In our industry we come across many different types of people. Some are easy going while others are rather difficult to work with. A hallmark of a consummate professional is being able to tactfully work with all these different types of folks.
There are certain characteristics that people possess which set them aside from the rest and allow them to excel at working with a variety of different people. Engineers in general have the reputation of being sticks in the mud when it comes to interpersonal skills. We are great at designing airplanes, rockets, and power systems, just don’t ask us to explain why we designed a certain way. We can be known to confuse you with our explanations, not deliberately, but just because we are more comfortable with numbers than with words.
In order to have a successful client/engineer relationship, though, it is mandatory that we focus on the relational skills that don’t always come naturally.
These traits are what elevate a good engineer into a great engineer:
- Reliability. You must trust your engineer will deliver what he says, when he says he will.
- Resourcefulness. Not every problem requires an expensive field change to correct. Sometimes literal code interpretations fix problems. Sometimes creative (“it depends on what the definition of is, is”) code interpretations fix the problem. Sometimes a good dose of Plato’s logic solves the problem. A good engineer knows what resources are available to her and brings them to bear as they are needed. She keeps up to date with code changes and thinks about how they will impact her design.
- Punctuality. Show up on time or be early. We all have busy schedules and punctuality shows we respect the other person’s time, and by extension, the other person. Deliver your project when you say you will, not days later.
- Strong ethics. Perhaps the hardest thing to do is stand for an ethical issue in the face of intense pressure from the owner, especially when money is involved. An unethical engineer who breaks the rules when it suits him is not a person you can rely on.
- Honesty. Without honesty there is no trust, and without trust, relationships (both personal and professional) do not work.
- Proactive attitude. Taking the initiative and getting ahead of issues before they become problems is always better than being reactionary to them.
- Strong communication skills. It does no good to resolve an issue and not be able to clearly communicate the fix. A good communicator speaks clearly and at a technical level which is appropriate for his audience. He explains the problem and solution in a way that everyone can understand.
- Being a team player. Projects are not delivered by a single person, but by a group of separate players all working in concert. Good team players use their best skills and closet away their worst. They are always willing to go the extra mile and keep their ego in check because they know the end result will be something greater than anyone could individually produce.
- Accountability. Being responsible for the decisions you make and the consequences of those decisions is a hallmark trait of professionals. If we don’t make mistakes, we don’t learn and if we don’t learn we stagnate, so being accountable is part of growing as a professional.
- Professionalism. A professional has the skill and exhibits the knowledge and judgment to do a job well. A professional has the bearing and acts in a tactful manner regardless of the issues presented them.