The early afternoon of February 14, 2008, felt like any other day for Samantha Heagney as she entered Northern Illinois University’s Cole Hall, ready for another lecture.
Yet it proved to be a day that would change her life forever.
When a former student burst into the lecture hall and began shooting at random, Heagney was forced to witness the death of five of her classmates and the wounding of 17 others.
“Surviving that shooting has really shaped who I am, both personally and professionally,” Heagney recalled with emotion.
While Heagney’s experience has left her struggling with symptoms of anxiety and PTSD, it has also set her on a path to inspiring and supporting others. She now serves as a special projects manager at Motorola Solutions, where she helps drive the company’s efforts to create safer communities through technology.
The company’s safety innovation takes various forms, from video security cameras to public safety software. Heagney explained that their products serve many vital purposes, such as equipping first responders with reliable means of communication and enabling school administrators to lock down their schools with the touch of a button.
“At the end of the day, this means our loved ones can come home safely, and hopefully, less people are forced to live through a traumatic life-changing event like I did when I was 18,” she said.
Of course, not every disaster is man-made. Over the years, System Manager James Lescale has put himself in the heart of the storm — literally. He helps maintain Motorola Solutions’ system for the state of Louisiana, which involves responding to issues the moment they arise, no matter the circumstances — including hurricanes.
Having been raised by an Air National Guard member and a police officer, Lescale has always understood the criticality of reliable communication systems. For the past 24 years, he has spent his career climbing towers, maintaining mission-critical networks and answering countless calls every day.
Heagney, Lescale and the rest of their colleagues at Motorola Solutions are united by one overarching commitment: “Solving for safer.” This narrative reflects how employees across the organization take the initiative to support their customers and ultimately deliver life-saving technology.
And as team members empower others, they receive support themselves. Besides having access to professional growth opportunities, employees are enabled to protect their personal well-being and receive constant support from leaders, who encourage open, honest conversations.
By empowering its people to thrive, Motorola Solutions cultivates an environment in which everyone shows up to work each day eager to build a safer world.
“I have yet to meet someone here who isn’t passionate about what they do,” Heagney said.
“I have yet to meet someone here who isn’t passionate about what they do.”
Above and Beyond
Going above and beyond takes many different forms at Motorola Solutions. For Lescale, it once meant hunkering down with a coworker during Hurricane Ida — an experience he described as a “slow-motion train wreck.”
They were riding out the storm in the customer’s master site in Baton Rouge, where they were monitoring the state’s telecommunications system by logging data as the weather worsened.
As Lescale and his colleague were monitoring the system, they noticed the winds picking up at a rapid pace, putting systems at risk. So they waited for a lull in the storm, then drove over to the system, watching power poles sway roughly six feet in each direction.
Lescale worked to ensure the local tower sites were fully operational as the winds were growing stronger, threatening to topple a tree that would have blocked the road they needed to take to get back to the master site. The following morning, he drove back to the system with more parts to ensure that they were ready to action across other sites if needed.
While Lescale’s work often puts him in life-threatening situations, he’s proud to do it, realizing that he could be helping a first responder save lives.
“Knowing that anyone could be depending on that communication is what really drives me,” Lescale said.
“Knowing that anyone could be depending on that communication is what really drives me.”
The Impact is Internal, Too
Like Lescale and the rest of the company’s system managers, customer support managers also play an essential role in safeguarding Motorola Solutions’ communities. About one year ago, Heagney began supporting the company’s Customer Service Managers (CSMs) after spending time as an HR business partner at the organization.
Upon stepping into her current role, Heagney spent six months having one-on-one conversations with more than 100 of the company’s CSMs in North America. She did this as a way to understand if processes were working well, if communication was effective and if CSMs could benefit from extra training. With this feedback, Heagney was able to identify several areas that needed improvement, which ultimately gave rise to key initiatives that are aimed at allowing CSMs to provide the best experience possible.
Having spent several years in the public sector working with first responders before joining Motorola Solutions, she recognizes how critical it is to build strong relationships between customers and CSMs.
“That really motivated me to take the time to talk to each and every individual,” Heagney said.
She believes that the company has given her the chance to impact employees’ lives by listening to their needs, guiding them to the right resources and promoting opportunities for growth. It’s this influence, coupled with her lifelong determination to serve others, that makes her motivated to work every day.
“No matter what department you’re in or what position you hold, you make a difference,” Heagney said.
‘One Motorola Solutions’
Heagney’s ultimate professional dream has been to pursue work with impact — and at Motorola Solutions, she gets to do that and more.
“I’m motivated each day, knowing that our company’s products and solutions play an essential role in everyone’s safety, including my own,” she said.
Like many people who have experienced trauma, Heagney knows what it’s like to live with the ongoing effects of PTSD. Yet throughout the four years she has worked at the company, she feels she has come a long way in her healing journey, which she owes to the strength of the company’s mental health resources, the support she has received from leaders and the opportunities she has had to inspire others.
“I’ve been encouraged to embrace my experience as a survivor and tell my story to other teams within Motorola Solutions,” Heagney said.
After seeing one of the company’s executive leaders share how they lost a loved one to mental health issues during a panel discussion, Heagney built up the confidence to discuss her experience with her peers. She believes that the encouragement she has received from leaders to share her story and grow professionally has been one of the defining aspects of her time at Motorola Solutions.
“I’ve found lifelong mentors since I’ve been here, and I couldn’t be more grateful,” Heagney said.
SUPPORT STARTS WITHIN
When her PTSD symptoms made it difficult for her to work in certain office environments, Heagney relied on the company’s reasonable accommodation policy and occupational health nurses for support and guidance. “For the first time in my career, I needed to ask for help and didn’t feel like I was being judged,” she said. Rather than closing doors, Heagney’s honesty about her situation opened up new possibilities to make connections with her peers. She became a member of the company’s “People With Disabilities + Allies Council,” where she gets to chat with others who also experience mental health struggles.
Lescale has also found continuous support from higher-ups since joining the company. He said every manager he has had at the organization has sought out ways for him to challenge himself through extra training and similar opportunities.
Although these efforts have been fundamental to Lescale’s professional development, they pale in comparison to the support he has received on a personal level. Throughout his time at the company, he has been able to leverage the organization’s adoption assistance program to welcome his two children into his family.
For Lescale, having the chance to prioritize his family is matched only by the passion he has to protect the company’s customers.
“Whether we’re touching one site or 10, we’re impacting thousands of people,” he said.
At Motorola Solutions, the drive to “solve for safer” defines employees’ daily lives. Whether they’re seeking effective solutions in front of a computer screen or fighting against hurricane-force winds, employees across the organization continuously strive to create safer communities, together.
“We’re all on the same team,” Heagney said. “The customer truly sees us as one Motorola Solutions.”