High-Flying Exec Offers Down-to-Earth Advice
Bonnie Soodik, senior vice president of the Boeing Office of Internal Governance, promotes and guides the firm's ethics and compliance standards.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Bonnie Soodik readily admits being senior vice president of the Boeing Company Office of Internal Governance wouldn't help her win a popularity contest. "But," she adds, "your phone calls are returned quickly."
Soodik is responsible for ethics and compliance at Boeing, including internal audit, import and export activities throughout the enterprise and foreign sales consultants. She spoke with women business and engineering students about her high-profile career and how she balances work with her personal life at a Dean's Seminar at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business on November 15.
Soodik started with Boeing 30 years ago as a computer programmer. She spent the first third of her career in computing and the next third in manufacturing operations and quality control before moving into general management. Previously she led Boeing Shared Services, an internal operating group that provides services across Boeing, including global computing and network infrastructure, payroll, employee benefits, safety, travel, facilities and real estate.
Working at a large company like Boeing, with 155,000 employees, offers tremendous opportunities, she said. Describing her career as "a journey with twists and turns," Soodik told the women how after two or three years in an assignment, she would start a rumor that she was taking another assignment. "A new opportunity always would come up. I've heard of others who have done this, and it has worked for them too."
To the question "How can a woman stand out from peers?" Soodik asked: "You need to ask yourself why do you want to stand out? It is not just about you. It's about the company. If your company is successful, you will be."
In a large company, it's all about teamwork and getting the work done, said Soodik, who added it helps to have excellent presentation skills, be reliable, do good work and know how to differentiate between real crises and the inconsequential. "No one wants to be around someone who is always pulling her hair out and is in a constant state of crisis. I also use humor if I have to disagree with people."
Addressing questions about work-life balance, Soodik said, "You create your own boundaries." She and her husband of 30 years have one son, a doctoral candidate in English at Cornell University. Although she travels a lot, when she is in Seattle, she is home for the dinner hour, and she never missed a Little League game or other important family activities.
When talking about creating an ethical climate at Boeing, Soodik said, "We all know not to lie, cheat and steal. It's the gray areas that become more difficult. At Boeing, we insist on a sense of personal accountability. Through training, we help people figure out the ethical dilemmas by talking about Boeing values: Treating customers and others with respect and creating an open environment for dialogue.
"When talking about ethics, it is important to get the messages out there and frequently," said Soodik. Boeing has an ethics Web site, on which details of real cases are presented, including outcomes and disciplinary actions.
"Ethics and compliance are front and center. We receive thousands of questions a year to the ethics department, mostly from employees asking what they should do before they make decisions."
Asked how she made career decisions, Soodik said, "You'll change jobs more often than I have. You'll know when it's time to change. The only bad decision is refusing to make one. Also, I try to reflect on things I've done wrong. Thatís part of the journey."
For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank