The expression “out of the mouths of babes” is apropos for the early childhood of Denelle Waynick. She told people all the time that she wanted to be a lawyer, even though she didn’t quite know what that meant.
Her career path was very focused and intentional, and after graduating with a degree from Rutgers University, the self-proclaimed “Jersey Girl” headed to Washington, DC for law school, graduating from Howard University School of Law in 1991.
Waynick calls her time at Howard one of the most pivotal points of her life as it largely helped shape who she has evolved into from a professional perspective.
“Being in an environment of predominantly African American soon-to-be professionals and professors, and being educated in those storied halls, helped define and shape my perspective not to just succeed but be impactful,” she explains. “The word ‘impactful’ is a good one to describe what I try to be every day and also what I do in my role.”
Today, Waynick serves as US general counsel, and global head of enterprise risk management for UCB, a Brussels, Belgium-based global biopharmaceutical company which invests more than 20 percent of revenue in cutting-edge scientific research to meet unmet patient needs.
Waynick’s journey to the position and her niche as a healthcare attorney included stints at private law firms; time as the New Jersey chief of staff of the department of law and public safety; and legal director for Schering-Plough, which was the beginning of her in-house career in 2003.
“Throughout my journeys, what became fairly evident to me, was having the right balance with family and recognizing opportunities to trail-blaze from a first amendment perspective,” she shares. “When I made partner at the end of 1999 [for Gibbons PC], it was the first time there had been an African American partner in the history of the firm. I don’t take those types of accomplishments lightly.”
What attracted her to in-house counsel life at first, and one that continues with her work at UCB, is the ability to see the whole picture of the business.
At UCB, Waynick has successfully led her team during the company’s recent reorganization, embracing change throughout the transformation and aligning her team’s legal strategy with that of the company.
“It starts with building trust and bringing my authentic self to the table every day,” Waynick says. “It requires me to be vulnerable, open and lead by example. That means when there are challenges, I need to recognize that I need to think a different way and be intentional about working in a different environment. I also need to be thoughtful in my actions and what it means for the organization.”
A hallmark of her leadership skills is recognizing that everyone doing things the same way is not necessarily productive, and instead, instills a culture where people’s different beliefs are valued and respected.
“It starts with building trust and bringing my authentic self to the table every day. It requires me to be vulnerable, open and lead by example.”
“People recognize that they can have a different reaction, but at the end of the day, we will be aligned to the common goals and objectives. We may not agree, but we are going to get there together,” Waynick says. “Them observing me, helps them; it’s like I am bringing them along.”
The reorganization has created a split in how UCB supports clients, with the executive committee reducing its number of members. The business unit reorganized itself such that two persons are responsible for all the operation from a therapeutic and geographic perspective.
“That consolidation, from a legal department, means we needed to align,” Waynick explains. “Now, there is one head lawyer leading a team supporting neurology, and the same for immunology. We have divided the team based on how the executive committee has fallen.”The great news is that it has created opportunities for those who were once under Waynick’s management to establish their own management capabilities. One of her biggest passions is the development of people and her team, noting that’s where she draws her energy.
“It’s the experience and guidance that I can bring to them that I really feel creates the biggest impact,” she says. “The connection we have as a US team is as strong as ever and the reorganization has not been able to shake that. That gives me an enormous amount of pride.”
The global part of her job is to recognize risks not only trending in the industry but those that are emerging. In addition, assessing what is in the ecosystem that could come to fruition and take the company off its ten-year strategic path.
In addition to bringing her legal team together, Waynick is a natural champion for diversity and inclusion and has been instrumental in expanding the global footprint of UCB’s efforts in this area.
In her legal department, she has been very intentional to ensure any recruiting reflects a diverse array of candidates to further foster a sense of appreciation for differing points of view.
“This is not a profession, or an industry, dominated by African American females, so it is incumbent on me and others to reach back and give back to ensure the opportunities—whether I created them myself or in part provided,” Waynick explains. “Do those who look like me, think like me, grew up like me, feel like they are included and have a place in this industry? It’s about trying to level the playing field. It goes beyond that it’s the right thing to do. It’s reflective on the society we live.”