Robin Washington was a veteran of technology companies when she joined Gilead Sciences as CFO in May 2008, shortly before the financial markets imploded. Since then, she’s led the biopharmaceutical company through a major ERP implementation and one of biotech’s biggest acquisitions.
Washington was previously controller at enterprise software provider PeopleSoft, where she was positioned to take over as CFO when the company was acquired by Oracle in 2004. Washington then signed on as CFO at Hyperion Solutions, but Hyperion was also acquired by Oracle. Washington decided it was time to consider opportunities in some fast-growing industry outside of enterprise software.
Based on her experience at Tandem Computers, she encouraged finance executives to shift regularly to new positions and promoted those who took advantage of such opportunities. They, after all, had developed new functional skills and perhaps also project management skills and the ability to work in other cultures.
“You want people who can think outside the box and be agents for change, not only coming up with the changes but being able to implement them,” Washington says. Emphasizing employee development “results in lower turnover, but more importantly people with better skill sets and alignment with the company’s goals and objectives,” she says. “As the company scales [in size], our employees can also scale.”