I believe engineering professionals have a fundamental contradiction in their careers. They have to be obsessed with being absolutely meticulous, precise and have an enthusiasm for detail in their engineering work. However, in order to be successful – they have to communicate with absolute brilliance and passion summarising difficult concepts in often simple-to-understand ways.
How Many Times Have you Heard?
How many times have you heard someone highly technical droning on and focussing on some absolutely irrelevant detail when presenting to a non-technical audience? They lose the audience and quickly get a reputation for someone to avoid if you want to get a simple explanation.
Successful managers and engineers can communicate difficult concepts quickly and effectively. They can cut to the chase and explain highly complex ideas to their grandmother in terms she will happily understand and be able to converse about.
This skill enables them to win over their often non-technical comrades and to gain acceptance of their often arcane ideas. Being able to communicate well is probably your most important skill. Specific technical concepts and approaches (obviously not fundamental physics) in the engineering world date quickly – the ability to communicate well doesn’t date. It is an age-old skill.
How does one learn how to communicate well?
The quickest way is to listen to successful communicators and model yourself on them. After carefully practising a presentation thoroughly beforehand get everyone to give you a good critique on how you presented. Painful though it may be hearing from perhaps other novices – criticism is always be helpful.
And naturally, use Youtube and other video channels to peruse hugely positive examples of how to communicate well (e.g. the world famous TED talks).
At the end of the day – it is about practice and working hard at being better. Nothing particularly easy here. But eminently achievable. And ultimately – hugely beneficial in your career.
I do enjoy George Bernard Shaw’s comment about communication:
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
Yours in engineering learning