As I was thinking of a topic for my company’s quarterly newsletter, I received an email from the folks at LinkedIn that asked, “What defines you as a professional today?” Needless to say, I found my topic. To answer that question, in the Reader’s Digest condensed version, I’m going to back up two years and not take you through the 30 years spent in corporate America.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine (2020, January 31), the first case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the U.S. was reported on January 20, 2020. A gentleman traveling back from Wuhan, China, to his home state of Washington had been diagnosed with what would become all too familiar: Covid 19. Within weeks the virus had taken the U.S. by storm; states were in complete lockdown mode: stay inside, wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, clean your groceries. Businesses were forced to either close or set up employees remotely from home, school administrators, at every level, were scrambling and putting together lesson plans in order to teach virtually, and our healthcare system, world over, was in overdrive – we were in the midst of a global pandemic.

At the time I had a senior in high school and a sixth grader, both of whom were to move on in the fall: one to college and the other to middle school. I’m going to admit, my first thought was, ‘How am I going to balance working from home and monitoring their distance learning?’ The answer came pretty quickly and it was simply to do exactly what I did every single day: plan. As a professional who was already working from home prior to the pandemic, I was used to weekly scheduling of clients’ projects, appointments, and phone calls, so I incorporated the same system for my boys’ schoolwork. I added whiteboards and wall calendars with the days’ breakouts of classes, assignments and due dates. I’m not going to lie it wasn’t easy: the Internet went down, Zoom link wasn’t working, passwords to external websites were incorrect, and on some days that was all before 10:00 a.m. But, we had a plan, persevered and made it through remote learning.

I digress to the 30 years I spent in corporate America as that is when and where I learned skills to organize, work under pressure, treat coworkers and clients with respect and adapt to changes that are part of standard operating procedures. To this day the phrase, “Don’t go burning bridges” resonates and is number one rule of thumb; hopefully the reason I have remained in contact with former colleagues and clients since the 1980s.

To say the last two years have been anything but normal is an understatement, but I will say it has definitely built character and has helped to define me as a professional. In all the upheaval this pandemic has caused across the globe, in the U.S., in Texas, and in my community, I will answer the question that was posed: it is ethics, morals, respect and appreciation that define me today as a professional.