ARTICLE POSTED BY: Sarah Gudeman, PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C
Many engineers, myself included, were perhaps originally directed into the field by family members, teachers or counselors due to some demonstrated skill at math and sciences. This and some other engineering stereotypes hold true for me. (I'm sometimes introverted, love spreadsheets, and definitely a nerd / geek).
What I've come to learn, and now try to share with students who are considering engineering as a career, is that there's much more to it.
Because what I didn't realize back then, is that as engineers our most valuable asset is not what we already know, but our ability to learn and find solutions to complicated problems. We're not afraid of problems, because we thrive on fixing them. And while those with what I call the 'engineer brain' are already a small subset of the population, critical thinking and attention to detail - while important - isn't all there is to it.
The best engineers I know aren't only technically proficient, they have a little something extra...
- They have focus and purpose. They want to understand why we do what we do.
- They have persistence, but also people skills. They can bring people from diverse backgrounds together to a common goal.
- They are team players who aren't afraid to be wrong, and will admit to it when necessary. They know that consensus decisions are the most valuable.
- They aren't too afraid of failure to take a chance or explore new ideas. They are endlessly curious.
- They go in all directions to solve a problem, but don't submit to paralysis by analysis.
- They never stop learning. Then they turn around and teach others.
- They don't understand when someone says it "can't be done", and look at this as an opportunity or challenge. They question things and think outside the box.
- They are excellent communicators.
- They are tenacious and confident, yet humble. They are open to other's opinions and are able to listen.
- They see value in asking over telling, and wondering over knowing.
- They recognize that we do not work alone.
- They are willing to ask questions. When they make assumptions, they also make it known.
- They take ownership of tasks and projects. Both the successes and shortcomings.
- They practice patience and self-control, understanding that the best results require an investment in time.
- They respect time. Their own, their clients' and their families'.
And this is just a small sampling of what I've seen exemplified in the engineers that I consider my role models. So while I may have originally gotten into this career because I enjoyed math and science, I remain because of the constant opportunities for self-improvement.