People and Culture
Leading With Passion and Purpose: Sandra’s Story
Stories@Gilead - September 21, 2023 - 4 min read
Many teenagers have some idea of what they want to do for a career – but few are as crystal clear as Sandra Patterson was. From a young age in Guatemala, Sandra was naturally good at math and accounting, and decided she wanted to spend her life using them to solve complex issues.
“Since high school, I just somehow knew that my goal was to be the corporate controller of a multinational company and provide financial advice to help make difficult decisions,” says Sandra. “I thought I was going to do this in Guatemala. I never imagined I would end up living in the United States and becoming the corporate controller of a Fortune 500 company.”
Striving to Address Health Inequity
Sandra’s life trajectory shifted when she moved to the United States as a result of political instability in her home country. She was surprised to encounter the many healthcare inequities that exist across the U.S.
These healthcare inequities were part of what drew her to Gilead 12 years ago. “I loved the fact that the company was not only working on developing therapies for people with life-threatening conditions, but was also committed to addressing barriers to healthcare access around the world,” she explains.
Shortly after Sandra joined Gilead, this company ambition touched close to home. She worked on an acquisition that ended up being the backbone of Gilead’s work to develop a cure for hepatitis C.
“I had an aunt and a cousin who were living with hepatitis C,” Sandra shares. “My aunt died about two years after I joined Gilead, but my cousin was cured from the disease – she believes it was a result of one of our medicines. The work that Gilead does has always been very personal to me.”
Leading With Passion and Purpose
Today, Sandra is the Senior Vice President and Corporate Controller at Gilead. As controller, she’s a critical part of the company’s operations. Sandra’s team provides financial advice and services that support strategic decision-making, helps the company meet its legal and regulatory obligations, and ensures the accuracy and integrity of financial records. During her tenure at Gilead, she’s held five different roles, steadily increasing her responsibilities.
“I’ve been asked how I navigated to the position I’m in,” Sandra says. “My key advice is to seek work on whatever drives your passion. If you're passionate about what you do, not only are you going to be happier every day, but you’ll also deliver your best every day – people will recognize that.”
Sandra believes that her ethnic background plays an important role in who she is as an employee. “I bring certain cultural elements that connect very well to the Gilead culture,” she explains. “I was raised in a traditional Latino family. For me, family values are reflected in my strong belief in teamwork.”
Gilead’s commitment to diversity in leadership is something Sandra also sees as a vital part of her career path. “According to public data, less than 30% of senior vice president roles in corporate companies are held by women and that percentage gets smaller for women of Latino heritage – at 6%. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to Gilead’s inclusion and diversity initiatives and to open the path for others who will come after me,” she says. “At the same time, I appreciate that at Gilead, I feel valued for my skill set and capabilities and for what I bring to the company.”
In her time at Gilead, Sandra has participated in various initiatives to increase diversity in hiring and to mentor incoming employees. She’s also the Executive Co-Sponsor of Gileados, an Employee Resource Group committed to embracing and sharing the Latino culture within the company. Outside of work, she's a national board member for the Association of Latino Professionals for America. Authentically having diversity and inclusion at a company, Sandra believes, is a journey.
“I don't think that there's ever an end point,” she says. “To me, diversity is a commitment to a way of working. It’s a belief that working with people who have different styles, approaches and thoughts can lead to better ideas and solutions. So, we have to constantly strive to nurture a diverse and inclusive environment. It’s not easy, but we are improving every day.”