Last Tuesday, a Metro train slithered passed the company’s offices — presumably on a test run before opening to riders this past weekend. Monday morning, Intelsat employees can step off the Metro platform and walk just a few steps to their offices.
“We were not going to move here if we didn’t have mass transit for our employees,” chief executive David McGlade said in an interview last week.
The company’s previous headquarters — a massive, industrial structure in Washington’s largely residential neighborhood of Cleveland Park — offered employees immediate access to Metro’s Red Line and buses along Connecticut Avenue NW.
But its prime location aside, the company’s old abode had few of the amenities a modern workforce expects, McGlade said. The atypical structure, built in the 1980s, consumed almost an entire city block, lacked natural light and wasn’t conducive to collaboration.
“Our old building was architecturally interesting, but it really was designed for a different era,” McGlade said. “It was designed in pods, so what it did basically is isolate functional groups from each other and it reduced the interaction, the creativity and the opportunity really to work together in ways that are more appropriate for modern business.”
Intelsat now occupies eight floors of a brand new tower where floor-to-ceiling glass windows permit natural light to flood work spaces. An open stairwell cuts through the middle of the eight stories, allowing employees to easily move from one floor to the next.
“By getting in with the builder early, we could design our space within the building the way we wanted to and brand it well, and it all worked out perfectly,” McGlade said.
The office still has some of the scientific touches one might expect from a company in the space industry. There’s a two-story operations center where employees control Intelsat’s network of 50 satellites that transmit television programs, government data and Internet connections to locations around the globe.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature, however, is a wall of two dozen television screens, each 55-inches large, that show where Intelsat’s satellites are positioned in space at any given second. In the middle of the screens sits planet Earth.
“It’s an interesting job in that our assets are in space,” said Dianne VanBeber, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications. “Once they’re up there, you can’t go visit them.”
The closest an employee can hope to get, actually, is the 3,800 square-foot terrace on the building’s roof.
It boasts panoramic views of Tysons’ winding freeways and the nearby headquarters of companies such as Capital One and Iridium. And, in the very far distance on a very clear day, you can even see a toothpick-sized Washington Monument on the horizon.