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Meet Gladstone: Robin Givens

Film strip of Robin Givens
Born on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, and a world-traveler at age 12, Robin grew up in Arlington, Texas, where he eventually studied journalism and English literature at the University of Texas at Arlington. He has been the executive assistant to Warner Greene since 1998 and also supports Jennifer Doudna and Christof Fellmann.

What brought you to Gladstone?

My colleague at California Pacific Medical Center, Susan Dan, had taken a position as the executive assistant to Bob Mahley, the president of Gladstone at the time. She recommended me to Warner Greene, who was seeking an executive assistant. On the very day when I decided I wanted a new opportunity, Susan left a voicemail for me about Gladstone. The universe smiled on me that day.

What do you like about Gladstone?

Aside from the work itself, which varies each day, I enjoy my coworkers, many of whom I’ve worked with for a long time. It is also great to welcome new colleagues. I always make a point to tell them that I hope they’ll enjoy Gladstone as much as I have. It is also great to be in a multicultural environment.

Can you describe your role at Gladstone?

My role is to channel Warner Greene! How am I doing? But seriously, I am privileged to support Warner and his lab for all of these years and now to also support Jennifer Doudna and Christof Fellmann. I enjoy administrative work and staying organized. I view myself as a member of the larger administration and try my best to be an effective liaison between investigators, their lab members, and my administrative colleagues. I cannot do this without everyone’s help!

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy earning the confidence and trust of those I support so that I can relieve them of many administrative burdens. This is my way of contributing to the scientific enterprise: helping free up scientists to focus on science. I’ve especially enjoyed organizing successful seminar series, scientific advisory board meetings, and scientific retreats.

Can you describe one of the people who influenced your career?

Without question, my first boss, a Safeway store manager. He was a perfectionist who was unquestionably considered to be the finest manager in the Dallas Division, which included more than 140 stores. He is also an albino and legally blind from his condition. He held himself to very high standards and expected the same of those around him. Fortunately, I met his standards and survived, thanks to his dedication to making sure we all received great training. I worked for the company 13 years, through college and afterward, and he and I are friends to this day.

What do you do when you are not working?

Wash the car, shop for groceries, do in San Francisco is so glamorous! But seriously, I work in short trips to western Sonoma or the Monterey Peninsula when possible. I recently adopted the odd hobby of taking photos of tombstones at Colma cemeteries using an app called Find-a-Grave. People make requests for photos for genealogical purposes or to just see a grave that they cannot visit in person. The grounds are beautiful, it’s fresh air, good exercise, and it is helpful to people.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Play the piano.

What is your hidden or unique talent?

Cutting to the chase. Not so hidden!

Name one thing that not many people know about you.

I didn’t speak until I was 18 months old. My parents were getting worried. One evening the TV wasn’t working and my dad got up to kick it (this worked in the old days). I finally spoke, “It’s a lemon.” My life as a critic was launched.

If you could meet any scientist from any point in time, who would it be and why?

I would meet Werner von Braun, the Saturn V rocket scientist. For a time, he was my dad’s next-door neighbor in Huntsville, Alabama. My dad threw a party but ran out of scotch and Dr. von Braun had a meltdown and stormed out, saying “What kind of party is this?” I’d like to talk to Werner about his anger issues.

What advice do you have for your fellow executive assistants and administrative assistants?

Enjoy what you do, but if you don’t, pursue other opportunities. You deserve to feel successful and valued. Administrative roles can be wonderful jobs when you and your boss complement one another and you are trusted.