Talking courage with a Brazilian National who calls Australia home

(4 minute read)

Gisele Hershon 1Gisele Hershon is a Sales Force Trainer in the pharmaceutical industry.  Originally a Physiotherapist, she started in the pharmaceutical industry 14 years ago as Medical Science Liaison at a time when this position was still being designed.  Subsequently, she moved into the role of Hospital Sales Representative; a role that she worked in for 6 years.  She has been in Training for the Sales Force for the past 7 years.

Join us as Gisele shares how courage played a significant role in moving from one continent to another, where she could “literally live in her second language.”


How would you describe workplace courage?

Courage is being able to share, explain and sometimes defend your opinion.  It is being able to respectfully challenge and provide feedback to others regardless of the organisational position they occupy.  Courage is not easy; it’s risky and requires lots of preparation to ensure the correct messages are delivered.

What does courage look like in your workplace?

Hierarchy is circumstantial but respected, and normally senior positions have voice first and obviously feel more empowered to share opinions.  However, generally employees still feel comfortable to challenge each other and ensure the organisation’s values and expectations are put first.

We have a weekly, 30-minute meeting to share metrics and successes.  Over the last few months we have started by sharing failures and learnings before successes.  The business understands that we need to recognise failures to grow as employees, especially because courage is one of the expectations of the company!  To encourage and make people feel comfortable to share their stories, the leadership acted as role models and started sharing their own failures.  This has created vulnerability in the workplace and as a result, has invited people to share their failures and their learnings.

Please describe 1-2 examples in which you have been courageous.  What did you do?  Who/what enabled you to be courageous?  What was the outcome?  

I used to work for a multinational company and was based in Brazil.  I had a really solid career and was well known, building a good reputation over the years.  I had the chance to meet a person in the same position as me, in the same company, based in Australia.  On meeting, I found out that she was to go on maternity leave and so, I decided to put my hand up to cover her leave.  On top of my solid career, I also had my personal life quite well structured in Brazil and decided it was time to have an international experience; to literally live in my second language and to rebuild my network and invest in myself.  I went through all interviews, had a hard process to get a visa and moved with my husband to Melbourne.  My courage came from few things: 100% support from my family – especially from my husband who would also be in a vulnerable situation – and the fact that I had absolutely nothing to lose as it was a secondment.  If it didn’t work, I always had the opportunity to return to my role in Brazil. (However, if I loved it, I would have to deal with the frustration to go back at the end of the secondment.)  The outcome couldn’t be better, I ended up loving Australia, adapted to the culture really quickly and I grew so much professionally and as a person.

I learnt that my values must always come first (and my gut as well!), because everything will be adjusted and perfectly ok in the end.

This next example is related to the one above.  As I loved my experience in Australia, I decided that I wouldn’t go back to my previous position in Brazil, and again did something unexpected and quite bold. With the secondment over, I resigned from my job, with no other job in mind.  I consider this example the most courageous one, because as I mentioned in the example above, my network wasn’t large in Australia and I was still trying to build my reputation within the pharmaceutical industry.  One more time, my husband and my family played a crucial role in my decision, offering me all the support I could possibly get during that time (where I questioned myself every single day).  The outcome was again the best possible; a vendor that I used to work with kindly introduced me to a stakeholder in another pharmaceutical company two days before I flew to Brazil to officially terminate my contract and hand in my notice. I ended up applying for the new job, went through all the interviews and signed a new contract whilst I was in Brazil.  I literally arrived back in Australia to start my new job in 3 days.  Since moving to Australia, I have had a chance to learn (and love!) to be more courageous in the workplace.

I now feel fine and encouraged to share bold ideas, to respectfully disagree and especially to say no when appropriate; in the past I may have had these thoughts, but I would filter them a few times before taking any action.

From your point of view, to what extent are Australia’s leaders leading with courage?

Australia is so multicultural that is difficult to be fair in my analysis.  Courage is extremely connected to your own values and in some cultures it can sound disrespectful.  Coming from a culture where hierarchy is really important and where you rarely disagree with those in senior positions, I do believe that Australians – especially female employees – can lead with courage most of the time.  Even when employees are not in management, they can be courageous and inspire others to be courageous too.




I learnt that Gisele was a ballerina.  She likens being a ballerina to leading with courage – it sounds easy but there is a lot of preparation required for both.





If you would like to learn more about Gisele’s courage and be a part of her network, she can be contacted on:

I met Gisele when she was in her secondment role and had the great fortune to work and learn with and from her (no, I’m not the vendor who introduced her to her current role). While I knew Gisele’s story of her move to Australia – twice – I have been inspired again by her courage that is so evident in her stories above.  I encourage you to connect with her and be inspired by her stories and her positive attitude towards all she does.


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