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.

When she was approached by Gilead, Washington remembered that her last science class had been high school biology. Nevertheless, she took the challenge. Although she recalls digging in to understand Gilead's business as one of the top challenges in her career, "the great thing about finance is that the skill set is very transferable," she says.

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