Cognizant hires Becky Schmitt as new chief people officer

30 December 2019 3 min. read
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Teaneck, NJ–based technology consultancy Cognizant has hired Becky Schmitt as its new EVP and chief people officer. Schmitt joins from Walmart division Sam’s Club, where she is SVP and chief people officer, and brings more than two decades of human resources leadership experience.

Schmitt will replace current CPO Jim Lennox, who is retiring after 16 years with Cognizant, on February 1, 2020.

When Lennox joined the consulting firm in 2004, Cognizant had 15,000 employees; today it has 290,000. The technology consultancy has the bulk of its worker base in India, with 194,700 located there in 2018, according to figures from Statista. Cognizant has a further 50,000 employees in North America, 18,000 in Europe, and 18,000 in the rest of the world.

The consultancy is also one of the US’ most successful applicants for H1-B visas for high-skill migrants. The firm secured more than 3,000 H1-B visas in FY2017, alongside other top receivers Tata Consultancy Services and Tech Mahindra.

Becky Schmitt, CPO at Cognizant

Brian Humphries, CEO, said, "To succeed Jim, I am pleased to announce that we have hired Becky Schmitt as our new EVP and Chief People Officer. Becky joins the Executive Committee, reporting to me, and will be based in New York City. She brings 24 years of experience in developing talent and designing and delivering modern, market-leading HR strategies globally.”

Schmitt currently serves as SVP and CPO at Sam’s Club – a warehouse-style competitor to Costco – overseeing employee experience and career development. The $59 billion Walmart division has 100,000 employees across 600 locations. Prior to joining Sam’s Club in 2018, she spent four years at Walmart, where she served as CPO for the retail giant’s US e-commerce and corporate functions.

Prior to Walmart, Schmitt spent 21 years at Cognizant rival Accenture, which employs a similar model emphasizing India technology delivery centers. She joined as an HR consultant in 1995, going on to serve as North America HR manager and then HR director for communications & high tech in Asia Pacific. From 2010 to 2013, Schmitt was managing director for HR service delivery in the firm’s India delivery centers. Based in Bangalore, she oversaw field HR services for 7 metro locations in the country, supporting massive growth from 45,000 to 70,000 professionals. Her final role at Accenture was as managing director for HR service delivery, guiding employee experience for 45,000+ people in Canada and the US.

Cuts incoming

Schmitt arrives at a time when the company is embarking on a restructuring process aimed at accelerating growth and cutting costs. Cognizant in November announced that it would be slashing up to 7,000 jobs over the coming months: 10,000-12,000 mid-to-senior level staff will be removed from their current roles in upcoming quarters, with 5,000-7,000 losing their jobs and 5,000 being re-skilled or redeployed.

Though Cognizant didn’t detail which geographies would be affected, it’s probable many of the cuts will land in India, which accounts for the bulk of the firm’s workforce.