“Engineering problems are under-defined, there are many solutions, good, bad and indifferent. The art is to arrive at a good solution. This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice.”
-Ove Arup, Danish British engineer and founder of Arup Group Limited
Industrial, chemical, software, civil, electrical, and mechanical are all words that come before the title of engineer. Each of these professions do very different things in order to change the way we live. Collectively, they work to make our daily personal and professional lives more comfortable, safer, and easier to navigate. There are several personality traits that most engineers share, among them are curiosity, critical thinking, creativity, effective communication, and a collaborative spirit.
Children who spend hours taking apart toys just to see how they work are the kind of kids who grow up to be engineers. Engineers are curious because they want to know how and why things work as they do. For many engineers, once they have this understanding, their thinking morphs into how they can make it better, faster, and more efficient for less money!
2. Critical Thinking
Engineers need to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to make objective judgements and recommendations. They rely on these critical thinking skills in every stage of their work, particularly when it comes to decision-making. Engineers who can think critically, are able to deftly handle the wide variety of technical, administrative, policy, and interpersonal communication challenges that arise within a day’s work or a project’s timeline.
Many may think that the words “creative” and “engineer” are mutually exclusive. At first glance, it would seem that in a field structured by math and science there would be little to no room for a creative spirit but when one looks more deeply, the creative engineer is changing the way we live and work as creativity often spurs innovation! It was a creative engineer who converted another glue-based project into Sticky Notes.
4. Effective Communication
An engineer, in any industry, can have brilliant ideas for a project but if he or she cannot articulate those ideas to management, teammates, clients, and other stakeholders they are of no use. Effective engineers understand that clear, concise, written and verbal communication is the key to giving their ideas life and their team a competitive edge. Succinct communication becomes even more important in today’s global business context where language and meaning often become lost in translation. While it is true that many graduate programs in engineering place little focus on teaching students these skills, there are plenty of resources such as books, podcasts, and webinars of which engineers may avail themselves in order to improve their ability to effectively communicate.
5. A Collaborative Spirit
Engineers do not work in a vacuum. They work with other engineers, supply chain management, financial and project managers, and others from various business units. Engineers are tasked with contributing to collaborative and cross-functional teams to ensure integrated development. The more easily an engineer can collaborate with a team, the more likely the project or product will be successful.
Engineers who remain curious throughout their lives, while employing sharp critical thinking skills, combined with the ability to clearly communicate their ideas in a creative and collaborative way, are those who will continue to ease the way in which people navigate their world.