The Boeing Company’s information technology & data analytics director of strategic solutions provided a truly inspirational launch of Woodlands Academy’s 2021-22 “Imagine Yourself in the C-Suite” series. Paris Forest spent an hour sharing insights and advice in response to questions from students at the all-girls college-prep day-and-boarding high school in Lake Forest on Nov. 9.
Forest joined Boeing, the world's largest aerospace company, in May 1999. Since then, she has led key technical efforts and both capital and non-capital programs. Forest additionally serves as the team lead for Bridging the Gap, a St. Louis, Missouri, based outreach program designed to strengthen the diversity of the leadership pipeline and promote professional development at every level at Boeing. Prior to her current position, Forest was responsible for delivering software tools and services enabling the Boeing product aftermarket businesses.
“I like to think of myself as a Renaissance woman,” she said. “I enjoy the process of learning about different things. Once you get a platform and a voice, you can channel that energy into what you care about.”
She told her Woodlands Academy audience that young women today are in a different world – encouraging them to think outside the box. “Be the first person to design a digital outfit, and I will wear that outfit,” she said.
Forest, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology, credits that background with helping her think creatively and ask questions about why things are done in certain ways.
She shared some wisdom gained from one of her mentors: “You can absolutely have everything; you just can’t have it all at once.” On a related note, Forest urged her student audience to live by the mantra that you can only do one thing at a time. “Allow yourself space and honor yourself by saying ‘no’ when it’s time to say ‘no,’” she added.
Forest also described her special connection to one of last year’s “Imagine Yourself in the C-Suite” speakers. Before embarking on a technology career path, Forest said she had considered being an oncologist. So, it was gratifying for her to partner with the Ora Lee Cancer Research Foundation in 2019 to co-chair its inaugural St. Louis gala. The goal was to help raise $10 million to start human trials on a breakthrough cancer therapy proven to destroy tumors in mice with no observed side effects. This therapy was developed by the research organization’s foundress, Hadiyah-Nicole Green, who also has developed a platform for early detection, imaging, targeting and selective treatment of head and neck cancers. Green, one of the first African-American women to earn a Ph.D. in physics, provided a memorable launch of last year’s Woodlands Academy series.
"Imagine Yourself in the C-Suite" features highly accomplished individuals interviewed by Woodlands Academy students to learn from their guests’ experiences and then imagine themselves in leadership positions. There are a few presentations to Woodlands students each school year that include one public forum – usually in the spring – open to girls from other schools in and around Lake Forest.