We asked our Advisory Council member Helen Robbins-Meyer, Chief Administrative Officer for the County of San Diego, how she got started in her industry, what her big achievements have been, advice she has on how women can take the lead in a male corporate world, advice for women interested in climbing the corporate ladder and how she defines happiness.
Scroll down for the full interview.
Who is Helen Robbins-Meyer?
Helen N. Robbins-Meyer is the first woman appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the County of San Diego. She manages a workforce of more than 16,000 employees in more than 40 departments with an annual budget of $5 billion.
Previously, she served as the Assistant CAO. Her priorities included promoting excellent customer service, continuous measurable improvement and technology innovations. Her efforts led to San Diego being named one of the four best-run counties in the nation by Governing Magazine.
Ms. Robbins-Meyer joined the County in 1997 as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the Community Services Group. She led the first managed competition process in which Fleet employees reengineered their operations, saving taxpayers $1.6 million.
How did you get started in your industry?
Robbins-Meyer: Stumbled upon a few great mentors (they happened to be male!), worked exceptionally hard, wasn’t afraid to take some risks, and realized every challenge was an opportunity to make a difference.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Robbins-Meyer: Loving happy family (wife and mother of 4), First Female Chief Administrative Officer of San Diego County (16,600 employees and $5B budget).
Do you have any advice on how women can take the lead in a male corporate world without alienating male employees?
Robbins-Meyer: Be a great leader that communicates a clear vision that everyone is a part of… that earns the respect of the entire workforce regardless of gender, ethnicity etc.
What advice would you give women interested in climbing the corporate ladder?
A. You CAN do it all but there will be times when you have to prioritize and make sacrifices in both your personal and professional lives.
Finally, happiness is…
Robbins-Meyer: …waking up each morning with a sense of purpose and going to sleep each night knowing that your actions that day made life better.