Inside Illumio is a monthly series that highlights the exceptional individuals behind Illumio’s world-class products. Each post will peek behind the scenes to spotlight a member of our team. Come get to know us a little better and learn more about what makes Illumio’s culture so unique.
This month, meet Sophina Gellon, Head of Real Estate and Workplace Services at Illumio, who’s based out of our HQ in Sunnyvale, CA. Hear about how her role changed during the pandemic and the last place she traveled to.
Tell us about yourself. What do you do at Illumio?
I joined Illumio two years ago and serve as the head of real estate and workplace services. In this role, I am responsible for a wide range of duties associated with our global real estate footprint (we have ten offices). This includes (but is not limited to): physical security, meals and snacks, small moves and reconfigurations, events, mailroom, office supplies and business cards, ergonomics, pet policies, and signage.
How did you get into corporate real estate and workplace services?
I graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in finance. Upon graduation, I joined a small construction company, but found it difficult to operate effectively without an engineering or architectural background. I then moved into managing commercial real estate for landlords, which included managing tenants and common areas, office buildings, shopping centers, retail, and industrial space. From there, I transitioned into corporate real estate to expand my skillset. Because of my past work experience, I uniquely understand the perspective of both landlords and tenants, which allows me to excel in my current line of work.
What made you interested in working at Illumio?
I transitioned to corporate real estate while working for a large commercial real estate services firm. What this means is that I worked with large tech companies, but as a consultant. I was eager for an opportunity to move “in house” and feel like a true member of the team, not an outside advisor. I was also very interested in reporting directly to our CFO, Anup Singh, as an opportunity to advance my career and learn from a great mentor. Having a CFO as your manager is like a crash course Executive MBA. I learn so much every day and get to contribute to many meaningful projects for the organization under his leadership.
What does a day in the life of Sophina look like? How has that changed during the pandemic?
My day-to-day looked very different pre-pandemic than it does today. When Illumineers worked in the office full-time, I would start my day with a quick team huddle to align on urgent requests from executives, discuss events that need immediate attention, and new hire onboarding (orientation, photo badges and swag). Like most people, I jumped from meeting to meeting and checked things off my to-do list before 11AM, when I would transition into the facilitation of lunch. Prior to the pandemic, HQ Illumineers had lunch delivered to the office every day, so my team would ensure lunch set up and clean up took place without issue. After lunch, we’d coordinate business card orders, schedule any maintenance or repairs for the facilities, negotiate upcoming lease renewals or office expansions, organize our ergonomic support and mailroom, plan happy hours and holiday events, and so on. There’s never a shortage of work to do!
Throughout the pandemic, my team has been focused on maintaining our office spaces, supporting Accounts Payable, Procurement, and Legal, and, perhaps most importantly, determining our return to office plans. We’re all anxious to return to the office in some capacity in 2022, so there’s been a great deal of planning around how best to do so safely.
What are you passionate about outside of your career?
I have two great passions: travel and cooking.
I’ve been to over 45 different countries and love to explore new places. The last place I visited was Portugal, a truly breathtaking country. It’s fun to explore new countries and cultures. Some provide picturesque sunsets and clear blue beaches, some offer adventure, some are a shock to the senses. Each country I have visited so far provided a unique experience and expanded my worldview.
Outside of travel, I have a real passion for cooking (and eating!). I love to try new recipes and techniques. I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed foodie, so I will often go to a world-class, Michelin star meal and then come home and practice the techniques I’ve just experienced.
Which Illumio core value resonates most with you and why?
Run to Challenges. In facilities, you’re often drinking from the firehose. There is never a shortage of things to do or random fire drills that come up. But at Illumio, I’ve experienced an ability to stay calm, act fast, and run to those challenges. It’s part of who we are as a business and a strong part of the culture that’s been built here.
What do you want people to know about working at Illumio?
At Illumio, I’ve learned that teamwork and cross-functional collaboration are pillars of successful, meaningful work. Illumineers are always ready to collaborate to achieve any outcome, and I feel lucky to work with so many talented individuals with varied backgrounds.
Interested in joining the team? Check out our career openings.