University of Wisconsin–Madison

Jenni Regan, HR Associate Director at the School of Pharmacy

Jenni ReganHow did you come to work at UW?

I was working at a big box retailer doing a variety of roles (such as front-end lead and customer service representative) and trying to figure out what I was going to do next after completing my bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison.  A co-worker shared that her husband had an opening for a financial specialist in the Division of Rec Sports and encouraged me to apply.  I ended up getting that job, then later was presented with the opportunity to transition to an HR Assistant-Advanced role within the division.  At the time, I had no idea it was going to lead to 14 years working for my alma mater and a career in HR. As I reflect on it now, I’m grateful that I was encouraged to take the leap and apply. I really enjoy working in HR and helping others.

What excites you most about working on the UW–Madison campus?

The opportunity to meet and help so many employees.  I’m often left amazed after talking with colleagues and hearing about all of the innovation and research happening on campus and within the School of Pharmacy.  I enjoy learning about the work that everyone does to keep the school running—our programs are top-notch, and the research enterprise is growing.  Another thing that excites me is that every day is different.  I may start my day having a plan for what I’m going to get done, but that plan usually needs to flex and change as the day progresses—which I’ve grown to embrace.  It keeps my job interesting to say the least! This type of workday has also allowed me to learn more about myself and become self-aware of my aptitudes and work preferences.  For example, I’ve learned that I do better with certain types of tasks when I’m fresh-minded in the morning; similarly, I know that I shouldn’t try to attempt to do others when I’ve hit a mid-afternoon lull.  This awareness has increased efficiency and productivity in my day.

What are some of your experiences that have prepared you to work as HR Associate Director?

My previous HR roles with the Division of Rec Sports (now called RecWell) and the Wisconsin School of Business have prepared me for the work that I currently do as the HR Manager in the School of Pharmacy. Partnering with our amazing group of HR professionals at UW–Madison has also prepared me over my career. There’s so much to learn by collaborating with others over time on various projects, such as best practices, historical knowledge, and sharing of resources.

Although considered a small school, the School of Pharmacy is complex as we have representation of almost all employee categories within our organization as well as annual- and academic-based appointments.  This complexity keeps me on my toes and requires a wide breadth of knowledge. Based on the structure of the HR office in the school, I’m given the opportunity to do the higher-level strategic planning and also the day-to-day transactional work, both of which I greatly enjoy.

For most of the time that I’ve worked in HR on campus, I have been in roles where I was the only HR representative within the division, and it’s generally been the expectation that I be the expert in HR in my role and lead from that expertise.  This has prompted me to do a lot of learning on my own, for example, by acquiring new information by attending campus meetings and trainings, participating in work groups, serving on committees, and joining communities of practice.

As an introvert, I worked hard to break out of my shell and gain the confidence to speak up with ideas and suggestions, to reach out with questions, help out when needed, and build my network.  My HR network has become even more critical to me as we worked remotely through the pandemic and in times when the team has been short staffed. I’ve leaned on many colleagues in the divisional HR community to assist me with implementing campus and school HR-related initiatives and programs, staying up to date with all of the changes, answering urgent questions, as well as provide moral support during such a difficult time for all. I feel fortunate to be able to work with such incredible colleagues!

Any learning experiences (formal or informal) that have had long-term resonance in your career?

At a professional development conference I attended, a speaker shared the concept of “yes criteria” to help make decisions; this really resonated with me. I was feeling overwhelmed as a sole-HR representative within the school, trying to “do it all,” and also grow in my career. This meant that I was saying yes to every opportunity that was presented to me.  I applied the “yes criteria” concept to my own situation, and the criteria I developed and used from that day forward helped me make more effective decisions when presented with opportunities outside of my everyday workload.

Sample criteria include:

  • “Does this opportunity fit into my career goals?”
  • “Is this a unique opportunity that won’t come up again?”

I’ve found this very helpful to stay focused and to feel ok with declining opportunities that come my way.

What do you do for fun?

I am into lifting heavy weights and getting strong! Powerlifting, strongman, and strength training are my go-to work outs—I find them to have a positive impact on me in many ways. I did my first powerlifting competition in April of 2018 (only 10.5 months after giving birth to my son); my first strongman competition in May 2019; and hope to compete again. I also enjoy spending time with my family, finding local kid-friendly events to attend with my son Everett, going to concerts and live-music, and baking.