“Who’s coming with me?”

Wednesday, May 11. 2:55 am. 
My alarm clock starts ringing. Groaning, I roll over and switch on the light next to my bed at the AmericInn in Valley City, North Dakota. I’m in North Dakota for an incident response to a pipeline spill. As incident responses go, the day before was a busy one and I’m running on barely two hours of sleep. Still, I grab my laptop and type in the address for the Global Shapers Road to Global Puzzle 5. The final puzzle.

Let’s go back. The first year the Global Shapers program was held was my first year at Arcadis, though I started too late to apply. Still, I heard about the program early on in my career and was eager to apply the next spring. Come May 2013 (or was it June?), I submitted my video “Rockin’ ARCADIS,” which made analogy between a passion of mine (rock climbing) and my work at Arcadis. I thought I was a shoe-in—sure I ran out of time for the rest of the application and rushed through the written questions, but my video was solid…right? Needless to say, I didn’t get in.

The following year I learned the Global Shapers face-to-face meeting would overlap the Twin Cities Marathon, for which I had registered months prior and was determined to run. Deciding it wasn’t meant to be, I didn’t apply that year. With Generation 2015 came the Crack the Safe challenge! All the hype around the puzzles and interaction with others from around the world got me more excited than ever to join, but once again I didn’t get selected.

Wednesday, May 11. 2:58 am.
This was my year! I was determined to be a part of Generation 2016, and knowing there were 5 Golden Tickets this year —FIVE chances to get in early— there was no way I wasn’t giving the Road to Global my best shot! I’d made it through the first four puzzles with the help of various Arcadians from around the world and I was hopeful puzzle 5 would go as well. While skimming Twitter and waiting for the puzzle to open, I felt a comradery with others on my side of the globe who had also woken well before the crack of dawn—such as Hyathagan Bruno who had posted that it was 4:30 am in Brazil.

Wednesday, May 11. 3:00 am. 
After what felt like way more than 5 minutes, the puzzle finally opened and amazingly I found I knew just what to do! I cracked the code in no time—though I did require a bit of help figuring out where to enter the password from Kevin Nelis in the U.K., whom I’d worked with on a few of the previous puzzles. I still don’t know if the puzzle creators were intentionally sneaky about requiring “zoom out” to be used to find the entry box.

Wednesday, May 11. 3:05 am. (Ok, maybe closer to 3:10 am, but who’s timing?)
I’d solved the final puzzle — and faster than I’d solved any of the previous! Maybe I should operate on 2 hours of sleep more often… then again, maybe not. Just after I’d cracked the code, I got a Skype call from Mohammad Atieh in Dubai, whom I’d worked with on previous puzzles and had agreed to work with on the last one. I quickly helped him crack the code and solve the final puzzle. We then stayed on the line chatting about where we were from and what we do.

We didn’t chat for as long as I would have liked (I still had a few hours of sleep to catch!), but this was a big moment for me. Though I’d worked with many Arcadians to complete the puzzles and business lines/countries of residence had for the most part been shared in introductions, this was the most I’d gotten to know one of my colleagues from abroad (with the exception of Jason Grandin — my buddy last year). It reminded me that the point was not global collaboration for a week to solve a few puzzles, but to build connections for long term collaboration and to learn about and from our colleagues with vastly different experiences from our own. The last puzzle was not the end; it was the start on the road to a global Arcadis.

Tuesday, May 17. 9:11 am.
I was in a meeting when the Golden Ticket winners were announced. My laptop was presenting on the conference room screen when an e-mail notification popped up in the corner. “Congratulations Sheridan! You won…” from Morgane Bouchez of Lyon, France. We’d worked together on a few of the puzzles. I paused in the middle of my sentence — “I think that means I’m joining Global Shapers!”. Fortunately, the other meeting attendees were understanding of my need to open the email ASAP and of my inability to form a coherent thought or wipe the grin off my face through the rest of the meeting.

When I got back to my desk, more congratulations began pouring in from around the globe and it began to sink in that I am a part of Global Shapers Generation 2016. I’ve got my ticket on the road to a global Arcadis — who’s coming with me?

Sheridan Ethen

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