One grad’s diverse career journey

Brian Henry ‘91 has met the challenge of changing jobs time and time again, creating a diverse career weaved with experience from many different industries.

By Emmett Steele ‘22

Brian Henry ‘91 has worked in various industries and roles since graduating from the Business Administration – Marketing program at Mohawk College. From his brief stint at Grand & Toy to becoming the chief people officer at Bird Construction, Brian has an abundance of experience in Human Resources (HR), recruitment, and leadership roles. He highlights the importance of building strong relationships and problem-solving skills as he recalls his inspiring career journey and the valuable lessons he has learned along the way.

“My career after Mohawk College has been quite diverse,” said Brian. He had the opportunity to work as an area manager for SC Johnson in Mississauga, where he was selected to do a cross-functional assignment for their sales organization. “About one year into my tenure, I was selected to work with the executive team and the HR leadership team around a learning program for the sales organization. That's really where I got my first taste of HR and loved it,” said Brian.

Five years later, it was time for Brian to leave SC Johnson. He had found his passion in HR, and there was an opportunity at Dell Canada for a recruitment manager job. “It was a wonderful ride. It was at the time when Dell was the darling of technology, and the Dell model was just in development. So, recruitment was a big deal,” said Brian. “I joined there as a recruitment manager, then transitioned to an HR generalist. Then, the whole tech bubble burst, and it was time to move on.”

Brian transitioned to an organization called Maritz, a marketing services company, as HR manager. He remained in that role for nine years, working up to the role of vice president of people and culture, until he was approached for a role at Yum! Brands.

“Through my work and the company’s evolution, we eventually moved to a brand separation where each brand, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, had its own leadership team. I was assigned to KFC,” said Brian. “I was at Yum! for about eight and a half years before I decided it was time for something different. I left Yum! and joined Bird Construction three years ago and this is where I've been since.”

When looking back on his career, Brian is proud of the fact that he has consistently challenged himself with new fields. “Every single role I've had has been in a different industry,” said Brian. “I've intentionally jumped into different industries to get new experiences to diversify myself.”

Brian reminisced about many fond memories from his career, and a common thread through all of them was the opportunity to build up others to be their best. “At Yum! I had the opportunity to participate in creating a program for high-performing, high-potential KFC global employees who are under the age of 35. We called the program Pathfinder,” said Brian.

“That was incredibly powerful to me, and I think incredibly powerful to them as well,” Brian continued. “Within that program, we had a diagnostic tool called Heartstyles to help leaders understand how they're coming across as a person and why they do the things that they do. Heartstyles helps people focus on their behaviour to be their most effective self. It teaches that to be an effective leader you have to operate ‘above the line’ with high humility and care for others.”

Brian credits his time at Mohawk College, and a memorable professor, for contributing to his success. “My experience at Mohawk was fantastic. I was fortunate enough to engage with a professor that really influenced me and gave me the confidence that I belong,” said Brian. “I was a recent immigrant at that time, and I wasn't sure where I was heading. My marketing professor, Janice Shearer, gave me the confidence that I could compete against anyone - I could compete against PhDs, I could compete against any university student - and I should have that confidence.

He continues, “Mohawk taught me that there are some really incredible people who are experts in their field, and if you build really good relationships, then you can work closely with them, and apply your influence to help solve problems. I think Mohawk prepared me with an approach to problem-solving, getting to know people and building strong leadership skills.”