Gabriella Toledano is leaning in.

Gabrielle Toledano

EVP & Chief Talent Officer

Redwood City, CA

Electronic Arts (EA)

It felt amazing to have risen to the challenge and to be recognized for adding value.

For six years, I worked as an HR director at a very successful technology company, where I did very well and was recognized for my contributions. While I liked the company, my colleagues, and the job day to day, I didn’t feel that I had a clear path forward in my career; things were moving more slowly than I wanted and I felt unchallenged. I started to respond to external recruiting calls.

I was soon recruited by a major public company to be their global head of HR; my first reaction was that I was not yet qualified to take on that role. The job I was in didn’t expose me much to the role of the Chief Human Resources Officer; there was little learning or training to be prepared to contribute at that level. As a result, I was not confident about accepting this incredible opportunity to be the CHRO of another major technology company. I also lacked a mentor I could talk to for guidance and support, who could help me figure out the best path forward.

I was convinced by the executive recruiter to interview for the role. I had a great experience interviewing with the executive team and the CEO of the company, so I decided to lean in to the challenge rather than doubt myself. It was the first time I would be in such a high profile leadership role at a public company; it was a big step up. What I did know is that I would work hard, listen, and make sure to do my best.

The executive team at this company was very sure I could take on the role. To this day, it was one of the best groups of people I have ever worked with – a very strong team working on tough issues together. They always had my back and I had theirs. The team was all men, but this was not an issue, other than the fact that more diversity would have made us even better. (We did eventually add another woman to the executive team, and my hypothesis ended up being correct.)

There are a few emails that I have kept over my career. One that I received after meeting Steve Jobs will never be deleted. Another was from the CEO of this new company. In my first month on the job, when we were dealing with difficult operating expense cuts affecting some employees, the CEO sent me an email that said, “I am impressed beyond expectations with your leadership. Thank you for joining our  team.” It felt amazing to have risen to the challenge and to be recognized for adding value. Taking this stretch role has paid off ever since.

Discuss this story

Read more stories