Innovation Sep. 22, 2021

Into New Spaces: Eighteen Months of Change

If I had asked you during the 2019 year-end holiday season how you would handle 18 months of isolation due to a global pandemic, it would seem like an abstract, unimaginable idea. But here we are, still so many working from home, distancing ourselves from one another, looking forward to a time when we can finally relax some of the cautious muscles we’ve been tensing for a year and a half. I feel this in my soul. 

But I also want to tell you about how through opportunity, mountains of support, and a lot of patience, this time in my professional life has been some of the best so far.

I vividly remember the last day in March of 2020 that I was in the office - I even took care to turn off my monitor just in case it would be “a while” before I was back at my desk. Working from home took some getting used to. I learned quickly that I had to have a routine to maintain some normalcy, like changing out of my pajamas and getting myself “camera ready,” while also forming some new habits like a lunchtime stroll with my dog to just get out of the house. 

Our pets have fared best during the last year and a half. Here’s my dog Bobby Newport (which you’ll understand if you’ve seen Parks and Recreation), enjoying one of our many walks.

Shortly after my physical workspace changed unexpectedly, my job did as well. I accepted a role as Designed Field Research Scientist on our Protocol Management Team within the Science division of Climate LLC. 

I also happened to be 7 months pregnant at the time. The combination of newness brought on more stress and anxiety. 

“Will I be able to succeed in a new role while having a new, and my first, child?” 

“Will I be suitable for this role?” 

“Will my new manager be supportive of my new mom life, like I believed my previous one would have been?”

During my parental leave I was nervous (to say the least) about how I was going to manage working from home in a new role, while my son was only a room away. After working through some mishaps (no, not even a sound machine can drown out your work calls, which inevitably wakes your sleeping infant, in case you were wondering), we eventually got into a routine. I also began getting some traction with my new position on my new team. 

Upon returning to work, I was given the opportunity to work with our teams in Latin America as they executed our research protocols in Brazil and Argentina, despite speaking neither Portuguese nor Spanish. 

In growing into this new opportunity, I began to grow more comfortable interacting across cultural, geographic, reporting, and project lines. Part of my growing responsibility within the Protocol Management Team is to ensure South American farmers are executing specific planting prescriptions in their fields. Maintaining trust and interest of these growers are critical in ensuring protocol success. I rely on representatives from our field teams to understand how growers are feeling and whether we might need to engage them in new ways, to avoid situations where farmers decide not to plant our prescription or fail to upload crucial harvest data that we are relying on. 

One of my colleagues mentioned that updating growers on trial results and partnerships might be a good way to drive that trust and engagement. Taking cues from a similar meeting engaging North American farmers, we began planning for a program we were calling FieldView Innovators in Latin America.

Language unfamiliarity notwithstanding, I could tell that the resulting two-day, 3-hour meeting with dozens of growers across Brazil and Argentina was clearly a success based only on the excitement and engagement of the audience. This is due in no small part to the collaboration, leadership, and support I got from my Climate and Bayer Crop Science counterparts in South America. Direct engagement with farmers is a powerful strategy for collaboration.

This meeting is just one of many examples of professional opportunities that I have had during these past 18 months, despite being nervous, having my first child, working from home, and the other barriers that everyone during this time has had to deal with. Any success I’ve had adjusting to my new life - working remotely, with a new child, new role, and new global opportunities – has been eased in large part due to the collaborative environment and support I have in my manager, teammates, and partners.  This experience has shown not only the value of positive culture, but the necessity of it during such a strange time.

My parting words: when you find it hard to believe in yourself because you feel nervous, stressed, or scared, a good leader, teammate, or colleague should be there help you find the way. And when you start getting past those feelings of doubt, you can push yourself into new spaces that you didn’t believe were meant for you.

About the Author

Dr. Kathryn Shelley joined Climate LLC in late 2018 as Field Research Associate, leveraging her background in entomology and trial design to support the Science division of Climate LLC as it conducts research trials in the field to improve agronomic modeling efforts. In mid-2020, Dr. Shelley transitioned to her current role as Designed Field Research Scientist on the Protocol Team within the Science Division, coordinating field trial conduct across Latin America with both internal and external research partners.

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