Executive Assistant of the Week: Dallas

Barbara Gildea
Chief of Staff
State National Companies

Barb Gildea is Chief of Staff at State National Companies. Barb enables the CEO and President to be their most effective with both internal and external stakeholders while fulfilling their commitments to partners, clients, and the Board of Directors. As trusted counsel to the CEO and President, Barb facilitates the execution of their strategic initiatives while working with team members across the organization to ensure objectives are completed. She also manages and oversees the performance and workloads of the Executive Assistant team.

Barb joined the company in 1998 in the role of Executive Assistant to the CFO and has earned her Project Management Professional (PMP) designation during that time. Barb previously held roles as Commission Accounting Manager at National Foundation Life, Controller at Omnivest Insurance Group, and Branch Accountant/Office Manager at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Barb holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Missouri. She is currently participating in the Chief of Staff Mastermind Group, which is a year-long learning cohort that combines chief of staff-specific training, group and 1:1 coaching, and peer advisory.

Barbara Gildea will be one of the distinguished contributors at the ELS Forum: Dallas October 23-24, 2019

1) Name a mentor who made an impact on your career and explain why.

David Hale, retired EVP, CFO & COO of State National Companies, has had the biggest impact on both my professional and personal growth. Partnering with David allowed me to grow from a mere assistant to a true strategic partner. His belief in my abilities, his coaching and mentoring, as well as the opportunities that he allowed me to undertake to prove my skills have helped me establish my career. He challenged me to lead projects, perform strategic analysis, involved me in the process of mergers and acquisitions such as taking our company public, getting listed on NASDAQ, as well as moving the company along the path to becoming acquired and managing the integration process with our parent company. These skills enabled me to grow on a personal front as well provided me the strength to leave an abusive marriage and learn to grow in a healthy relationship (I’m getting married to an amazing man on Friday, July 5.) David treated me as a confidant and partner. He sought my advice and counsel on topics that could have ripple effects throughout the organization. The CEO, seeing that level of trust, partnership, skill and acumen, promoted me to Chief of Staff and gave me a seat at the table with executive leadership. This would never have happened without the constant support, trust, leadership and great advice provided by David throughout my career at State National.

2) If you had one or two colleagues to help plan the biggest event of your career, who would you call upon?

I work with an amazing team of Executive Assistants. One of my proudest accomplishments is building this team of professional women who collaborate together for the combined success of each other and the company. This atmosphere of support, teamwork, and positivity just enhances the capable skills that each of them have. I would not hesitate to call upon any one of my administrative colleagues to help me with a big event or project. We all have our specialties and recognize the strength of one another. The difficult part would be having to choose one or two to assist, but it would all depend upon the skills needed for the event. I would gain comfort in knowing that while I was away working on the event, the organization would continue to run smoothly, professionally, and efficiently in my absence due to this amazing team of women: Sarah Cloud, Erin Dietz, Angela Moore, Katy O’Brien, and Rhonda Pumphrey. (Let’s tag them!)

3) How do you practice self-care?

Over the years, I have learned that in order for me to perform at my peak, I have to be able to step away from the stress of the job and relax. Some of the ways that I relax is to go on weekend trips with my fiancé. These mini-vacations provide my mind with a complete break from work. We visit wineries, go camping, take long drives in the country, watch live music (often performed by our friends), go to baseball games, and occasionally stay home with our cats and binge watch something on TV. We “live” our lives by getting out of the house and doing things we enjoy with friends and family. A good book, good music, a massage, and some quiet time alone is also necessary from time to time for me to stay balanced and happy.