How Engineers are thought to communicate[edit | edit source]
Engineers are often stereotyped for possessing poor communications and social skills. They are commonly regarded as the socially awkward type and that they do not much care for heavy and long periods of communication with others. The purpose of this article is not to negate any stereotypes but simply put, to shed some light on some of the finer points of the communication skills of an engineer.
How Engineers need to communicate[edit | edit source]
Every Professional Engineer must posses a competent ability to speak up in front of peers at any given point in time as well as in front of a group of people if needed. Employers generally expect an employee to be a complete package of social as well as professional skills in order to complete a full time job with a full set of job requirements. This means that even if an engineer is not great with words or witty and quick to the punch line, that engineer must still be able to at least communicate the responsibilities and duties of his/her job efficiently.
For example, if something goes wrong with a beam in a structure that was erected two months ago and an investigation is launched, then the engineer responsible for the design will probably have to come out from wherever his "safe" office is and stand in front of a group of people and explain clearly, professionally, and properly exactly what happened and why it happened. If the engineer fails to do so, he will not be protecting his reputation correctly and place himself at an increased risk.
Other times, proper communication may be necessary to clearly explain something. For example, if a contractor calls an engineer to question details from the design drawings of a school building that is under construction and the engineer fails to properly communicate with the contractor; then it would be horrible if it resulted in some sort of accident down the road such as the contractor mounting a heavy mechanical utilities system on one wrong beam out of the set, overloading it, and causing a structural failure.
What happens to Engineers who do not communicate[edit | edit source]
The engineering world is also a part of the business world. This means that even if an engineer is bright and excels in Academic circles and is successful in that comfort zone, he will not be able to guarantee a great job with great benefits. If you cannot promote your own work or promote work for a party with mutual benefits then others will promote your work for you but for their own benefit and you will get but a small slice of what could have been yours.(Bill Gates, Steve Jobs....get the idea?) In other words, to quote Mr. Tony Gaskins Jr. "If you don't build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs."
In conclusion, never underestimate an engineer's ability to communicate. An engineer is an Academic by nature of the profession. They know the books, but imagine how influential one accomplished at academics, social relations, and communication could be.
Especially to the Public[edit | edit source]
To add on to this, the ability for an engineer to communicate to the general public effectively also holds an ethical viewpoint. General public refers to people who holds virtually zero knowledge in engineering and are unable to perceive the engineering details pertaining to their lives. Since the public gives engineers a high degree of trust, they should validate that trust by making themselves understandable by the public.
Thus, the use of language would be crucial. Engineers should not be stuck in their own lingo, but should venture out into vocabularies that non-engineers can relate to. Only then would these people be well-informed - the gravity of a safety issue, the pertinent information involved when handling a device, etc. However, they do not need to know everything (or they might as well be one of us!).
History has numerous cases of when misinterpretation or misunderstanding has caused incidents that cost lives. Engineers as stewards of the knowledge they were imparted with should be responsible in translating what they have learned. They should not leave it in the hands of other professionals who do not have the education that engineers underwent or the values that engineers uphold.
A. Brent Strong wrote an interesting article titled, 'Why Engineers should read Shakespeare '. I tend to agree. Such readings not only enhance expressive skills, but also stimulate creativity, since Shakespeare was such a keen inventor of english words.