Communication Skills in Engineering


Lately, I have found myself working with more and more engineers, especially chemical engineers. The relevance and importance of "soft skills," in relation to the ability to communicate, within the field of engineering should not be underestimated. In academia, students must be able to clearly understand their teachers. Researchers need to be able to link their work to industry and communicate with other professionals, as well as modify their communication of technical subjects to a wide variety of audiences. Many engineers are often asked to speak, and so need to make effective speeches and remarks, whether to a few people, or a hundred.

Within the industry, whether in pharma, petroleum and gas, or chemicals, chemical engineers need to work well as team players, communicate with sales and other teams about requirements, etc., convince people of their projects or ideas (especially when funding is an issue), and communicate well with project stakeholders, vendors, production and contractors to make sure everyone is on the same page and things are done properly. It is also important that engineers are able to share their ideas effectively with people who have no background in engineering.

According to data from 2003-2013, the overall number of engineers and scientists residing in the US increased from 21.6 million to 29 million. The number of immigrant scientists and engineers increased from 3.4 million to 5.2 million, with 57% coming from Asia. 2003 to 2013 saw a 45% increase in the number of immigrants with engineering degrees, compared to 12 percent for their US counterparts. It is also important in a male-dominated field that young women are nurtured and encouraged to speak in a strong and empowered voice.

I have found in my practice (as it has been reported back to me many times!) that individuals and groups in companies benefit greatly from communication training, whether it involves improving inter-office communication, the voice and speaking style, modifying a strong accent, enhancing presentation skills, sending more effective emails, telephone and conference call performance, or using more professional language in daily conversation and writing. These factors are strong contributors to the overall image and message that a company is sending out.

Why let important issues remain unaddressed, when they are so important to a company's well-being and future?