Tag Archives: skills

Episode 124 — Mad Skillz

The gang discusses how one acquires the skills most frequently used by engineering professionals.

  • Brian knows that parliamentary procedures are described in Robert’s Rules of Order, but he has not had to use such procedures in the course of his engineering career.
  • A quorum is the minimum number of voting members from a deliberative group allowed to make decisions on behalf of that group.
  • This episode covers the skills commonly used by practicing engineers.
  • In 2001, Edward F. Crawley of MIT published a report that discussed engineering skills, titled “The CDIO Syllabus: A Statement of Goals for Undergraduate Engineering Eduation.” (pdf)
  • The top-level skill categories identified by Crawley were:
    1. Technical Knowledge and Reasoning
    2. Personal and Professional Skills
    3. Interpersonal Skills
    4. CDIO (conceiving, designing, implementing, and operating)
  • In 2003, Catherine Kelly studied the career paths of MIT undergraduates over a span of 35 years, producing a report titled “Some Trends in the Career Paths Followed by Alumni of the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department”. (link)
  • According to the Kelly report, approximately two-thirds of each graduating class from MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Department will find employment as engineers and managers. As the number of years beyond graduation increases, the percentage of engineers decreases, while the percentage of managers increases.
  • Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce published a 2011 study on STEM careers, noting that 10 years after graduation, 46 percent of STEM graduates have left the field.
  • Brian references a 2014 article from the ABA Journal claiming that 24% of those who passed the bar in 2000 were not practicing law a dozen years later.
  • Kristen Wolfe authored a 2004 thesis, “Understanding the careers of the alumni of the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department,” in which she surveyed MIT alumni about the skills they used in day-to-day engineering practice.
  • Brian notes that a good deal of his work involves trying to fight his own confirmation bias.
  • In 2015, Kelly Wang produced a thesis, titled “Study on the Careers of MIT Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Alumni.” This report confirmed many of the findings from the 2004 Wolfe study.
  • In response to an email from listener Andrew, we’ve generated the following list of recommended YouTube channels:

Thanks to TechCrunch for use of the photo titled “TechCrunch Disrupt Europe Hackathon.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

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