Chief People Officer

Title : Chief People Officer
Company/Headquarters: General Services Administration, Washington
Number of Employees : 13,000

Background: Gail has been with the GSA since 1979 and was named its CPO in 1998. In this capacity, she is responsible for agencywide human capital management. She is a member of the International Personnel Management Association and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council. She was named to the 2000 Human Resource Executive Honor Roll and was a 2002 honoree of the Presidential Rank Award as a distinguished executive.

Greatest accomplishment: I know I've done my job well when I see people or organizations I've helped become successful.
Greatest challenge or obstacle: My personal drive for perfection gets in the way sometimes. When you're in the people business, my kind of intensity can create problems. I've actually learned to relax a little bit.
Future goals: I'd most like to make a meaningful difference in the work life of federal associates; not with new programs necessarily, but simply by helping people understand how things work in the company and what avenues are open to them.

My advice to women seeking leadership roles in HR: Search for and understand why you want to be in HR so the journey is really meaningful. The people business is unique and complex, so you need to be there for a reason. Helping people be successful is what drives me. You need to decide what it is about this business you care about.

The person or event that most inspired me in my career: Years ago, I was a newcomer at another government agency, already at a higher compensation level than people who'd been there for 20 or 30 years. Many barely made enough to support their families, yet were afraid of the repercussions from their bosses if they asked HR to help them make career-development moves. I realized people need to understand what opportunities exist and they need encouragement to try. That's our job, to help them open those doors.

If I had it to do over, I would have done this differently: I wish I had learned more about some aspects of HR, such as retirement, performance planning and metrics, the latter of which I'm learning a great deal about now.
I'm most relaxed and happy when I'm doing this: Spending time with my husband and children.

Book I am currently reading: Standing at the Scratch Line by Guy Johnson (son of Maya Angelou)

Most recent movie enjoyed: Ray

Favorite saying/slogan: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Additional views on career women and work/life struggles: The obstacles faced by women in corporate America are still very much a problem, at work and at home, but at least women can actually get to the table. Staying there is more problematic.
Any regrets? I don't always think I made all the best decisions about balancing work and life, but everything is a learning experience and every day gives you another chance to change the world.

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