Zero Fear: From Lacrosse to S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”-Sheryl Sandberg COO Facebook. This is a quote from one of my favorite books, Lean In and perfectly captures how I ended up becoming a Product Engineer at Epoch Lacrosse.

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an engineer. My Dad was an engineer and I remember being fascinated with how he could build any kind of mechanism he needed from scratch. I too loved to build things. I spent hours building things out of Legos and then slowly over time, transitioning to making little gadgets out of wood or metal. However, pursuing engineering was intimidating to me. While I received decent grades in high school I had never participated in accelerated math or science classes. I had already fell behind my peers by the time I was accepted into the mechanical engineering program at the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering. To add to my anxiety, I quickly realized after starting college that I was one of the few women in all my classes. It was at that point I had a choice to make; quit and switch majors or dig in, work extra hard, and disregard the fact that I was pursuing a field made up of only 11% females.

Digging in wasn’t a new concept for me at that time. Throughout my freshman and sophomore year of high school I had heard of lacrosse but never witnessed it played. Our high school had a team however none of my friends participated. Gym class, junior year was my first introduction to lacrosse (or as close as it got with a whiffle ball and all plastic stick). I instantly became fascinated with the sport. Once spring had rolled around I had wrestled with the idea of quitting my regular spring sport and joining the lacrosse team. This was a tough decision, not only did I have no friends on the team, I also had virtually zero experience (not counting my gym class adaptation). In the end, I did ultimately choose to play. While I started off well behind in skill that season, I worked hard, played a lot of wall ball and eventually made varsity senior year. I then went on to play club lacrosse at the University of Minnesota for the next 4 years.

In both cases I learned that not letting fear of failure get in the way can lead to some amazing opportunities. Ultimately these decisions lead me to become a Product Engineer at Epoch Lacrosse, where I can combine my passion for innovation and technology with my love of lacrosse. There is no typical day at Epoch which I really enjoy. One day we might be focused on advancements in shaft design and another on protective gear. Throughout my time at Epoch I have gotten the chance to work with an amazing team who have helped broaden my knowledge not only in engineering but in areas such as marketing, design and manufacturing.

Our CEO James Miceli always says to fail fast, meaning don’t be afraid to try something new and innovative, if it fails then learn from it and pivot to the next idea. From this journey, my biggest take away as been that sometimes the best way to learn something new is to throw fear aside and jump in head first.


Emily Plahn
Epoch Women Author
Epoch Product Engineer

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