THE YEAR of the PIVOT
Published December 2020
With the business world moving in great measure to virtual meetings and a remote workforce, an occasional glitchy voice or unruly pet in the background is part of the new normal. Companies and organizations across the globe are dealing as best they can with challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. So too is SAE International.
“SAE’s Membership and Community Engagement Team, like so many others round the world, had no choice but to quickly figure out how to pivot from the face-to-face past to the virtual present,” said Donna Edenhart, the team’s director. “Just like all other Teams, such as Pre- Professional, Events, Standards, and Professional Development, the entire organization was charged with continuing to advance the future of mobility from their private residences. One of the benefits that members enjoy the most is that they are provided with numerous networking opportunities, particularly through special events at SAE meetings and section activities. So we wanted to ensure that we provided both our members, as well as our volunteers, with activities and programs that would keep them inspired and active. Our team took a big swing at this unanticipated curveball, and we actually got a few hits.”
Mark Zachos gave a virtual presentation on cybersecurity
Luckily, Membership already had a long- established online community (Member Connection) specifically designed for discussions and activities of the virtual kind, so they were able to capitalize and expand on that existing resource.
“Virtual mentor mixers” proved to be a popular Member Connection feature in this unusual year. In mixers, a selected group of professionals volunteer to answer any questions Member Connection visitors might have on particular career theme. For example, the mixer from January was on the topic of “time management.” “Women in engineering and effective communication” was the theme of a popular May mentor mixer that generated 90 comments. A third mixer, on “relationship building and collaboration,” was to be held in mid-November, too late for coverage in this issue of Update.
“The virtual mentor mixers played an especially important role in 2020 because several face-to-face mentoring events were cancelled along with the SAE meetings that were to have served as physical venues for them,” said Corey Dillon, the SAE Member Relations Specialist who oversees Member Connection. “We love to hear from our older, more seasoned members who have seen the transformation of the industry in real time.”
Although not a new Member Connection feature in 2020, the “chat with the experts” series proved popular. Chats are somewhat similar to mixers except with the former there is only one host/presenter, and the topic is sometimes more technically oriented. Nineteen subject experts served as hosts for the four 2020 chats.
Another Member Connection highlight in 2020 was creation of a special student discussion community. “We don’t hear a lot from students in an open forum because we learned that they are somewhat intimidated by interacting with professional members on technical topics,” said Dillon. “But now they have their own space to talk to each other, as well as learn about their student-specific SAE benefits.”
Member Connection served the basis for much, but not all, of Membership’s virtual engagement opportunities this year. The Industrial Lecture Program for college students successfully transitioned from in- person presentations to online ones, for example.
Also switching into virtual gear this year was the Membership unit’s Contributor of the Year (COTY) program. The 2020 COTY Class was feted online last month but will also be honored alongside the 2021 Class in a live program tentatively scheduled for late 2021.
Pivoting right along with SAE staff to a virtual medium were SAE sections. Several held virtual meetings 2020, including the Mid-Michigan Section. One of its “events” featured Mark Zachos, a member of the 2019 COTY Class, presenting on “Cybersecurity during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Also holding multiple virtual events were the So-Cal, Washington, DC, and Detroit sections. One of the Detroit Section’s programs was a collaboration with the SAE Membership Team on the topic of SAE member benefits, and another on what it’s like for women working in the automotive engineering.
Also, usually held at SAE headquarters, the biennial Section Officers Leadership Seminar in 2020 was held virtually.
This article is from SAE, obtained with permission.