I try and push open the glass door inside the lobby. Nothing. I’m just tired, I think. I give it a harder push. Still nada.
“You have to scan your badge,” the woman at the front desk says. I give her a look like, “Of course, thanks for reminding me!” Obviously, I don’t know this place very well. I scan my badge on the wall reader. I push the glass door again, but it still doesn’t go.
“You need to scan it twice; one more time,” she adds pleasantly, as if a quick math lesson will facilitate my disappearance. At this point I’m too embarrassed to say anything else, so I flash her a quick smile and nod, scan my badge again, and finally push the door open successfully, wondering how red my face must be.
It’s another day at Boeing, and it’s a beautiful fall day outside. Everyone says fall is the best season here and today I’m in complete agreement. I’m in Building 100, the former HQ of Boeing’s Defense Business, here in St. Louis. It’s still home to many high-powered executives and top brass of the defense arm. Somehow, I’ve scored a meeting with Boeing Defense’s Director of Strategy to discuss a project I’m working on. Since I don’t work in this building, obviously, I’ve arrived a bit early to find his office. I’m nervous but excited for the challenge. In the not-so-back of my mind I’m ready to have him rip me a new one in case I stumble or don’t articulate something well enough, but the thought that I’m here keeps the excitement at the forefront. I’ve got my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season pumping through my veins, a decision that, while it cost me my entire wallet, I’m not regretting.
My energy and excitement levels grow as I take in the sights and smells of Building 100: beautifully manicured giant flower pots outside, lush carpeting, HD flat screen TVs announcing breaking news that most likely impacts many of the people who work here. It feels like top-secret meetings are happening, that proprietary information is being passed around like loaded French fries. And it is. I think back to last year, hearing at orientation that Boeing’s servers are the third most hacked in the US. Or the world. I don’t remember exactly, but what difference does it make? I work for a company that carries super-secret, highly sensitive intelligence and builds machines that will impact nations. No wonder I had to scan my badge twice.
I press the up arrow from the elevator, hear a “ding,” and make a step toward it to enter. A voice gives me pause, and I halt. Someone’s in there. I hesitate, then take another half-step forward to see who it is, what CEO I’m running into today, but it’s empty. When I finally step into the elevator, an automated voice confirms that I hadn’t been hearing an actual human. The elevator is aliiiiive. The voice repeats what it must have said a moment ago:
This is what I hear. I’m sure if you read the transcript of what was said, or what’s been programmed into the system, there would be no question mark. But it sounded like a question. And, standing in a luxurious marble elevator, it feels like a relevant one.
It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot recently. Am I pursuing a leadership track at the Boeing company? Am I learning the right things, reading the right books, connecting with the right people? Will I continue to go up, or will I repeatedly run into locked glass doors? Am I performing well enough to take on a formal leadership position here and potentially be an executive? And, perhaps the more important question… do I want to?
I get out of the elevator and look around for the direction; I’ve got his office number written on a piece of paper in front of me. There’s a big stone cylinder-wall in the middle of the floor and jutting out in each direction areas are labeled. North, South, and West Wing. I can’t help but think of the White House, and the TV show.
I enter his office which overlooks the airport. The wall opposite me is full of windows. On the other wall are framed pictures and memorabilia from the 2013 Master’s tournament. Blue Southwest planes are taking off in front of me, going up, up, up. We’ve got a front row seat to the magic of flight. I know fighter jets from similar spots race to the skies with ease. It’s a gorgeous blue day, which is making me believe that fall in St. Louis might just be as wonderful as everyone says.