To my Raytheon Colleagues,
When I left Starlight Children’s Foundation, a global children’s charity supporting chronically ill and hospitalized children, I begged the Universe…please I don’t want to work for a non-profit again.
My entire career had been in service to others through cause-based campaigns. I think it’s because I am keenly aware of how lucky I am in life. I have had it good. I have had it easy. And I feel a certain measure of guilt for my luck. So early on I committed my work to help the environment, or help people get organ transplants or help hospitalized kids smile.
I gave all of myself to my work. My time and talent. My passion. My work defined me. People knew me as part of what I did. And I worked hard to give back for the all luck I felt like I didn’t truly deserve.
Then I had medical challenges of my own and I didn’t want to give all of me anymore. I wanted a job that was just a job, a paycheck and a good one, to support my family comfortably. I wanted a job I could leave at the end of the day and it didn’t follow me home begging for my thoughts, demanding my time after the kids went to bed. I wanted to abandon the non-profit world.
But I kept applying for non-profit jobs, and getting interviews, because that was all I knew how to do. All I knew how to do was to communicate for a cause. Even so, I kept clear my call to abandon those causes and the universe listened. Out of the blue a recruiter phoned. He saw my resume on Career Builder. He had a position for content manager at Raytheon, was I interested? I didn’t know what a content manager was, or what Raytheon was, but I never said no to an interview.
After I met the team in El Segundo I stood by my car, which looked like it was in long-term parking at LAX. This place was immense. It was completely different. It was exactly what I wanted. I turned to the sky and begged, please! Please! I want to be here. So the job was mine. A one-year contract in internal communications at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.
Now the year is over and the contract ends. And I am thankful that the universe heeded my call. In a very short time I learned invaluable lessons from this foray into a Fortune 500.
I learned that even in a $6 billion enterprise with 14,000 employees at 7 sites across the country, you get things done by knowing who can help you get them done. In my first week I was asked to set up a road show for a VP. I expected some sort of online system to reserve rooms at our multiple facilities and quickly learned that the system is to call the person at the site who can reserve the room for you. Need something in Forest, Mississippi? Call Kim. She will get you what you need. And you only know to call Kim because someone told you to call her.
I learned that because these relationships are key to getting things done, individuals are much more than cogs in a behemoth wheel. People are the engines, the drivers, the spark, the heart and soul. The importance of the individual seemed obvious in my tiny charities, but here it struck me as a universal and undeniable truth. The heart of a company is always its people.
I learned how important it is to keep employees inspired and connected to the mission of a company. If people are the heart, the mission is the oxygen to keep it beating strong.
At a non-profit you are never not connected to the mission. You are driven by mission. You are battered and abused by mission. You are asked to give everything of yourself for the mission. Save the earth. Save lives. You know exactly why you are doing what you are doing, even when what you are doing isn’t all that clear. The why is everything. The why keeps you balanced when the every-day insanity of work feels like it might crush your very soul. Your soul is protected, for the most part, by the mission.
I learned the impacts of a disconnect to mission.
I learned this disconnect intensifies when a company is a tapestry of former brands that at one time had their own mission and their own employees and their own, distinct, beating heart.
I learned that the disconnect can be long-lasting.
I learned that disconnect is possible even if the new mission is powerful and good.
I learned that a company needs to actively invest in ways, big and small and authentically, to connect to all the little hearts and inspire them into the bigger whole.
I learned that communication needs to give oxygen.
And I finally learned why I had worked for all those causes for all those years: to learn how to give oxygen wherever I go.
Raytheon’s mission is to make the world a safer place. It’s a mission befitting a cause-based organization. It’s a mission that inspires. This $36 billion global powerhouse in the aerospace industry is working every day to create eye-watering technology that makes sure the men and women out there right now serving in the cloth of our nation have a damn good chance of coming home to their country and to their families. That is something to get behind.
And we give to Veterans groups, and we invest in STEM to educate the next generation of engineers, and we believe in diversity and we do it all sustainably. That’s good stuff. That is a mission that could protect your soul from the every-day insanity of work, for the most part.
So as the heart of this company, keep the mission close. Tap into it, engage with it, breathe it in and exhale it out. It’s not up to the “leaders” or your supervisors or the board of directors or shareholders to keep you connected to the mission and be your oxygen, it’s everyone’s job.
Because you are the heart, so beat strong.
On Halloween night I had an epiphany: I realized why I live in Los Angeles.
There are many, many times when I wonder why I live here. Sitting in traffic, inching home for an hour and a half, I wonder. Flipping through the Real Estate section looking at prices of homes, I wonder. Making a decent salary and yet feeling like we are just holding on, I wonder. Aging in a town of agelessness, I wonder.
The wondering is bond amongst Los Angelenos. When I was 18 I vowed never to return to this town and chose a college multiple time zones away, but life led me back. Friends who moved wonder critically how the rest of us remain. Friends who here spend at least part of their day wondering if they should stay. The wondering is so prolific that the LA Times ran an Op-Ed on why.
