Faces of HR

Faces of HR: Don’t Be Afraid to be Uncomfortable

With National Hispanic Heritage Month well underway, it’s a great time to shine a light on the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans who have inspired others to achieve success. The guest of this edition’s Faces of HR profile is an exceptional example of just that.

For more than a decade, Janine Ting Jansen, Senior Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Teva Pharmaceuticals, has embraced the spirit of inclusiveness and called upon others she has not only crossed paths with, but also influenced to do the same. And there’s no better time to help share her passion for diversity and inclusion – as well as her story – during such a special month.

Like Jansen, I agree that we should celebrate everyone’s differences all year long, but heritage months are a great moment for reflection.

“I challenge everyone to seek information about cultures that they are unaware of,” Jansen recently shared with HR Daily Advisor. I don’t claim to be 100% fluent on every single culture that I have not experienced. But I’ve definitely set my own development pieces to understand more about, for example, the disability population, or veterans. And what can I better do to support them? Because the needs that they had 20 years ago, or 10 years ago are very different today. Challenge yourself to constantly seek more information. Be aware of these different heritage months and celebrations because one of your coworkers, they’re looking, they’re watching, and just reaching out goes a long way.”

In our latest Faces of HR profile, meet Janine Ting Jansen. Enjoy!

How did you get your start in the field?

I got my start in the field working in big law. I started working for a hiring partner who asked me to support the campus side. I was able to support him through campus recruitment at different law firms. So I was able to support that organization, recruit law students, a class of about 14 to 15, from about 12 different schools. That was a great experience because it had this element of selling the brand of the firm, letting those students know what the company was about, what they were getting by interning for us, and then turning those into full-time offers.

I went on to recruit over 130 students in my next summer class at another law firm, and that was an even bigger program. And I was able to go to over 35 schools. And what I found, and what I really lit up about, was that the interactions between the students and lawyers that we were bringing together. It was such a wonderful thing to bridge together and bring a story of a day in the life, if you will, at these different places. That turns into a win-win, right? The firm gets the talent, and the individual gets the role. And that’s how I broke into it, starting off for campus recruitment.

From there, I continued onward in different roles in diversity, program management, talent management, HR business partner, and diversity again. Campus recruiting, even today, really shines a light on companies who say, who are we? And who are we attempting to attract at that very entry-level talent level? This is so important when you think about diversity recruitment because when we go out to campus and we put forth our brand, whatever company you are in, it’s critical. So, if you can solve that, the rest of your culture and who you are will speak for itself.

 Who is or was your biggest influence in the industry?

I’ll have to go to my mentor. He’s in the law firm world, but he shows up in this diversity, equity, and inclusion space as well. I met him during an internship when I was 19. With him, I can always speak my full truth. And he challenges me all the time. He’s always challenging me in what I can do that gets more influence, that makes greater change. And having someone like that in your corner to really pick apart what it is that you’re doing, in many ways, is a wonderful place to be in because I feel very safe having those conversations. And with the issues that we’ve seen over the past year, for example, it’s really getting at the core of there’s such structural racism that exists. You must look at that, acknowledge it, and also support every individual where they are. For me, every leader and employee have a different story of where they are. And that is very much okay. But how we continue to increase this conversation of greater awareness, what we can do as individuals, as organizations, is take ownership of that responsibility.

This is something I talk to my mentor about frequently. One of the stats we’ve seen is that to solve unconscious bias it is going to take two generations. Unconscious bias is when you walk into a room and everyone looks different, or maybe they do look like you and you’re the different one for example.  When you look at people, you’re filling in that information with all your experiences. This can include your family experiences, prior work experiences, and more. You can’t help it. So, to shift unconscious bias we know that it’s going to take two generations.

Furthermore, it really requires a moment of reflection of what’s our greatest opportunity? And our greatest opportunity, I think, is just demonstrating allyship with one another, support of your social, and emotional well-being. I think of our youth, and I think of our employees. And then continuing to support leaders where they show up. If they have a large team of women or a small team of women, what would they like to do for them? Start there and support them in that area. Ultimately, when I think of my mentor, these conversations we have and how he challenges me, it always ends in a good place where I just have more in my toolkit to support all these individuals that I’m working with on a daily basis.

What is your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

One of them is that I once took a role because it met all the things I wanted to do. On some level, that is the most important piece. But really, I think, my lesson from that experience was thinking through who you’re going to be working for. Not just the company. It’s the company, it’s the culture, it’s the manager, and the job. I took a moment where I said, you know what? I’m going to just figure it out. And it was a great learning experience. I urge people to really think through everything and get the best feel you can of how a manager supports you because everything goes back to that. How you integrate into the culture, who they’re willing to introduce you to, how they’re willing to support you in developing your career and complete your job 110%.

I felt that I was in a situation where I was kind of gated in. I walked in one day to a meeting and the feedback given to me afterwards was that I need to sit in a specific place because I portrayed myself as being in a position of power that I do not have. The next meeting, I received a picture of where my manager wanted me to sit for the meeting. I had this moment like I was bringing a folding chair to the table because there was no seat for me at the table.

