Juliana Nunes looks up at a whiteboard over her computer. It’s where the senior vice president of global talent acquisition and global services of North America at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) finds her inspiration and what she considers her purpose.
It reads: “To inspire people to bring their full potential to life and achieve what they didn’t believe was possible.” The executive has been part of one of the most well-known medical devices, pharmaceutical, and consumer packaged goods companies in the world for nearly twenty years. Her journey began in her home country of Brazil and eventually brought her to the East Coast of the US.
There is much to be taken from Nunes’s story: how one can build an international career, how tech is helping a company founded in 1886 still stay on the cutting edge of medical advancement, and how much one person can accomplish when they truly align their career and purpose. Nunes knows her purpose, and she’s helping future leaders find theirs.
Finding the Purpose
Nunes remembers the first time she first developed an appreciation for caretakers, nurses, and physicians. Her father was in an accident that required him to stay in the hospital for nearly an entire year.
“Without those people, my dad wouldn’t be here,” Nunes explains. “Then, more than ever, I started reflecting on how I could have the same impact on people’s lives. It took me some time to figure it out, but eventually, I was fortunate enough to meet someone from J&J in Brazil that gave me the opportunity to join the organization.”
However, that story is too simple. Nunes admits it took her time to figure out where she belonged within the organization. After two years, she realized that her plans for advancement were not materializing. But she was only working on projects within Brazil. She decided to seek out experiences that would give her international experience.
“Suddenly I had the opportunity to work on projects that touched Argentina, Mexico, and, eventually, the US,” the SVP remembers. “Doors just started opening. It’s like I discovered where I belonged.”
Multiple promotions would eventually bring Nunes to the US full-time, and the executive would continue to pivot. There were cultural norms in Latin America that didn’t translate to the US. Offsite meetings meant to encourage bonding and camaraderie are quite common in South and Central America, but not up north.
“When you work internationally, sometimes you need to shift your approach without losing your authenticity,” Nunes advises. “You need to adjust to a new cultural climate without diminishing what makes you who you are.”
One of the hallmarks of Nunes’s leadership is her belief in the power of technology to provide value to her organization and unlock her people’s personal potential. The executive is well-versed in the latest and greatest emergent technologies, but tech that will allow J&J’s HR team to create a more personalized, more meaningful experience for the rest of the organization.
The HR team harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) to infer the skills of the greater organization and to understand the kinds of skills it has; versus the ones it needs. Nunes’s team also uses AI to predict attrition so that it can be proactive when its talent decides to move on. Delving further, AI is also used to personalize development to understand skills and plan training and mentorship to grow one’s future.
Nunes says focusing on how technology can transform her own organization is just an outgrowth of how J&J is changing the world every day. “We are using AI and robotics to transform surgeries,” she says. “Our digital marketing is evolving to create a more personalized experience for our patients. We’re creating digital innovations to address one of the biggest issues in the pharmaceutical industry: patient adherence. Tech is playing a huge part of our future, and it’s my job to make sure we have the best talent behind all of this tech.”
The Future of Talent
To source the best talent possible, J&J is evolving its talent pool in incredible ways. Nunes says the organization is committed to reskilling and upscaling its talent as well as looking for talent in new places. That includes moving beyond traditional credentials and college requirements.
“Juliana has a people-first leadership style,” says Molly Rauzi, managing director and chief information officer at Gagen MacDonald. “As J&J continually increases digital and business acumen throughout the organization, it’s always about the people, the talent at J&J, and the people they serve. She is so authentic that people believe they can do and be more than they ever imagined.”
In Brazil, J&J has established 1000 Devs, a program forced on cultivating software developers for the betterment of Brazil as a whole. J&J has partnered with an incubator to develop talents and skills from traditionally underprivileged communities. The program is currently in its second cohort. Additionally, J&J’s Reignite program that brings experienced professionals back to work after two or more years out of a traditional career, potentially related to military service, caretaking, or other reasons people might leave the workforce.
“I believe we need to start looking in new places for the future of talent,” Nunes attests. “J&J has been around for more than a hundred years, and I think the innovation that has occurred in our history gives us permission to push forward and innovate any way we can.”
Nunes is also a passionate mentor, serving several mentees all over the world. While growing the future of J&J’s talent strategy, she’s also influencing the next generation of global leaders.
There’s a lot to be gleaned from the SVP’s story, but the lesson that rings most loudly is the importance of finding one’s purpose. It might be local, it might be global, but it will be lasting.
We at BCG congratulate Juliana Nunes, whose visionary leadership in Human Resources at Johnson & Johnson has helped the company attract, equip, and retain the world’s best talent.