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Friday, Sep 22, 2023

PROFILE – Honoree 1998 Tamar Elkeles

Beginning as an intern in a one person department, Tamar Elkeles, Ph.D. has nurtured the growth of Qualcomm’s staff of technology innovators and helped to move the organization into the successful business model it is with contemporary approaches to employee training and motivation. As Vice President of Learning and Organization Development, Elkeles is responsible for creating and implementing the overall learning and development strategy for the company including global learning, executive/leadership, organization and technical development, employee communications, and learning technology for Qualcomm’s 20,000 employees worldwide. Joining the organization 21 years ago, Elkeles has been at the forefront of developing employee protocols that help retain and encourage the unique staffing needs of the company.

Nationally, Elkeles is a member of The Conference Board’s Executive Council on Talent and Organizational Development as well a member of the CLO Magazine Editorial Board. Locally, Elkeles served as co-chair of the Advisory Board for Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla; served on the Board of the San Diego Classroom of the Future Foundation; and volunteers at her daughter’s school.


How has your background affected who you are today: My dad had a very strong work ethic and taught me that if you work really hard you will succeed. His strength and character live within me.

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What do you consider the three high points in your life: There are four (in order of occurrence). Completing my Ph.D.; the birth of my daughter; writing the book “The Chief Learning Officer” and being named 2010 “CLO of the Year.”

Was there a defining moment or individual who set you on your life path: My grandmother, who taught me that the knowledge I have in my head is my most important possession. I am constantly learning.

When you were a little girl, what did you want to do when you grew up: In my 5th grade autobiography I wrote that I wanted to be a psychologist so I could help people. I earned a Ph.D. in Psychology in 1995.


Best business decision: Hiring a top notch staff, they truly are an “A Team.”

Best personal decision: Having my daughter. She is the greatest gift in my life.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Managing bureaucracy.

Biggest risk you have taken: Constantly taking risks.

Essential business/personal philosophy: Always have high expectations of yourself and others.

Most important lesson learned: The only person taking care of you is you.

Five words that describe you: Creative, visionary, strategic, results-oriented and generous.

How do you motivate your staff: By setting an example, being transparent and consistently rewarding extreme performance.

What is the secret to your success: Hard work and pushing the boundaries.


Favorite quote: “The only no is no problem.”

Most influential book: My own, “The Chief Learning Officer: Driving Value in a Changing Organization Through Learning & Development.”

What do you want to do that you haven’t done yet: Watch my daughter grow up.

Has a mentor been an important part of your growth: Throughout my career my colleagues in other companies have been my greatest mentors, I have learned a tremendous amount from them and their experiences. On a daily basis my daughter provides me with the most valuable perspective, she teaches me more than she will ever know.

How have you mentored others: By providing insight and guidance on business challenges, career decisions and strategic initiatives.

What do you do to re-energize and re-focus: Make wine in Napa Valley.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years: I don’t know where I will be in 10 days let alone 10 years! I’ve been at Qualcomm for 21 years and it seems like I just started yesterday.


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