A Fireside Chat With Board Member Kristie Cunningham
June 16, 2017
The Mission Continues recently welcomed Kristie Cunningham, senior vice president of Communications for BAE Systems, Inc., to our Board of Directors. Kristie is responsible for leading all external and internal communications activities for BAE Systems, Inc., which means she’s the perfect fit to help us empower more veterans and strengthen our operations nationwide.
Service is at the core of our mission and our programs. How has service and volunteerism been a part of your life?
From an early age, I was raised in a family where giving back was an important aspect of who we were and who we were expected to become. I saw my parents, grandparents and even extended family volunteering in church and other service organizations, always looking to lend a hand to those in need. This front-row seat led me to also volunteer in my church, particularly once I had children of my own, to not only give back but to also set a good example for my kids.
As I progressed in my career, I have served on several boards, from the local Chamber of Commerce to Operation Homefront, and I’ve been able to work for companies that have had a strong belief in the power of employee engagement – not only on the job, but also within the communities in which we lived and worked. BAE Systems is no exception, where I’ve had a number of opportunities over the years to partner with and even volunteer alongside my colleagues in the local community, encourage our employees to actively volunteer in their communities, and also lead our Community Investment team as we focus on supporting our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and their families.
BAE Systems, Inc. employs more than 30,000 people around the world. What have you learned in this experience about teamwork and overcoming challenges as a team?
At BAE Systems, Inc. we have more than 30,000 employees working across several continents, and there is extraordinary power in these numbers when we collaborate to overcome challenges or to focus on making a difference in our local communities. Each one of those tens of thousands has a contribution and unique perspective to offer, and the more we can actively engage them and include their input, the better our solutions are for our customers and our communities.
Within our communications activities, collaboration is vital to distributing even the simplest of messages, where I rely on our international team to translate the message into at least a handful of languages and make word choice adjustments to address cultural sensitivities. No one can do this job alone; we must depend on each other to get it right – in all of its various forms. In May, we actively promote Military Appreciation Month and have coordinated events across the U.S. within our Remember.Honor.Support campaign. Then in November, we celebrate Veterans Day in the U.S. as an opportunity to recognize our employee veterans, and we tailor our communications to celebrate Remembrance Day in the UK. Initiatives and objectives can be accomplished successfully with the maximum positive impact when we integrate the power of diverse thinking among our employees around the world.
“Have Fun” is one of The Mission Continues’ five core values. For us, it means finding joy in the work we do every day. What advice would you give to our program members about finding joy in their work, even when the circumstances or situation is tough and pushes their comfort zones?
Even in the struggle, there is joy in the effort – occasionally there is even laughter in the early, exhausted near misses and “failures.” If we only celebrate the end result and withhold joy and celebrations throughout the journey, we miss the majority of our life’s adventures at the small steps and even larger milestones along the way. Keep faith … and surround yourself with people who are able to face the hard challenges with a blend of humor and tenacity.
We ask all new employees a common set of questions that help us get to know them beyond what their resume tells us. Here’s a few:
What book or books are on your nightstand?
Who’s in the Room?: How Great Leaders Structure and Manage the Teams Around Them by Bob Frisch, and my iPad – it satisfies my news junkie cravings for 24/7 access to events that are constantly evolving around the world.
What’s your favorite summer activity?
Anything in the sun and on the water, primarily boating, water skiing, and wakeboarding … and my usual daily workout of either running or cycling to help me prepare for my next duathlon and, of course, to clear my mind.
Tell us about an experience or opportunity on your bucket list.
I have two bucket list items that I consider “next on my list” – I really want to skydive, even though my private pilot husband thinks I’m completely crazy to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. I think it’s just the daredevil in me. Secondly, I would love to complete a mission trip one year with my church, preferably an opportunity in an underdeveloped country to work in a local school or orphanage.
Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with us at an upcoming event or help us empower veterans to find new missions through a financial contribution. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.