Recently my husband and I walked around the Silver Lake reservoir hand in hand wondering out loud together where else we could go. We discussed the ten most livable cities we had seen in a Facebook post. But he doesn’t want to move back to the south, and I don’t want to be cold and neither of us wants to be in a small town. So we stay in L.A., because this is where our life is.
I didn’t expect to have my wondering answered so wholly and profoundly on Halloween night in an old downtown wherehouse near the 6th Street bridge. But it happened. Surrounded by costumed Los Angelenos dancing together to a great D.J. I understood: this is why. This exquisite level of creativity is why I live in L.A.
On Halloween night these creatives came together to dance in costumes crafted with care, engineered and executed expertly. Every person brought all of themselves to their work.
The sequence goldfish, both elegant and whimsical. The anglerfish headpiece with working light masterfully constructed from wood. The six-foot tall Marie Antoinette, with coiffed white wig, brocade dress and ruffles, revealing her dedication to detail. Poison Ivy, stunning…and a man. Even the pimp looked elevated.
These inventive souls came to Los Angeles to create. Drawn from locations around the world, they joined this city of dreamers and doers to bring ideas to life. To be themselves and invent themselves. To compose something wonderful and whimsical. They didn’t come to concoct costumes, of course. But costumes revealed to me powerfully and profoundly the reason why we are all here…because L.A. is a place to create.
So while I sit in traffic I vow to create more stories. While I rent a house I can afford I promise to explore more exhibits. As I age I commit to show the next generation what a graceful native looks like.
And the next time you get to wondering why you are here, breathe deep and devise. Fabricate, originate and bring something new into existence.
I went home from the hospital without a name. No na-me as my mom says.
It isn’t as if my parents weren’t ready for a child, they were, and they had a boy’s name all picked out: Daymond Kenneth after my father and grandfather. But the girl’s name was more…elusive.
They considered Alexis, after the small town in Illinois where my father grew up, but they settled on Clara. Clara was my great-grandmother’s name on both my mother and father’s side. My mother’s grandmother raised her so not only was it a family name but it had special meaning and significance for my mom.
In the hospital the nurses did not like the name Clara. Clara? They would ask with their faces twisted in disgust. This was the era of Jennifer and Michelle. Clara was too old-fashioned.
My mother could have ignored the nurses, but she couldn’t ignore ME.
As the story goes, every time my mother called me Clara…I cried. Every time. My darling Clara she would coo…and I would burst into tears, protesting the name. My parents realized they couldn’t call me Clara, but they had to take me home, so I went home No Na-me.
When my parents lived in San Francisico they had friends who loved Yosemite. These friends would camp and hike there and always said, if we have a daughter we will name her Tenaya.
The name Tenaya stuck with my parents and finally they called their friends to ask if they could steal the name. We have an infant daughter here without a name, they said, can we call her Tenaya? Their friends said yes. That couple ended up having two boys so they never would have used the name, and I got to be Tenaya.
Now, to be honest, I did not love the name Tenaya when I was a child. It was hard to pronounce and remember. Every time my mom made an appointment for me over the phone she would say: her name is Tenaya, it rhymes with papaya, T-E-N-A-Y-A. Tenaya.
She said it so often I thought that whole thing was my name. As a toddler people would ask, what is your name little girl? I would dutifully reply dutifully, my name is Tenaya. It rhymes with papaya. T-E-N-A-Y-A. Tenaya.
But when I played dress up and princess I would choose Sarah or Tracy, those where the names I preferred.
It wasn’t until my parents started taking me to Yosemite that I really understood what an amazing name Tenaya really is. Not only is it a Lake in Yosemite National Park, Tenaya is the last chief of the Yosemite tribe.
When the white men came into Yosemite Valley led by Major Savage, and that was his name, it was Tenaya who resisted them and worked to keep his tribe in the valley. But Major Savage was a bad man and kidnapped Tenaya’s sons. To make sure no harm came to his sons Tenaya retreated and kept his tribe together as they moved to Mono Lake where his mother was from. Now there is a lake, creak, canyon and peak named Tenaya.
Every summer I take my kids to Yosemite. We hike and ride bikes and float down the Merced, all the things I loved doing as a kid. I get to share Yosemite with them and it is still very much my happy place.
My name has defined who I am. I am an environmentalist, like the chief. I strive to build community, just as Tenaya worked to keep his tribe together. I am a communicator, and Tenaya was too, calling his people together in celebration from the very top of Half Dome.
So I think I knew what I was doing as an infant. I protested the name Clara because I was not a Clara. I am, and am honored to be, Tenaya.
If you’ve ever spent any time with small children you know that kids are basically, small drunk people.
A Bit About Me
I am Tenaya, a communications strategist and public speaker telling stories that connect, inspire...and laugh.