Why people, processes and problem solving drive this leader
Judy Huie may have started out as a numbers person, but her career took a natural turn when she joined the HR operation at financial services firm Freddie Mac 15 years ago.
“I’m good at processes and very quickly can pick out and connect all the dots and see the trends and where the issues are,” says Huie, who is now senior director and chief of staff for the Fortune 50 company’s CHRO and chief diversity officer CDO. Her role is to partner with the HR leadership team on developing and executing HR strategy, while she and her teams provide risk and control oversight, business administration services, strategic communication strategy and execution, and project management support.
Raised in a traditional Chinese family who moved to the U.S. when she was 8 years old, Huie says she knew she was expected to get good grades in school so she could go to college and become a professional. Her predilection for working with numbers led her to study accounting and land her first jobs in auditing at PricewaterhouseCoopers, E*TRADE, and Friedman, Billings and Ramsey (FBR), as well as more than a year at Freddie Mac in budget and financial controls jobs.
Her interest in people and how they behave was also fostered when she was growing up. “Being an only child, I [was] usually around adults. I loved sitting at the adult table and I was fascinated by their conversations and observing how they behaved,” says Huie.
In 2006, she rejoined Freddie Mac—this time in the HR division—and rose from operational risk manager to a business management director and finally to her current chief of staff role.
“Judy’s focus and recent work related to DE&I was inspiring and done with true passion,” says Rising Stars judge Gregory Hessel, partner, HR Practice at Korn Ferry International. “In addition, her leadership development work, with a highly complex organization, was forward-leaning and planful.”
She was nominated by her manager, Angi Locke, the interim CHRO and CDO, who lauded Huie for her critical role during the pandemic shutdown.
As with so many other companies last year, HR at Freddie Mac came to the forefront to swiftly transition its workforce to a remote setting.
“It was like a flip of a switch,” remembers Huie. “We made the decision [on Friday, March 13, 2020] and on Monday it was all systems go.”
She worked closely with the HR team to figure out how to translate the various HR activities into the virtual workspace, including onboarding new hires, revising leave policies and ensuring employees got the HR support they needed during the new work-from-home reality.
“[Judy’s] job to ‘connect the dots’ in service to our HR strategy meant she worked around the clock to ensure we continued following through our strategic commitments as outlined by our CHRO and crisis management team,” Locke wrote.
In addition to making sure that HR staff members had the right equipment at home to continue their work from afar, Huie’s strategic communications team developed new weekly division-wide “community chats” to keep the company’s employees engaged. They also increased the frequency of communications to ensure they had up-to-the-minute updates on HR resources.
A few months before Huie was scheduled to temporarily lead Freddie Mac’s DEI programs while the area’s vice president, Dominica Groom Williams, went on maternity leave in September, racism and social injustices dominated the headlines and the organization’s leadership decided to expand its commitment further. Huie worked with Groom Williams on the early strategy and then, during her five-month tenure, she developed and launched a new unconscious bias training program as well as a long-term racial equity strategy. She also developed an inclusive content style guide for use in internal and external communications and worked with a diversity vendor to develop a long-term racial equity strategy.
During 2020, Huie also served as co-chair of InspirASIAN, one of Freddie Mac’s largest and most active business resource groups. Under her leadership as co-chair, the group hosted some of the company’s most well-attended cultural celebrations, such as Lunar New Year and Eid/Diwali, which attracted people of all backgrounds. The BRG also maintained professional development and wellbeing programming to support employees in the new virtual work environment.
Looking back on her more than 20 years of experience, Huie says she’s learned that if something needs fixing, she wants to work on it—intertwining her passion for people, processes and problem solving. For example, as the first staff auditor at E*TRADE, Huie built the processes and technologies needed to do her function. At FBR, she helped the general auditor build the entire team and associated audit processes.
At Freddie Mac, she created and grew the HR operations team to be an efficient and employee-focused shared services group operation that handles onboarding and off-boarding, new employee experience, rewards and recognition, and the corporate matching-gift program.
“It was one of my greatest challenges and opportunities,” she says. “It was really neat to build that team and see the team grow.”
In her role as chief of staff, she also saw the need for increased coordination between HR and corporate communications. The resulting HR strategic communications group focuses on communicating the HR strategy to HR employees and working with corporate communications to communicate HR messages such as DEI, benefits, culture and more tied to strategic priorities.
At home, her household includes her husband, their two children (ages 12 and 13) and her mom. “She’s wonderful,” Huie says. “I don’t know how I could do anything that I do without her.”
Huie also notes that working from home has meant she’s constantly having to put on the different proverbial hats of wife, mother, leader and other roles. “A lot of people say it’s a balance,” she muses. “I don’t think it’s balance. I think you are definitely prioritizing many things at one time.”