What Drives This CEO

What Drives This CEO

Recently an employee, offered the option to continue supporting a project he loved but doing so with another company or staying with us and tackling the unknown, sat down to talk to me about his decision to stay with us. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his words – at least I hope I don’t.

He said “I could go work for this other company but they are just like thousands of other companies. I know. I’ve worked for them. A lot of them. But I’ve never worked for a company like Excel. This company is unique. I feel like this is the first company that has ever cared for me and my family. So I’m taking a leap and I’m going to stay. Because I love Excel. I love what we believe in. We are different. We are not like everyone else.”

If I told you I wasn’t misty-eyed when I heard his words, I’d be lying. So I’m not going to lie. Instead, I’m going to talk a bit about my childhood and why the bits of Star Trek you see scattered about are so important and how it has played a part in my building a company that is daring to be different. 

I have literally been a Star Trek fan my whole conscious life. I wasn’t even two years old yet when I sat curled up on my father’s lap and we watched the first episodes of Star Trek together. I was too young to understand what was on the screen but I was just old enough to understand that the message of Star Trek resonated with this man I called Daddy. This brilliant scientist, engineer, and linguist, who designed communications systems so technologically advanced that they stayed in use for decades all over the world, watched a hopeful future unfold each week on a tiny screen and I got to watch him believe, for that hour, that anything was possible.

What resonated with him was the message of hope and possibility for the future along with the idea of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard and together to explore what exists beyond what we know.

My father was brilliant and broken. He grew up poor and suffered extraordinary and heartbreaking abuse throughout his childhood. But he wasn’t stopped. He had a dream and despite the odds, he worked his way through Colorado State, MIT, and George Washington University gaining increasingly advanced degrees and teaching others along the way. He went to work for the government and he kept building. A deeply flawed and imperfect man whose childhood did not keep him from dreaming and putting his talents into securing our country *even* as he fought life-long demons he didn’t deserve to have. That no child deserves to have.

During dark times in our country – when we faced the great risk of nuclear destruction among other terrifying things – Star Trek reminded him to have hope. So we watched together as Star Trek painted a future he could never have imagined as a kid. Not just The Original Series but every movie and series after until death took him just before Discovery and Picard. 

I am his daughter. This shared experience and understanding took hold. And it drives me today and every day. 

I believe in the possibility of humanity. That we can build without destruction. That we can seek knowledge and find solutions. That we can move ever upward. That the best is yet to come. That life has value. That if we care for each other we can do anything. That there is no disaster we cannot survive if ONLY.WE.TRY. I believe that we can correct the impacts of climate change. I believe that medical science will continue to advance until cancer is cured and viruses can be halted in their tracks. I believe that we will find a way to care for every person. I believe we will find a way to make education available and affordable to all who seek it. I believe that we can stop violence on our streets without compromising liberty and happiness. I believe that we can find a way to explore new worlds and learn what is beyond our current understanding of space. I believe in the possibility of humanity. I believe that Excel can help.

Those beliefs infuse Excel. It is at our very core. It is held by every single employee. We are NOT every other company. We are a company intent on building the future – humanity and hope first.

And the simple fact is that Star Trek and a brilliant man determined to keep moving forward and upward instilled these ideals in this CEO from her very earliest years. I embrace this proudly and I recognize I would not be the woman I am today without both my father and Star Trek.

To know this is to know this CEO. To know this CEO is to know Excel. Authentically.