“How big is your brave?”


By Jennifer Cook, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Woman Of The Year


Every year the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) honors a Woman of the Year (WOTY), someone who serves as a role model and mentor for other women.

The WOTY may work for a large company, she may be an entrepreneur or she may lead a smaller organization. The common denominator is that she is an inspiration to all because of her leadership style, executive presence and business savvy.

The 2016 honoree is Jennifer Cook, head of pharma, region Europe for Roche. “The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association is extremely proud to honor Jennifer Cook as our 2016 Woman of the Year,” says Laurie Cooke, CEO of the HBA. “Jennifer embodies the leadership, business savvy results and commitment to inclusion that our industry needs to thrive in today’s challenging environment.”

Daniel O’Day, Roche CEO, added “I am incredibly proud to see Jennifer recognized as the HBA 2016 Woman of the Year. She is an exceptional leader with a combination of qualities that make her an invaluable contributor to our industry. Her outstanding business acumen, combined with her highly engaging leadership style and passion for bringing out the best in people, makes her a worthy choice for this award.” In her position at Roche, Jennifer is responsible for enabling people in Europe to access Roche medicines, achieving Roche’s commercial success in Europe and leading the 5,700-person work force in the region’s 28 countries.

Jennifer first joined Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, in 1987. She spent the next five years there working in research and early development before joining Prizm Pharmaceuticals, a start-up biotechnology company in San Diego, CA. Jennifer returned to Genentech in 1997, and over the next 19 years held roles of increasing responsibility in commercial operations and portfolio management, including vice president market development, senior vice president global portfolio management and senior vice president and US business unit head, immunology and ophthalmology. Her work with that team in driving culture change for strategic advantage has been described in a case study and published at the Haas School, the Harvard Business School, and California Management Review.

Jennifer has consistently delivered strong and meaningful results and has significantly improved Roche’s business performance in Europe since she assumed her current role in 2013. She has also built a stellar reputation for leadership and people development, inspiring and empowering other leaders within Roche’s pharma region in Europe and serving as a trusted mentor to employees across the company.

In accepting the award, Jennifer had some insights to share with the crowd of 2500 at the event in Manhattan on May 12th. She described her journey of getting comfortable in her own skin. “Embrace the unpredictable ride that comes from leading and letting go,” she said.

“Perfection is not only not possible, it isn’t even interesting. You have to build the courage to put yourself on the line and be vulnerable.”

She used the metaphor of being stranded in desert with set of supplies and needing to decide as a team what to do. We have to take risks, she said, even make suggestions that may get knocked down. You may not always be right, but trust that your voice is valuable.

She talked about learning to let go of perfection and control. If you don’t have the answers, invite others into the conversation. This may defy the iconic image of the leader in the front of the room, but part of leadership is investing in the skills of the entire team. “I can do my best, but I’m only one person strong. If we do it together, we magnify that capability 100-fold.”

Her definition of being brave is about being genuine and showing your authentic self, and encouraging others to do the same. Quoting Oscar Wilde, she advised “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

“Imagine what we will accomplish if we all run the extra mile. How big is your brave? Are you brave enough to be yourself?” She is, and is helping others to do the same. •

She recalled her experience as an executive in charge of 600 people who at the time were just a nameless crowd. But she determined to get to know them as real people with real talents. She values the individual, and is curious about what matters to people. Today at Roche, leading nearly 6000 people, she maintains the same philosophy. As large as the organization is, it’s important for them to create community. She encourages teams in Israel to share with and celebrate the accomplishments of teams in Prague.

As a leader in HBA, she says that she has gained an appreciation of what diversity means. One African American applicant candidly told her “I look around and look up in this company and don’t see people like me.” Jennifer understood. As individuals we seek affinity. She was often the only woman on a team or in meetings. Feeling different creates separation. Inclusion adds to your ability to combine talents. She says “Don’t expect people to work against their own comfort in any sustained way. Practicing inclusion lowers barriers and encourages everyone to bring their best selves to the table.”

In short, Jennifer creates an environment where people are included and inspired values. They go the extra mile out of desire, not duty. She sees every individual as a problem solver.


Great Advice from Great Minds