Paris Forest is the director of Strategy Operations Solutions for Information Technology and Data Analysis at The Boeing Company. She is responsible for leading a dynamic team providing transformative solutions, enabling the Second Century for Boeing Information Technology and Data Analytics. She was recently named the 2018 Woman of Color in Technology, receiving the New Media/IT Leadership Award. She was also awarded the 2018 St. Louis Site Diversity and Inclusion Executive Walk the Talk Award, given to one executive at the St. Louis region who has demonstrated “an achievement of distinction for doing the right thing, leading by example and making it happen.”
St. Louis American: Tell us about your current position, its responsibilities and challenges and how you are able to make a difference.
Paris Forest: I am currently the Executive Director – Information Technology responsible for delivering Boeing’s Information Technology and Data Analytics strategic and operational goals. I sit at the top level of the organization, and my primary responsibility is to bring to reality the strategic objectives of our Chief Information Officer and Information Technology Leadership Team in a harmonized way across the multiple functions of our organization. This requires for me to work with a cross-functional team in a hybrid structure where all if not most of my team do not report into my organizational authority.
In my current role leading a significant effort we call Project Palladium, I am focused on our transformation from a project focused to product-centric organization as well as synthesizing all transformation efforts across our function. This biggest challenge in this role is making sure that what my team brings forward in terms of solutions represents the over 7,000 heartbeats that make up our function with the Boeing Enterprise.
I feel that I am able to make a difference by helping to build bridges that allow us to move at the speed of business without having to sacrifice our commitment to our team in order to get business done. I work hard every single day to operate per our team mantra of 360 degrees of Empathy. It takes dedication to stay there daily, but the results that we have seen in a very short time as a result of our commitment to this mindset has been very empowering and inspiring.
St. Louis American: Business is a team sport. Tell us about your current team, how you fit into it, and who helps to support your work.
Paris Forest: My current team is made up of multiple parts; one part is the team that I align with from an organizational perspective. This team includes our Portfolio Governance, Sourcing and Vendor Management, Data Governance and Mergers and Acquisitions support teams. I also lead a team, that team is a multi-discipline group including members from our Human Resources, Organization Effectiveness and Finance teams. Our culture revolves around doing all that we can to leverage the strength of One Boeing; my team embodies that.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any previous positions you have held, in business or any other field, that contributed to your development and helped prepare you for your current role.
Paris Forest: I’ve had a couple of key positions that have helped to drive my development as a leader. The first prior to my time in management, the second after.
In the first position I was fortunate enough to lead the team responsible for testing our year-end accounting close activities. In any business closing the books at quarters and especially end of year are critical times, especially so for publicly traded companies. I had the job to facilitate and execute the cross-functional business and technical team responsible for ensuring an escape free closing process that would allow for the critical activity of closing and reporting fourth quarter sales and earnings, as well as position for the all-important period 0 activities that position your accounting books for the upcoming year. There was a level of technical complexity and business imperative that pushed me to become well-versed in the technical, business and finance languages of our teams in order to bring them together and drive a high value experience of the process of preparation. It was an excellent opportunity to also drive waste out of the process to ensure high engagement throughout the activity.
The second, an opportunity to lead a capital software implementation program that also drove an element of transformational change. It was my first opportunity to work with the concepts of large-scale agile delivery of a software solution. The opportunity to lead a capital program gave me the opportunity to work with my first executive Steering Committee and report quarterly financial performance to our functional CFO. In this role, I was responsible to recover not only schedule but cost performance, an amazing learning and leadership opportunity.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any mentors crucial to your development.
Paris Forest: The most crucial mentors to my development were my mother and grandmother. It might sound very cliché but without the early contributions from these women the foundation that any other mentor had to work with would have been much different. These women were my first and most influential leaders; they taught me accountability, viability and longevity. The impact that they had was outside of the corporate world, but it was their tutelage and example that set the standard high, one I am still chasing to this day. Professionally, I have been fortunate enough, especially in the last decade, to have a steady set of leaders.
St. Louis American: Tell us about your educational journey.
Paris Forest: I’m originally from Jennings, and when I was growing up the district did not allow for students to test for early entry into first grade. My Kindergarten teacher knew of a school that did so I started and attended Grace Christian School in Bridgeton (affiliated at the time with what is now Grace Church St. Louis). The school sunset in the early 2000s and has since re-emerged, and I credit that experience with preparing me for my continuing education.
I left high school and enrolled at Missouri Baptist University where I majored in Pre-Med Biology with the intention of becoming a Pediatric Oncologist. As God would have it, I wound up finding my lane through a summer internship with then-McDonnell Douglas in their Information Technology department supporting Finance Applications. I then decided to add an Information Systems minor onto my current degree plan and after graduation in 1999; the rest as they say, is history.
In 2018, after a long break from educational life, I was finally clear on what my next step needed to be. My job and my own aptitude for technology had positioned me with a wealth of learning as a technologist. I realized in 2016 that the gap I needed to close to excel on my leadership journey was in business. I then enrolled and was accepted into Washington University’s prestigious Executive MBA program, graduating May 2018. It was one of the best personal decisions to take some time between my undergrad and graduate programs. I made a promise to the women in my life who would not have the same opportunities, that I would leave not educational stone unturned, timing however was everything. My plan is to continue my education with a DBA, when the time is right.
St. Louis American: Tell us about your future goals in business.
Paris Forest: I can see myself in a myriad of roles and businesses. I’ve just become aware that there is a budding entrepreneur inside me; I literally told people once upon a time that was absolutely not an area of interest for me. As I continue to learn more about myself, more about this world, my goal is to ensure that I take my time and my talents and place them where they can best be used to glorify the one who gave them both to me in the first place.
St. Louis American: Tell us about any relevant personal information you would like to share with the community – your family, friends, home church, passions.
Paris Forest: I’m very blessed to have a wonderful family that is made up of those I share genetic material with and those I share heart material with. I’m a lifelong member of Hope Church – St. Louis where I’ve made so many meaningful connection in my life. My family is very blended. As of December 19 I will be mom to 5, bonus mom to 4 and bio mom to 1. I have a full house and a full heart.
I’m passionate about serving my community as best I can and the world at large. I’ve been a champion for students, specifically in underserved communities and really live leveraging my platform to be an example of what is possible for all children if you believe in yourself and are determined to have all that is available to you.
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