same time, it’s easy to lose ourselves in the noise and forget why we are here. Take time on a regular basis to re-center and re-focus on who you are as an HR professional, what type of leader you want to be for your team, and how you want to show up as a trusted partner to your business.

To learn more about our Executive Services and how McLean & Company can partner with you to build out meaningful and executable strategies for your HR priorities, please contact Jon Campbell jcampbell@mcleanco.com.

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