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How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Sally Jewell's path to Obama's new Cabinet

February 6, 2013: 2:56 PM ET

By Beth Kowitt, writer

130206071102-sally-jewell-gallery-horizontalRecreational Equipment Inc. CEO Sally Jewell, President Obama's choice to be the next Secretary of the Interior, obviously did not plan her career.

She started as an engineer at Mobil Oil. Then she worked in banking—at Security Pacific Bank, West One Bank, and Washington Mutual.

In 1996, Jewell joined the board of REI, hardly dreaming that she would head the member-owned cooperative someday. But Jewell became the outdoor-equipment retailer's chief of operations in 2000. And five years later, she took over as CEO.

Now Jewell, 56, is due to give up her role at the $1.8 billion-a-year company to become the first female member of Obama's second-term Cabinet—and help quell critics who are bemoaning the lack of women in the President's inner circle.

If she's confirmed, she'll succeed Ken Salazar as the U.S. overseer of the National Park Service, Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

And based on what we've seen from her so far, we bet Jewell will inject her own culture into the Department of the Interior. REI is one of Fortune's Best Companies to Work For. It offers paid sabbaticals after 15 years, welcomes dogs to the office, and encourages employees to bring their whole selves to work.

So if we hear about Jewell wearing a backpack to the Oval Office, we won't be surprised.

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