We all have a choice when faced with difficult circumstance(s). The experience of life in general is a series of lessons that make us who we are today.

While 2020 was certainly a year of changes and at many times adverse circumstances, it was also a year with great potential to make us better than we were before.

No matter what you did personally or professionally with 2020, you can make 2021 the best yet.

Image by Brandon Cooper

Evaluate your professional self

What kind of person do I want to be physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and professionally? I’ll focus on professionally here because that is what this article is about, though I will say they all tie together and all need to be evaluated within yourself.

Do I have the skills needed for the upcoming year, upcoming chapter of my life or the next job opportunity that I would like to embark on? How can I obtain these skills?

Once you have evaluated where you feel like you are and where you want to be, now it is time to commit to learning the skills you need to reach your goals for the next step in life.

A little warning, just like people do in the gym, don’t get burned out in January, but create realistic goals and timelines and give yourself space to accomplish the goals.

Invest in your professional self

In these times of pandemic, you may have dealt with changing schedules, modified hours or even downtime that you didn’t have before. This downtime can be a great opportunity to invest in yourself.

That can be personally like learning about a new subject, improving your overall physical health, embarking on a new hobby or investing in others’ lives. It can also mean professionally like increasing your skillsets.

As I have come to learn, the more I know, the more I realize that I don’t know. I am confident in my experience and abilities and at the same time I realize there are more opportunities to learn new things than I could possibly have time to explore.

I also know that in five years, it will take even more knowledge to maintain the newest technologies in manufacturing and if I don’t constantly learn, I will be left behind. Maybe 2021 is the time to commit to learning a new skillset like PLC programming, networking, virtualization, a programming language, wireless and cellular technologies, SCADA or a myriad of other potentials.

In my experience, I learn a lot more about the things that interest me, so I tend to let one thing lead to the next. Another consideration is that to invest more in yourself, you may have to let some things go, at least in part.

For instance, that new training that you would like to embark on might need you to stay off social media for thirty minutes a day and do the training instead.

Invest in others professionally

I personally believe an investment in another person is never a wasted investment. Have you noticed others that could use some help this year? Maybe the younger engineer you work with is having difficulty adjusting to the different ways of working, or time management skills?

Maybe working remotely has not allowed others to collaborate and share experiences with each other.  One thing I have found very beneficial is to use a software that allows screen-sharing capabilities as well as instant messaging. My colleagues and I have been able to share screens, message, talk to each other and help each other when we are working out of our area expertise.

That is the benefit of being part of a team. You let iron sharpen iron and you are all better for it.


Early in 2020, I set some personal goals such as learning a foreign language, taking certain trips with my family and to visit people that I haven’t seen in a while.

Each of these investments were intended to improve myself or benefit others. The same goes for me professionally, I needed to improve several skillsets and while this is never-ending, I was able to accomplish a few things that I never have before.

I aim to take my skills further in 2021 and my very best to you in the year ahead.

Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer

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Brandon Cooper


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