The Three Rs of Learning at the Step Ahead Award Conference
Photos courtesy of the National Assoc. of Manufacturers

As part of The Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead Honorees class of 2017, I recently attended a conference in Washington D.C. focused on women in manufacturing. Meetings, networking, dinners, ice breakers and tours of the amazing city were all geared towards our unusual group. While I’ve attended numerous tradeshow events and professional organization conferences, this was my first opportunity to be with a large number of women in my industry. What I discovered is already changing me personally and professionally and my “Three Rs of Learning at STEP Ahead” could do the same for you.

R #1 – Rules of 5
For any decision, whether work or life, ask yourself these questions: Will it matter in 5 minutes? Will it matter in 5 months? Will it matter in 5 years? The answers will help guide your priorities and save you time, energy, effort and big ideas for the results that matter most. When I look at my daily action list, I now think about these questions first. Yes, reality dictates there are still tasks required that may not be considered important past the 5 minute mark, but overall, I’m making more decisions that have a stronger impact and using less time on the others. How many times have you said you just need more hours in the day? Well, nothing can do that, but this idea seems to help time magically appear.

#2 – Reciprocity Ring ®
The Reciprocity Ring is an exercise that enables the principle of pay it forward in your group. Never be afraid to ask a question and look for opportunities to answer questions for others. Chances are, someone you know has been in a similar situation and can provide valuable insight that will save you time, effort and maybe even money. Also, you can help someone answer their own questions. Talking through questions might spark other conversations or ideas that take you in a totally different, yet meaningful, direction. We so often feel that asking questions means we look less intelligent or we appear to not be on top of things, but in reality, it means we are smart enough to realize no one person can have all the answers. In addition, reaching out lets others have the benefit of contributing in a meaningful way.

Melsha Winchester, Marketing Director and Pamela Kan, President of Bishop-Wisecarver Corporationi

#3 – Right in my Own Neighborhood
So often, we feel inadequate or unprepared to make a difference in a large scale way. We see situations that seem out of control or too big to change. The conference speakers highlighted that each of us could (and should!) make a difference right in our own neighborhoods. That effort on a small scale makes a difference in the big picture. This hit home for me when I thought about the women in STEM programs we sponsor at Bishop-Wisecarver Group. While we help at a national level as a sponsor for such programs as FIRST Robotics, we also sponsor regional teams of students who are learning long-lasting skills from their time in this program. I’ve attended their meets, seen their incredible robots and talked with them about their challenges for the event and dreams for the future. I’ve had the opportunity to help in my own local area. Encouraging more women in STEM is a huge effort in the United States and can seem daunting if one only looks at certain percentages. But when I look at the events in our community, like the ASTRA STEAM Summit in San Francisco that we participated in last summer and will continue to sponsor this summer, I see small groups of female students with lives changed forever. The opportunity to sponsor this event and personally mentor these girls will make a difference in their lives, as well as mine and the community.

I’m ready to STEP out and use these 3 Rs to help make a difference in meaningful ways. Will you join me?