Atg Logo Vector

SWEet Wisdom: How Important is Adaptability in STEM?

Hear from a few women engineers on about how their jobs have changed as a result of COVID-19 and about the importance of adaptability in STEM fields.
Sweet Wisdom: How Important Is Adaptability In Stem?

The year 2020 has changed a lot for everyone around the world. Across the world, humans are living through a period of extraordinary change, with jobs lost, businesses closed, graduations cancelled, and weddings, moves, and vacations postponed. Familiar routines involving work, school, exercise, and weekend recreation have been tossed out the window due to COVID-19. It’s a lot of change to get used to all at once, and it’s not static. So, going forward, adaptability may be our best asset.

We asked some engineers how their jobs have changed as a result of COVID-19 and about the importance of adaptability in STEM fields.

“How has your job changed as a result of COVID-19, and how important is it to be adaptable in your job?”


Diane Foley

MBA, Fairleigh Dickinson University | Executive Director, Digital Technologies, Raytheon Technologies

Sweet Wisdom: How Important Is Adaptability In Stem?My job has changed dramatically in the past year. Before COVID-19, I travelled two or three times a month. When I wasn’t traveling, I worked in an office every day and attended many in person meetings. Now I work from home every day and spend most of my time on Zoom calls. Adaptability is an important skill to have, for work and for other parts of your life. Change happens every day. Some change is slow-moving and predictable. Some change is sudden, and we never see it coming. Being adaptable keeps you from freezing up when something unexpected happens so you can move forward. One strategy is to practice planning. As you’re planning, think about the things that could possibly go wrong and what you could do to resolve the issue if it happened. When we do those types of thought exercises, it helps build our ability to think of alternatives in the moment. It also helps us build better plans. At one SWE conference, I was moderating a panel of women engineers in front of an audience of more than 1,000 college students. As we sat down to start, I discovered my microphone didn’t work, despite the sound checks we had done. Rather than panic or delay the panel while the sound engineers were working to fix things, I was able to get up and moderate the panel using the microphone at the podium. It didn’t have the same casual feeling as the sit-down panel would have had, but it got us moving forward until the problem was resolved. That’s a relatively straight-forward example, but even small adaptations provide practice we need to address big changes when they arrive.

Kate Doetsch

B.S. in Chemical Engineer, University of Missouri | Materials & Process Engineer, The Boeing Company

Sweet Wisdom: How Important Is Adaptability In Stem?I previously worked on-site every day in a large manufacturing facility. My job involved frequent trips out to the factory floor to resolve issues and frequent conversations with co-workers. We have been working from home since mid-March 2020, with the ability to go on site if truly needed. It has been strange doing this job remotely from my house, 25 minutes away from work. I rarely worked from home prior to the pandemic. I miss being able to simply walk over to a co-worker’s desk or out to the factory floor, and miss having two monitors (I’ve been working from a laptop). I believe this past year will completely normalize the occasional need to work from home due to kids’ illnesses, doctor’s appointments, or a contractor coming to the house for a bid or work.

Katherine Rasley

B.E. in Electrical Engineering, Minnesota State University-Mankato | Engineer II: Substation Engineering-Control/SCADA engineer, Minnesota Power

Sweet Wisdom: How Important Is Adaptability In Stem?I have been working from home since last March (2020). All of my project meetings have moved to virtual platforms. My company uses WebEx. I no longer use paper for work except my Engineering Notepads for meeting notes. We review and mark-up prints using an online CAD tool called BlueBeam. I have made significantly fewer trips into the field to help keep our field crews isolated from external exposure. One of the biggest benefits to this change is that I have been able to receive a lot more training as it is given online and my company doesn’t have to pay for travel.

Related content:


  • SWE Blog

    SWE Blog provides up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference every day. You’ll find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics.