Great writers have a strong inner monologue. Great illustrators have an eye for detail. Great marketers know how to capture the imagination, but what’s the recipe for a great engineer? If you are considering a career in engineering, here are some of the skills you should hone up on and personality traits you should polish.
Deduction, reasoning and problem solving
Engineering is about finding the answer to a problem. You don’t just need to be a good problem-solver. You need to be the kind of person that eats problems for breakfast and washes them down with a cup of piping-hot predicament tea.
Fastidious attention to detail
When you are designing a bridge, you have to account for every single nut and bolt. Engineering requires incredible attention to detail. You have to be meticulous in your approach.
The ability to make things happen
Having a big idea is one thing. Having the energy to execute it and make it a reality is quite another. You are a doer. A maker. A completer-finisher. Whatever you want to call it, you know how to get projects across the finish line with as little friction as possible.
Growing into a great engineer requires brawny skills in the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths – especially the latter.
It goes without saying that IT skills are a must, but you should also learn to make your way around specialist software like 3D CAD. It will likely become as essential to your career as ropes to a rock climber.
Fistfuls of ambition
Engineering is one of the most exciting, varied and potentially lucrative careers you could plump for, but getting to the top isn’t easy. The University courses are grueling and the projects are demanding. You’ve got to be made of the right stuff to keep going and stay motivated.
You manage your time, not vice versa
At University or at the top of the profession, engineering is time-intensive. Big projects, often with distant deadlines are the order of the day. You have to know how to take control of your time and break projects into manageable chunks to stay on track, on deadline and on budget.
Work well under pressure? Then you’ve got the right mindset for engineering. You have to able to juggle projects – often with fierce deadlines – and stay calm when your client decides to change the design of your parajet at the eleventh hour. You thrive on adversity.
Good (really good) communication skills
Ugh. Why does every job advert list communication skills as a necessary skill? You can talk; people understand you (most of the time). What’s the big deal? Well engineering is incredibly technical. Misunderstanding a colleague can have dire implications for a project. You have to be able to explain what you mean – communicating technical concepts in plain English. Even more importantly, you have to be a fabulous listener. Easier said than done.
The ability to take responsibility
In engineering you are rarely working in isolation. It’s far more likely that you will be responsible for one small part of an extremely large project. You should be prepared to take ownership of your role. To work with the team for the good of the project and to defend your decisions when necessary.
Added bonus: a great name
Archimedes of Syracuse.
Many of history’s most notable engineers are endowed with fabulous names. Sure, you might have to go some way to beat Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but a bit of sass to your nom de guerre could take you far.
Over to you to finish & fine-tune the recipe!
Engineering is an expansive discipline. Depending on your chosen specialism, there’s no doubt you will have to acquire some extremely nuanced and niche skills, but there are certain traits and abilities that are required right across engineering. Fine-tuning them is likely to hold you in great stead for your future career.