Talking courage with a Freelancer

(3 minute read.)

rebecca jennings

Rebecca Jennings has worked in Human Resources since joining UCB in 2010, most recently as Talent Partner, Pacific-Rim, UCB.

Working predominately throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Rebecca moved to Hong Kong in 2014 as HR Business Partner for South-East Asia, supporting the establishment and recruitment for five new affiliates throughout the region. Upon moving back to Australia, Rebecca expanded her responsibility to include South Korea, where she remained as a remote working partner to the 5+ affiliates and regional leadership team member until the end of 2017.

UCB is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of innovative medicines and solutions to transform the lives of people living with severe diseases of the immune system or of the central nervous system, such as epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis.

Join us as Rebecca shares with us her perspectives on courage and the importance of having voice and speaking up.

How would you describe workplace courage?

bossy girl_rebeccaI read a quote today from COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg that said, “I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy, to be told instead that she has leadership skills.” I hit “like” and moved on.

It wasn’t until I went to answer this question that it dawned on me how relevant this statement was to my own experiences and the effects it may have had on me as a professional, a woman, and a leader in my organisation.

My mother used to always tell me I was bossy, namely because of the way I used to talk to (or perhaps at) my friends and older brothers. Neither her nor I realised at the time what sort of mentality this was likely developing, but perhaps the fact that I believe that the act of speaking up or speaking out is an act of courage in itself may be a result of these early words, and wondered whether my male counterparts would consider the same act courageous.

I think I myself got to a point where I either didn’t notice or didn’t care enough of any negative judgement attached to my seemingly outspoken ways, but I do admit that I have to feel a certain level of comfort in my environment before I will open my mouth. What if what I say harms or impacts others?

Perhaps one of the best things organisations can do is to ensure that their people feel comfortable and safe to use their voice and call out behaviour adverse to such a goal, and that those who do have a platform, such as leadership teams, use their voice for others more so than themselves.

What does courage look like in your workplace?

I first started working in in administrative support and I remember if I was asked to do any sort of menial task by a person of authority (including my immediate manager), I would either politely decline or help to educate them in how to do it themselves in future. I also remember thinking that this attitude towards authority may likely inhibit my career development, but in hindsight it taught me two things:

  1. Leaders who lead with authority do not inspire, do not teach, nor do they truly care about the development or growth of individuals other then themselves, and;
  2. I did not want to work for, nor be this type of leader.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the leaders who had inspired and taught me that also congratulated and supported me in making the somewhat courageous decision to step away from my growing career as a HR professional to take the time to explore alternatives.

I believe the leaders I have been lucky enough to work for, and with, have led with a certain amount of courage.

Courage in that they are unafraid to lead in an authentic way, where their actions and their voices help to cultivate an environment that is ‘safe’.  Safe to learn, fail, change and grow not only as an employee, but as perhaps more importantly, as an individual.


Rebecca completed a BA in Professional Writing & Communications and is currently on a 10-month sabbatical leave exploring and seeking freelance opportunities in these fields.  She can be contacted via

When Rebecca and I first spoke about her responses, she mentioned, “This is not how I expected I would respond.” Taking the time to reflect is a powerful tool for increased understanding of self and others, and for turning the experiences we have into learning and wisdom.  I encourage you all to stop, reflect, observe and listen.  

When Rebecca first mentioned “being bossy” it totally resonated with me.  Right through primary school, every report card included the words “Dina is bossy.”  I remember going to Parent/Teacher nights with Mum and hearing those words repeatedly, with no explanation of what it meant, nor what was wrong with it, nor how I might change.  I hope with age and experience I have moderated my “bossiness” but I hope it has not impacted my authenticity nor my leadership.


More information about UCB:

Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, UCB have operations in approximately 40 countries and employ more than 7500 people with over 70 national backgrounds.

With positive growth, the company generated revenue of 4.5 billion in 2017 and invested approximately 25% to R&D and hope their new medicines will help people living with bone loss disorders, lupus and psoriasis.

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