There was a time when engineers could work within companies and have minimal (or even bad) communication skills. While it is not necessarily important for engineers to become great public speakers or authors, it is increasingly important for them to possess effective communication skills. Here’s why.
Engineers Need to Sell
Engineers do not necessarily need to become card-carrying sales people, however, they do need to be able to sell their ideas. In interactive discussions with technical and management team members, or even with clients, it is necessary to present your story well. Doing so helps convince others of the merit of your “case,” and furthermore, builds confidence in your perspective as a professional. It is about relationship building; an engineer who can prepare and deliver a clear, concise, and believable message will come across well.
Engineers Need to Capture User and Client Insights for Specification Documents
Often in the aerospace and government contracting worlds, product requirements and needs are clearly, and often completely, defined in specifications and requirements documents. In the commercial, industrial, and consumer product worlds, this is often not the case, and engineers need to alone or with a diverse team, meet with prospective or current clients to extract the opportunities and needs. In such situations, engineers will often be communicating with others who do not share their perspective and technical competence. Extracting information requires good listening skills and the ability to translate what is heard into technical requirements.
Engineers Need to Create Clear Written Content
Engineers must craft clear, concise written documents, emails, and presentation materials to be effective at their jobs. Be careful not to use jargon and technical terminology, especially if the receiver of the information is not a technically oriented person. The engineer needs to step into the mindset of the audience/readers and write in a form that gets to the point quickly and speaks in a language that is readily understood by the audience.
Engineers Need to Use the Best Method of Communication -- from “Slack” to “Face to Face”
A common stereotype of engineers is that they do not like to communicate and prefer to sit at their desks and just do their work, without human interaction. If any part of this stereotype is true, then the engineer must be careful to use appropriate forms of communication for the situation. There are plenty of options for electronic communication -- from texting to Slack to email and many other social media forms. However, when dealing with sensitive information or when there is a chance of misinterpretation, then the best form of communication is a face-to-face discussion. The best way to deliver a hard-to-understand or painful message is to do it face-to-face or via phone/video conference. If there is any reluctance to tell the story face-to-face, avoid retreating into electronic forms where the intent can be easily misconstrued or delivered from a protected distance. The harder the message is to deliver, the more likely