When it comes to engineers, we aren't known for our communication skills. This may seem standard with the introverted engineering stereotype, but communication is perhaps the most necessary skill an engineer can have – and we need more engineers that can communicate.
[Image Source: Stephen Satkowski via Wikimedia Creative Commons]
I am of course not talking about engineers ability to speak a language or form basic words. Rather, too many times there have been incredibly smart engineers that simply can't communicate what is happening in their designs. You'll find that the greatest engineers of past and present are also massively successful communicators. If you think that communication is only for extroverts and it is a natural skill, it isn't.
Take Elon Musk for example. He is admittedly not a natural communicator. He is also not the biggest fan of public speaking, but he understands that it is likely his most important skill he can hone. He worked for years to become better at public speaking, and much of the success he has enjoyed is due to his ability to communicate vision.
An engineer that can't communicate is one that can't inspire others, one that can't pass on his knowledge.
If we really look at our world shortage of engineers, much of it can be fixed if the wealth of engineers across the world could communicate better.
[Image Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr]
I'm not suggesting that every engineer needs to learn another language, or frankly even take a public speaking class. Every engineer simply needs to make a proactive effort to hone their communication skills, and trust me, it takes a massive amount of effort. That effort isn't unwarranted, however. If you have any level of experience in the corporate engineering world, you likely realize how valued engineers that can also communicate their skills to the general public or just the marketing team are. These are the engineers that advance and excel in the career.
The world doesn't just need other engineers that can communicate, you need to be an engineer that can communicate. It is possibly the most important skill you can learn. It's easy to separate ourselves from other engineers based on technical ability. However, the smartest engineer that can't communicate is going to lose the job to the decent engineer that can communicate all day long.
Learning to communicate doesn't mean sitting down and taking classes or reading books. Rather, take some time to analyze your words before you say them. In engineering terms, optimize your words and speak. Make sure that your voice and your written words are the best they can be before you make them public. If you spend time analyzing your communication this way, eventually communication skills will start coming naturally. If you want to be more proactive about practice, you can find some tips here, thanks to Ryan Foland.