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Jacobs promote world MS day with Fiona Rose, TogetherBeyond Director

Category: Multiple Sclerosis, Jacobs Employee Networks, World MS day, Jacobs’ Access. Connect. Empower, MS community, #MSConnections

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To promote World MS day Jacobs’ Access. Connect. Empower. (ACE)  Employee Network spoke to Fiona Rose about her involvement  and connections through the ACE Employee Network.

Fiona and her family

World MS Day, is celebrated on May 30 each year. It brings the global MS community together to share stories, raise awareness and campaign with everyone affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). The theme for World MS Day 2020-2023 is #MSConnections.The MS Connections campaign is all about building community connection, self-connection and connections to quality care. 


Can you introduce yourself and your role in Jacobs please?

My name is Fiona Rose and I am the TogetherBeyond Director for APME (APAC and Middle East), based in Melbourne, Australia. Our global team is responsible for supporting, developing and driving the TogetherBeyond Strategy and actions across all of our regions alongside our business, HR and Jacobs’ Employee Networks (JENs) leaders.  I see myself as an Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) advocate and ally – with a passion for connecting people, building literacy and capability around I&D and amplifying the voices of those speaking up about social justice issues.  

As part of my work, I have the pleasure and privilege to work alongside all our JENs at a global and local level and, therefore, understand the power of hearing people’s unique lived experiences and stories to help inform, influence and progress the inclusion culture in our workplaces.   


What is Your Story related to MS and World MS Day?

And so, my MS story starts almost a year ago when I was first diagnosed with MS.  It came like a bolt out of the blue…

I was at a friend’s house and whilst we were chatting, every time I moved my head from one side to the other, I felt like I was spinning out of control and quickly developed severe dizziness and nausea. Within 3 hours I was in Accident and Emergency and being tested for vertigo, before being tested for a potential stroke, and was put in a stroke ward for more tests over the following 3 days. 3 weeks later, and many more tests - including a spine and brain MRI - I was told I had MS.

I knew a little about MS – only knowing a couple of people living with MS  - and was faced with making some urgent and important decisions with my husband about my future…..

What medications to take; how would I cope if my MS progressed; what effect would it have on my work and career; what changes to my diet and exercise would help with my symptoms; and most importantly of all, how to talk to my children (aged 11 and 9 at the time) about my diagnosis.

After some serious soul searching, lots of research, and many tears and hugs – I came to the conclusion that starting a course of Disease Modifying Therapy (DMT) meant I could immediately give my body the help it needed to lessen the impact of the MS – and provide some time for me to understand the disease, my symptoms and how best to manage it all with my busy life as a professional, and as a mum, partner and friend. 

I spoke to my kids with my husband, and we have all navigated the emotional and physical journey since then together.  I have a monthly infusion, with very few symptoms apart from fatigue and some challenges with keeping warm or being too hot! And it turns out that from my most recent MRI, I have had no more activity or progression, and so feeling very grateful for the medical support and interventions - as well as the physical and emotional support I have received over the last year.  I have also changed my diet (eating less gluten, meat and dairy), swim more in the ocean and sleep more!  And so, I have started to see my diagnosis as a way to help me make a few more healthy changes in my life as well…and I certainly feel better for it!


What do you enjoy about working at Jacobs?

I love our Culture of Caring.  I was immediately able to share my story with my manager and colleagues – and was blown away with the compassion, offers of support and genuine care for me and my wee clan.  I have continued to share my story with many others, and believe very strongly that by leading by example, perhaps this can help others to share their stories, feel heard and supported, and be able to thrive not just survive at work.


How have you adapted the way in which you work and/or live life due to living with MS?

It is very early in my MS journey, and so I am still learning what I need.  However, I have been able to set clearer boundaries and goals around working, exercise, diet and rest – and feel less guilty about time for myself to replenish my reserves.  I certainly sleep more than I have in years – but not sure if that is simply being a more seasoned parent of slightly older kids that now wake less through the night!


How can colleagues be an ally to you or others in similar situations in day-to-day work life?

I have appreciated colleagues checking in with me from time to time, showing kindness and genuinely asking to understand how I am doing.  MS affects everyone so differently, and each day can be so different, that it can be almost invisible for many - and others may have more visible and physical symptoms and challenges - that a genuine conversation is always good for the soul.


Why do you enjoy being part of the ACE network, why do you think it is important?

I know how much supporting and being part of this network has helped me and others connect on a truly meaningful level around a wide range of issues relating to living with disabilities.  It has helped me find solace and friendship when I was diagnosed, and I knew that beyond the safety of my immediate team and colleagues, that I would feel safe and supported by an even wider network of our Jacobs’ family.

ACE is helping to connect, support and raise awareness for so many of us with such diverse lived experiences of disabilities - and by doing so can inform and increase our disability literacy and confidence, and ensure that we talk more about opportunities rather than barriers – both as we mature as a network and as a more inclusive organisation.


How has being a member of ACE and Jacobs JENs helped you make connections that have led to increased community connection, self-connection, and/or connections to quality care?

For me it is all about making genuine connections – knowing that these relationships and networks are available has given me the confidence to be myself, ask for help and learn from others. Knowing many others are dealing with similar, or sometimes very different issues, allows us all to be a little more humble and grateful.


JAcobs logoFor further information on Jacobs’ Equity, Diversity and Inclusion programme and initiatives please click here.


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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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