MA interviewed Marcus Cooke '99 who shared that the path you might think you’ll take isn’t always the way you’ll go, and that might be what is meant to be. Read about how Marcus ended up working in finance at The Boeing Company.
After getting your B.S. in Business Administration with a minor in African-American Studies from Pepperdine University you immediately started working for The Boeing Company. An impressive 18 years later you are still with Boeing. You have held various positions over the years, but most recently you were promoted to Senior Director of Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Transport and Tanker Product Support. Congratulations! What is it about Boeing that made you decide to spend your entire career with the world’s largest aerospace company?
One of the reasons I joined The Boeing Company was because it is not only the top Aerospace company in the world, but it’s one of the leading companies across all industries. With the breadth of innovative products and services that Boeing has developed and delivers, Boeing uniquely impacts our daily lives in a way that few companies can claim. Given this, over the course of my 18 years, I have had the opportunity to have an extremely varied career—supporting and leading in various parts of our company, including defense, services, and corporate. It's been extremely rewarding to work on programs that have such a large and uniquely positive impact.
When did you realize working in finance and getting your MBA at Pepperdine was what you wanted to do? Were there any classes at MA that inspired your journey?
I didn’t realize I wanted to work in business and specifically finance until my freshman year in college. Initially, I wanted to be a doctor—both a sports doctor and a cardiologist. I envisioned being the lead physician for the San Francisco 49ers and supporting the team in winning more championships. Additionally, in my spare time, I wanted to provide free heart-related health screenings to members of my local community, given how impacted my family and church have been by heart disease.
When I got to college, I quickly learned that the natural sciences simply were not my passion. What I was passionate about, among other things, was leadership and anything to do with numbers. I’m a very analytical person, and for fun I would collect, track, and analyze data on various things. Business was a natural fit. After working at Boeing for a couple of years in our finance leadership development program, I was convinced that I wanted to be a finance leader. Getting an MBA was a logical next step in working towards that goal.
When I look back it's not so much that specific classes inspired and fostered my analytical and inquisitive nature but more so specific teachers. I think of people like Lisa Arrastia, Glenn Stanfield, Bob Schleeter, Craig Barton, and Beau Leonhart. I can think of inspiring moments with each of these teachers that challenged the way I thought of things at the time and led me to consider other alternatives or ways of seeing things (right in line with my analytical nature, even though not directly related to “numbers” in some cases).
Being the Senior Director of Finance and Chief Financial Officer for such a large, global corporation sounds intense with high stress and big stakes. Tell us what your everyday life is like and how you manage it with a full household at home?
Each day starts early and with coffee. (The coffee is imperative.) Much of my day is filled with meetings related to our business operations and performance. Some are internal and in others, I have the opportunity to interact directly with our incredible customers. I also spend a lot of time investing in people. There typically isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t sit down with one or more of my team members or someone from broader Boeing to discuss their development. This is one of the parts of being a leader at Boeing that I love the most, and it's so rewarding to support others in achieving their goals—whether they be professional or in life in general.
I am very much a proponent of work-life balance, and I do my best to model this for my organization. I have a goal each day to sit down with my family for dinner, and many days I am successful at achieving this goal. After putting the younger kids to bed, I usually work a bit more and spend time with my wife on the couch in front of the TV watching a movie or deep in conversation. Working from home part of the time the last 18 months since the pandemic has provided me new opportunities to connect with my family throughout the day for short periods of time. I cherish those moments when my toddler comes to sit on my lap while I’m on a call for work. Additionally, my home office is in my garage, co-located with our laundry area, so I also do my best to load and unload the laundry when I have a minute or two between meetings; the family has been very appreciative of this!
Working at Boeing, have you had any extraordinary experiences or opportunities that you can share with us? Perhaps you’ve gotten to sit in a B-53 Bomber or take the first ride in a new jet.
You are right—I have had some very cool and unique experiences while working at Boeing. I have seen many products in our commercial and defense portfolios from unique vantage points in our factories across the country. One such product is the F/A-18s that the Blue Angels fly. Several years ago I got to see them up close and meet with a few Blue Angel pilots. This was particularly special for me, as I grew up going to Fleet Week in San Francisco every year to see the Blue Angels.
Other experiences that I’ve had with Boeing that have been particularly rewarding are opportunities to serve in our local communities. I’ve participated in several service projects with other Boeing team members and presented to and mentored students interested in STEM-related fields on various occasions over the years. Knowing that I am potentially inspiring the next generation of leading aerospace leaders is fun to consider.
Lastly, share with us one of your fondest memories of your time at Marin Academy.
Quite a few come to mind from in the classroom, during minicourse, in the band room, on the basketball court, and on the track.
I will share the memory that I think has had the greatest lasting impact. During my junior year, I was one of five student leaders that represented MA at the NAIS People of Color Conference in St. Louis. Lisa Arrastia took us, and I recall her setting the expectation that we listen, learn, engage, question, reflect, and bring something back to positively impact MA. It was only the second time I had seen snow in my life, and I do recall that it was 23 degrees out. Most importantly, however, I recall meeting Dr. Cornel West, someone with whom I would meet and interact twice more in college as a student leader as well. I was inspired by his vision for equality and justice and the way he encouraged leading with love. My leadership style and continued commitment to diversity, inclusion, and justice were very much influenced and deepened by that interaction during this trip.
Thank you, Marcus, for taking the time to do this Q&A. Your excitement for finance and your passion for people is inspiring. It’s wonderful to hear how you make the two work together.
What are you up to? If you’re a MA alum and would like to be interviewed, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.