Reflecting on 2020 — Our Year of Change, Adaptation, and Innovation

By SGW Team

At SGW, we’ve spent recent weeks reflecting on 2020 and how the past year has impacted us and our industry as a whole. For most, it would be an understatement to say this has been a time of significant change. Societally, professionally, and personally, humans all over the world faced many uncomfortable transitions that demanded we adapt quickly to what many have referred to as our “new normal.” However, at SGW Designworks, our ability to adapt isn’t anything new. 

Since our company’s inception, we’ve been fortunate to have both leaders and a team who are resilient, innovative, and forward-thinking. Even in 2020 — a year of unprecedented changes — we made adjustments that enabled us to see our purpose more clearly. 

  • We paid greater attention to strengthening our core values, engaging in frequent team discussions and exercises to help us more consistently embody those values. 
  • We continued expanding our service offerings, even while many in our industry struggled to survive. 
  • And, when there was perhaps no better time to make a positive impact on the world and humanity, we renewed our commitment to improving human existence.

In light of these and many other changes, we asked the SGW Designworks team to begin reflecting on 2020 — specifically, what they’d like our clients to know, what they’ve learned this year, and what they’re most looking forward to in the year ahead. Here are some of their responses.

Reflecting on 2020: What would you like our clients to know?

“This year, we had a unique chance to experience what our clients experience when they work with us. Most of our clients are not local, so we collaborate with them remotely and virtually. This year, we spent most of the year collaborating internally with virtual tools as well. I want our clients to know that we’re going to apply everything we learned to make their journeys with us smooth and productive, with awesome results.”
— Ryan Gray, Co-Founder and CEO, SGW Designworks 

“Our clients continued with development of their products despite the up-and-down rollercoaster of COVID — and this inspired us to find ways to continue to work from home, collaborate and communicate electronically and find ways to continue to support them even when COVID invaded our schedules. We are so blessed to have so many determined and loyal customers.”
— Sabina King, Business Manager, SGW Designworks

After Katie Schuelke, Project Management Professional (PMP) at SGW Designworks, discovered her dogs chewed up the wifi hardline to her home, she got creative with her work-from-home setup — positioning herself in the front seat of her ’60s Mustang in her detached shop (which is in close proximity to the household modem).

“I’d like our clients to know how quickly and effectively our team was able to adjust to product/process development and delivering quality output in the face of a developing global pandemic.  But, that’s not the exception, that’s the norm. This team is able to analyze the incoming upset condition and adjust to accommodate the situation and develop quality outputs that move the project forward. This is the knowledge and experience that this team applies to all of our clients and projects.”
— Mike Witt, Co-Founder and COO, SGW Designworks

What have you learned during this year of change, and what obstacle(s) have you overcome?

“I am a young product designer, only two years out of college. I am constantly learning new things and filling my knowledge toolbox. This year involved trying to build my toolbox through video conferences and phone calls; it is slow-going but I am growing. I am grateful to my team for their patience and continued commitment to me.”
— Jillian Wallin, Mechanical Designer, SGW Designworks

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

“I am looking forward to seeing how SGW continues to adapt to the changed environment that is the post-COVID world. Our increased use of flexible workspaces and new collaboration tools has been a great addition to our team’s ability to adapt. Our expanded approach to client generation and retention should lead to some new and interesting work coming through the SGW doors.”
— Jeff Hill, Mechanical Engineer (EIT), SGW Designworks

“SGW saw a big change in the way work was done this past year (along with literally the whole rest of the world, save some well-isolated islands). SGW converted to 100 percent work-from-home early on in the year, so interactions with our team and clients were entirely virtual. We were quick to make the adjustment and worked very efficiently for the last nine months. That being said, there are some things that are hard to replace when working from home, that I am excited for in 2021 when things return back to ‘normal’:

  • Face-to-face work with the team and our clients. Brainstorming in front of a whiteboard with a group of engineers is hard to beat.
  • The watercooler/office keg conversations. In between project work, you find people stopping by the keg to talk about weekend projects with other team members. This is a good way to get 100 different solutions for the problem you were having with your project at home. We did a good job of creating a virtual stand-in for this, with watercooler message boards and weekly virtual happy hours with the team. I’m excited to see what fun ideas we come up with when we are all allowed to gather in person again.
  • Re-establishing the office VR race car championship.

Undoubtedly, 2020 will be ranked the worst year ever by pretty much everyone. On the bright side, I think a by-product of this year will be a big influx of interesting, out-of-the-box product ideas we get to help develop. When you mix a massive culture shift and lots of unplanned idle time, you get fuel for some really innovative ideas.”
— Blake Pachner, Industrial Designer and Mechanical EIT, SGW Designworks

The past year was one of change (and one few of us expected). However, in reflecting on 2020, we are able to see a few things — like the world, our work, and one another — more clearly. To our clients, families, friends, and colleagues, thank you for your support as we look ahead to 2021 and all the changes it’s sure to bring. We’re ready.

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