Jennifer Wu, a commercial disputes lawyer at Pinsent Masons, is active on several committees involved with diversity and inclusion. In her 2021 Spotlight Series, she discusses the importance of mentorship, advice to her younger self, her 2021 mantra, and much more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I have always loved learning about different cultures and backgrounds, and grew up in a very diverse environment in England where friends and their families were open to sharing. I also learned a lot during my backpacking days across Europe, trans-Siberian, China, India and Nepal (not all in one go). I am passionate about diversity and inclusion and giving back to the community. That’s why I am part of the D&I Committee at Pinsent Masons, where I am a senior commercial disputes lawyer, with a focus on cybersecurity, data governance and technology/ contractual disputes. I advise financial clients mainly on data/AI and digital transformation projects. I also sit as the Head of Diversity for CIArb (EAB) Young Members Group and the Head of Partnerships for Women in Law Hong Kong.
Outside of work, I enjoy cooking and despite a busy schedule, my partner and I share the cooking and dine in around 4 days per week. Since coming to Hong Kong almost 7 years ago, I have also found my love for hiking. Where possible, I will be close to nature on the weekends.
Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. Did you have a mentor? If so, what did you look for in that person?
I have been fortunate to have a few mentors in my career, whether formal or informal and these were individuals who I looked up to and came across at particular times in my career when I had specific issues. I am the first lawyer in the family and my first two supervisors made the biggest impact to my legal career as they taught me to have a good work ethic and also how to excel as a litigator. They were both male and it is important to have both male and female mentors.
A good mentor should take time to understand the mentee as a person and as an individual. It would not be helpful for mentors to pre-judge, generalise their mentees into stereotypes (such as females are less confident) and not listen properly to the message the mentee is conveying. I look for people who are (1) trustworthy and (2) good active listeners, who can see things from my point of view before forming judgements and giving guidance.
Think back to when you were starting out your career. What advice would you give your younger self?
My junior colleagues will hear me say this a lot and my advice to my younger self would be don’t give up on your hobbies and maintain a good work/life balance even at a junior level. The only thing I didn’t give up during my training contract was watching Top Gear on BBC2 every Sunday at 8pm. One of my best friends still sends me the Top Gear calendar every year since I moved from England.
Understandably, when people start out in any career, they tend to want to run as fast as they can and at the shortest length of time. Myself included. I learned that a career is not a sprint. It is important to remember that any career is a lifelong career, so the tortoise and the hare story rings true here. It is OK to take time to learn and enjoy the journey. It is also OK to say no to tasks to allow yourself a little more time and the headspace you need to do well. The earlier you find the balance, the more satisfied you will be with your career.
What will be your 2021 mantra to keep you motivated, either professional or personally?
My 2021 mantra is to have the courage to act. This applies to both home and work.
With COVID and the general stresses we all carry, we sometimes take things at face value, such as working in a challenging environment or burdening a disproportionate share of housework, and not acting on it. We should all have the courage to act and voice our opinions in hope to make things work better. It’s having the courage to recognise that and to move on because there are wonderful things in this world that we are not doing or seeing when we are stuck in unpleasant moments. Seek help and talk to your friends, family or colleagues that you trust. Never feel like you are alone because there are people who have been through similar experiences like you and even when we cannot find courage within us, there can be courage within groups. This is why organisations such as WiFA and WILHK are here, and we have events lined up this year to support and also empower our members – being strong, intelligent, bold women in the industry.