Episode 27 — Skills

CalculusDogIn this episode, Adam, Carmen and Jeff talk about engineering skills, and where they are obtained.

  • Adam has used “soft” skills more than “hard” skills thus far in his engineering career.
  • On the other hand, Carmen makes heavy use, at least on occasion, of the “hard” skills he learned in his engineering education.
  • Adam notes that the ABET criteria for civil engineering requires a focus on the areas of management, business, policy, and leadership not required by other engineering fields.
  • Jeff highlights a presentation by Richard Miller, the president of Olin College, that discusses the challenge of balancing hard and soft skills in the engineering curriculum.
  • A thesis by Kristen Wolfe discuses the skills that mechanical engineers from MIT use five years after graduation, which tended to be more collaborative than technical.
  • Conflict with co-workers seems to be a common reason for dismissal, so hiring firms are spending more time checking the collaborative skills of potential employees.
  • In accessing soft skills at career fairs, Carmen finds that many engineering graduates have trouble presenting themselves in a professional manner.
  • Carmen got better at interviewing by going on multiple interviews; a case of practice makes perfect? He aspires to be like Jim Williams and Bob Pease.
  • Adam and Carmen offer suggestions for improving one’s social skills, mainly by getting into situations where you have to deal with others on a regular basis.
  • Schools should focus on the hard skills, Carmen claims, because engineering students can pick up the soft skills elsewhere.
  • Jeff asks whether an engineering education should be “just in case” or “just in time.”
  • Some research indicates that a minority of engineering graduates remain in science and engineering five years after graduation.
  • Adam was rewarded in his school work for recognizing when an answer was incorrect.
  • Carmen and Adam both felt like they benefited greatly from participating in co-op programs.
  • Where are engineering graduates supposed to learn “tools,” such as CAD systems, or simulation software? There’s no clear answer, but many employers expect their new hires to have experience with specific software packages.
  • We may be entering an age of hyperspecialization (PDF of article from Harvard Business Review.)
  • .

Thanks to Dean Jackson for the photo titled “NooNoo studying calculus.” Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson

4 thoughts on “Episode 27 — Skills”

  1. Hey.

    I would just like to point out that in your last bulletpoint “We may be entering (…)”, the link to the PDF is actually missing, despite the blueing/underlining.

    I wish they’d taught me the stuff you talk about in engineering school…
    Keep up the great work!

Comments are closed.