Gale King is a power woman in her own right. Serving as executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Nationwide, a leading insurance and financial services company, she holds the reigns in terms of HR strategy, talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, associate and leadership development and diversity and inclusion for the company, among other duties.
With more than a decade of corporate leadership under her belt, the University of Florida graduate has been named one of Black Enterprise’s “100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America” and has served as a speaker at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit.
Black Enterprise magazine editor-in-chief, Derek Dingle, caught up with the busy powerhouse to talk about her career ascension in the company and how young professionals can build a stellar personal brand to succeed.
BlackEnterprise.com: How did you advance in her career at Nationwide? How were you coached as you made your professional ascension?
Gale King: I’ve been with the company for many years. What I will tell you is that nothing happens in our life without somebody believing in you and seeing your work. We can do our part, and our part is to make sure that we’re prepared and that we have the skills and competencies we need. We must take the risks. Relationships and other people who see your work, who sponsor you and believe in you—they drive you to a different place.
How did you handle challenges?
There were lots of them and there are always barriers in anything you do. … I tell people this all the time: People are amazingly good, but sometimes they do things that maybe we don’t always agree with or that may not be aligned. Don’t let that bother you. As I was advancing in the company, I never allowed anyone to make me feel that I didn’t matter. If you don’t like me because I’m a female or a woman … or because I’m the minority, that’s not my issue.
If you manage your brand—how you respond to that distraction—then you control the situation. You stand up and you say, ‘You know what, there is a lesson for me.’ Along the way, I can tell you I’ve had great managers. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard.
My job when I’m working for you is to understand what you need and to understand what my response and accountabilities are, and then to know when it’s not a good fit.
When you are coaching, how do you get professionals to go through the process of building their brand within the overall brand of the company?
It’s really important to me that every associate at Nationwide— no matter who they are, where they are, what level they are—that when they see me, they feel we are connected. When I see Nationwide, no matter where I am, I feel the connection.
We are all connected to the mission of Nationwide. We’re connected to one another because we’re connected to that mission. I have a very open-door policy. People know that they can come and it’s a safe share, and they can have a conversation with me and everybody knows that you are going to get the truth.
One of my favorite things to tell young people is to obtain feedback about how you show up from peers, your boss and many different sources. However, you know yourself better than anyone, and you know what you need to work on. As long as you refuse to be true to yourself, you can’t change. I’m always telling them, ‘To thine own self be true.’
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