The following is an excerpt from an article in the October/Conference 2023 issue of Society of Women Engineers Magazine titled Women Excel at Post-COVID Comebacks: Despite pandemic, women in STEM, academia find opportunities for growth.
For Severine Valdant, a light went off when one of her employees asked to relocate from Connecticut to California and work remotely.
“I had to say, I felt a bit of envy,” said Valdant, a native of Compiègne, a 45-minute train ride north of Paris. Valdant — who earned degrees in chemical and industrial engineering in France — and her husband were living in Connecticut and had already downsized from a house to a condominium. They had had enough of the state’s snowy winters. So Valdant started looking in the Miami area, and she and her husband found a new house in six months.
That was just the start.
“COVID made me realize that I could take nothing for granted, and that anything can change,” said Valdant, who loved to work and build office teams in person. At first, she felt uprooted by the remote work mandates. But after a few months, she started doing yoga in the mornings in place of her stressful commutes, and she began to see how efficient remote teamwork could be if handled well.
She also became excited about learning new skills. “I had spent my entire career at one company, and I realized that I wanted to learn a new skill set,” Valdant said. “I wanted more challenges.”
So Valdant left her job as president of a medical device maker, at which she had won acclaim for leading the company’s first FDA approval for 3D-printed polymeric permanent implants. A recruiter for a materials engineering company on the verge of launching its first software product contacted Valdant, and soon she accepted a new job as a chief commercial officer.
Now she works remotely from Miami as she leads business development, marketing, and communications for her Chicago-area employer, QuesTek Innovations, which designs novel materials found in everything from smartphones to spaceships. She is also overseeing the launch of ICMD, QuesTek’s comprehensive new software platform for materials design and engineering.
“To have women’s share of employment in civil, chemical, mechanical, and aerospace engineering increase during that same COVID period is doubly notable.”
Valdant wants others to heed her insight: “You can be an engineer and still be everything else you want to be,” she said. “An engineering degree gives you the tools to become a better version of yourself. It will help you as an entrepreneur in solving problems, since you will have to solve lots of things by yourself.
“And in terms of working in a team, the team leaders want an ingenious solution,” she said. “They want an engineer who can think. Everything has been engineered in one way or another.”
Continue reading at SWE.org.