The pace of change in today’s technology is breathtaking. In the space of 30 years we have moved from the first cellphone to smart phones in our pockets which hold more processing power than the computer that send the first rocket to the moon. What is seen as cutting edge today, will undoubtedly seem antiquated in a couple of years. This rapid pace of technology means that employees’ education does not end when they graduate, and they will need to embrace lifelong learning. Alongside an engineer’s technical skills, below are 6 must-have soft skills that are important for an engineer to have to thrive in an ever changing, technological world.
Skill 1: Leadership and management skills.
Since engineers don’t work in isolation, every engineer is going to work within or lead a team at some point in their career. Having good leadership and management skills are vital to the success of the project. Knowing when to mentor and when to give space, how to encourage at team and keep them focused and how to manage conflicting personalities are essential skills for any leader to have. Luckily, good leadership skills can be developed through training, observation and practice.
Skill 2: Communication skills.
Good engineering communication skills contains two parts: communicating with clients and communicating with their team. Engineers need to able to explain technical jargon and complex ideas to clients and other managers with less technical skills, and they also need to be able to communicate their ideas and the technical requirements to their team. It is vital that engineers clearly and succinctly communicate ideas over a variety of mediums (presentations, conversations, emails) as if they are not able to communicate properly, costly mistakes could be made.
Skill 3: Commitment and the desire to learn.
As with any industry, there can be unexpected delays and setbacks which are out of the engineer’s control. Engineers need to be fully committed to their tasks and need to be resilient to overcome these obstacles. Commitment to ones career also means being committed to learning new technologies and keeping updated with industry trends so that one can competently carry out core job requirements.
Skill 4: Problem-solving skills.
As mentioned above, projects can be hit with unexpected obstacles at any time. Engineers need to be able to approach a problem in a cool, analytical way to help solve the problem in the most efficient way as well as minimizing risk. Problem solving is an integral part of engineering, and as such it is imperative that engineers develop this skill early on in their career.
Skill 5: Attention to detail.
Engineering projects are often complex, and engineers need to consider a large number of factors when embarking on a project. From concept to the testing phase engineers need to sweat the small stuff to ensure nothing critical gets lost in the process. This is especially important when building buildings or bridges because a small mistake could have catastrophic consequences and could even lead to loss of life.
Skill 6: Giving and receiving feedback.
An important part of working within a team is being able to provide clear, and constructive feedback, whether positive or negative. One should also be able to receive feedback and process it appropriately because without feedback one can’t learn from mistakes or improve. The ability of a team to be able to provide and receive constructive feedback is a critical indicator of the success of the project.
Of course, an engineer’s technical skills are very important as this forms the core of their role, none-the-less these 6 soft skills are equally important. A technically proficient engineer who is not able to communicate their projects to clients or is not able to take feedback and learn from their mistakes is more likely to be a liability than an asset.