When I think of this moment of being told where to sit at the table because of your role, it’s really a reflection of if a manager or a leader sees you as fitting into a box, and that’s all they’re willing to give you. That’s a real moment of what’s in it for me, right? Because we all have a job. We all get a salary. And that’s wonderful. But if you want to really get beyond that, to be really, truly fulfilled as an individual, I think we need to ask ourselves, is this manager willing to give me all those things that I’m seeking? What was your gut feeling from the interview with that manager? From there on, let’s continue follow-up conversations around culture and feedback on that individual because that’s going to be a huge testament to your potential success in a role.

It sounds like through your experience, you really care about people and want to help them feel safe and comfortable, which is what the HR industry is all about.

You know, we talk a lot about being our authentic selves in the workplace. I think we’ve realized that we aspire to be our authentic selves because it takes less energy to shift and present something else, right? However, we’re finding that many people walk into the workplace with what we call an adapted self. That means you’re choosing the personal things you want to bring, or you may be deliberately choosing not to bring any of those personal things to the forefront. Let’s be clear, all those things are okay. But acknowledging your comfort in bringing those personal things forward, that psychological safety that we’re aspiring to achieve when we are closer, or truly are our authentic selves, by doing so we are able to contribute more to conversations, drive innovation, and deliver better business results.

If I’m stressed about having to cover for what I did over the weekend because I don’t think my colleagues would agree with me, that’s a little bit of stress, and adds up over time, right? If I have a coworker who’s constantly asking me for more early morning meetings when I know that I must put my children on the school bus, do I now have to cover and stress about that? Or, I could be open and say, “It is really difficult for me to take any recurring meetings at these times based on what could potentially be happening in my personal life.” Having that openness and directness can really contribute to just feeling safe. So that’s, I think, one of those moments where it’s if we put our time into our people, really make them feel comfortable and safe, to be their best selves, that’s where we can truly see things turn around in a business because that contributes to openness in conversations, in business meetings, and good pushback. When we have differences of opinion at the table, innovation goes up.

How can company leaders make HR a value within their organization?

We must support people. This means supporting who they are, within the scope of what the team needs, what that leader needs, and when it comes to business. Now, how we value HR, I think, is acknowledging that some of the core foundational work and structures that we work on, they really can help support greater success down the road. For example, training is foundational to greater success down the road. These things are critical when you think of business priorities. I always have great respect for every leader who really cascades goals down that include a people goal and a diversity goal. That’s part of it. Compensation is also important and really demonstrates that you are supportive of talent reviews, performance management, the greater development of others, and looking after your high potential leaders. This is a piece of engagement that is so critical.

With that in mind, where do you see corporate culture heading?

I spend a lot of time coaching leaders and talking with leaders about coaching youth. And I think of it as the best practices that we have. It’s almost like history, right? We need to understand our history so that we can be better prepared to tell our future. Because our future is always going to be different. The past doesn’t tell our future. We tell it. We shape it. It’s ours. But with that comes this moment of understanding past corporate culture. What people don’t enjoy. When we get those annual employee surveys, what are the pieces that have the greatest gaps on what we thought they should be? Let’s focus on that and speak truth to power. If employees were disappointed in a certain area, let’s have open conversations about that and be unafraid to pursue it. Let’s just not say for the past 20 years, we’ve always done it this way and we will continue.

I think we have a lot to unpack in the corporate workplace with the new generations coming in and the five generations in the workplace. Also, the lessons learned from the other generations are very important, and they should be captured and heard. But we should also be speaking about how we eliminate more of these barriers and these critical sore points so that we can have a more engaged workforce. I think of it as we must shift, and acknowledge that, yes, this in the past has been very difficult. We’re hoping to change that so less people have to overcome it, so that more people just have that freedom to just step forward.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud of my network, being supportive of others, and helping to influence youth. In addition, I have my three lovely children and I am also proud of individuals who have great recent success. I have a mentee that I started working with four years ago. She’s now in a great position at a large financial institution. I am so proud of her and thankful that she has this opportunity. She’s also going on to get her master’s degree while working. She’s doing exactly what she wanted to do, and she continues to think outside of the box. Hearing things like that have greater influence, and now I can refer younger people to her, which makes me happy.

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

For people entering the profession, be open-minded. Evaluate every culture, person, and individual. Find your opportunities for success, or where they need you the most. Sometimes we get these job descriptions, and everything is steady at the helm. Do your job, but be aware of what the next big project is, and what are your strengths to offer there? I like to say to people you want to make yourself just uncomfortable enough. Uncomfortable enough so that you can have great success. But don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. This means do not just take on the things you’re comfortable with or good at. You must also seek to understand and demonstrate your ability to navigate and to really contribute to the greater story of where we’re all going as functions in HR and as a company. The business is going to lead the way, but how we do that is up to all the influencers. And if you can find yourself in a moment where you can influence, that’s a great success.