Ushering through a blockbuster product
Company: Gilead Sciences
Title: Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
If you would have asked Robin Washington seven years ago about Gilead Sciences ($GILD), she might have drawn a blank. In 2007, Washington was working at the software company Hyperion Solutions as its chief financial officer when it was acquired by Oracle Corporation. Suddenly jobless with a little time on her hands, Washington began weighing her options. And then she hit upon Gilead.
"I have to admit, I didn't know about Gilead," Washington told FierceBiotech. "At the time, the company's focus was on HIV/AIDS. It was fascinating and intriguing to me that the focus was on unmet medical needs."
Since taking the reins as CFO in 2008, Washington has helped guide Gilead into a new period of fiscal growth. In 2011, the company completed its acquisition of Pharmasset for $11 billion, driving one of the most ambitious late-stage development programs in the industry. And Sovaldi, Gilead's hep C wunderkind, broke the blockbuster barrier earlier this year with a record-setting $2.27 billion in Q1 sales.
Washington said her time in the technology sector helped her adjust to the quick turnaround and frequent product launches at Gilead.
"I view myself as a continuous learner, and the idea of being able to take my background and apply it in areas of unmet patient need was interesting to me," Washington said. "Innovation has an impact on patient lives."
Washington's appetite for knowledge began early on when she decided to major in English and pre-law at the University of Michigan. But after completing a few internships, Washington shifted her focus to accounting, earning an undergraduate degree in business administration at the University of Michigan and an MBA from Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management.
Although business is Washington's main priority at Gilead, she also makes a point of understanding the science behind the company's products. Although the learning curve has been steep, Washington goes out into the field, converses with reps in medical sciences and hears from doctors how the company brings value to the patient.
"It's important for any industry you're in to understand the product and what makes it successful," Washington told FierceBiotech.
And for other women looking to enter the industry, Washington sees a well-rounded skill set and curiosity as main drivers of success.
"The nature of smart people, particularly women, makes them poised to be successful in the industry. We can continue to focus on how we can grow that pool of talent," Washington said.
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-- Emily Wasserman