As alluded to in previous posts, engineers are being called upon to be leaders in today’s increasingly high-tech world. Engineers looking to become leaders in this ever-changing technological frontier will need to be able to not only communicate with others in technical and non-technical settings, but also solve problems that others cannot.
The so-called “engineer of the future” was described in a paper published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Written in 2004, this paper summarized the attributes that will be most necessary for engineers in 2020. A lot has changed since 2004, but this text still seems relevant for the engineer of tomorrow. The paper states that these engineers must possess strong analytical skills, practical ingenuity, creativity, the ability to communicate effectively, dynamism, agility, resilience, and flexibility. None of these skills and traits have anything to do with technical abilities such as coding and programming, technical writing, or even thermodynamics. The NASEM paper describes the engineer of the future as follows: “He or she will aspire to have the ingenuity of Lillian Gilbreth, the problem-solving capabilities of Gordon Moore, the scientific insight of Albert Einstein, the creativity of Pablo Picasso, the determination of the Wright brothers, the leadership abilities of Bill Gates, the conscience of Eleanor Roosevelt, the vision of Martin Luther King [Jr.], and the curiosity and wonder of our grandchildren.”
In 2012, Google decided to unearth the reasons why certain managers were more successful than others. The company unearthed a very shocking discovery on what traits successful employees and managers possessed. Surprisingly, technical skills were last on the list of eight successful traits revealed by the multiyear study. The first seven traits of highly successful managers were:
- The ability to be a good coach
- The ability to empower a team without micromanaging
- Being able to expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being
- Productive and results oriented
- Able to be a good communicator who listens and shares information
- Willing to help with others career development
- Able to have a clear vision and strategy for the team and the key technical skills to help them advise the team
Seven of the eight skills are what most would consider soft skills. Even in a highly technical workplace such as Google, soft skills are extremely important for employees to be successful.