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.
A Bit About Me
I am Tenaya, a communications strategist and public speaker telling stories that connect, inspire...and laugh.