Quick Take: Gilead Sciences CFO Robin Washington

A biotech finance chief shares her thoughts on the CFO role.
Kate O'SullivanJuly 25, 2012

Name: Robin Washington
Title: CFO
Company: Gilead Sciences

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring CFOs?
My best advice for aspiring CFOs would be to take on challenging assignments that take you out of your comfort zone and give you a diverse set of experiences. Consider assignments that give you operational and international experience. Excellent CFOs really understand the business.

Also ensure that you diversify your finance skills as much as possible such that you cover accounting, FP&A [financial planning and analysis], tax, operations, treasury, investor relations, and audit. Be less concerned about titles and move laterally to build up your functional breadth earlier in your career.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs

Download our whitepaper to discover the technical and behavioral skills needed to lead your business forward.

What do you like best about your role as CFO?
I enjoy the opportunity to work with a cross-functional management team that allows me to immerse myself in the business and help steer the company towards its strategic objectives.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Balancing the time I spend on delivering on our short-term objectives while ensuring that we don’t miss the big-picture issues. Senior management has to keep the company focused on the longer-term objectives and anticipate and plan for diversions as much as possible. The CFO plays a critical role in this by ensuring that planning processes and information reporting (financial and nonfinancial information) assist the senior management team with anticipating and proactively resolving issues as they arise — or before.

What do you consider to be a critical skill for success in the CFO role?
There are a few . . . curiosity, self-assurance, the ability to communicate with a diverse set of audiences, and having strategic thinking and prioritization skills.

Case Study: How Edgewood Tahoe’s CFO Saved 500 Jobs From the Ashes