Saturday, June 18, 2011

The role of an Engineer

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Upon entrance to the Aerospace Engineering program at RMIT University, the ideas I held regarding the generic skills and attributes required by a professional aerospace engineer were quite hazy if not undefined. These ideas have expanded and clarified over the past two weeks during both class discussions1, a presentation by Major Normand Landry and also research on the internet.

Whilst solving challenging technical problems and implementing these results is the primary element of the engineers’ role, many other skills of high importance are required for a successful career. As put by Bob Snow, the Dean of Engineering at RMIT, undergraduates have the chance to “develop technical competencies to a very high level while simultaneously developing skills in the areas of creativity, communication, innovation, leadership and teamwork attributes in demand by employers.” 4 Queens University, Canada5, Universities of Utah6 and Colorado7 in the USA and The University of Edinborough8, UK also agree that today’s engineering graduate will require many specialist skills in addition to solving the technical issue at hand.

Maj. N Landry has highlighted the four cornerstones for success, with the first two highlighted as written presentation & oral presentation. This requirement is supported by the RMIT Faculty of Engineering who state that “effective written and oral communication skills” are among the most desirable skills in an engineering graduate. Communication skills include effective listening skills, the conveying or even selling of ideas, the production and interpretation of technical documents, drawings, patents and tenders. An example may be where a technical concept must be explained to non technical minds in a simple terms, yet comprehensively and with authority.

These skills assist an engineer with the remaining cornerstones for success - effective meetings and teamwork. A meeting is held to bring a team of people together to plan, monitor and review a project. Decisive planning and leadership by an engineer is a chance to motivate and inspire their team with confidence to get the job done. Gerald Blair of the University of Edinborough makes clear that a meeting should also open the doors for discussion to raise issues and to see who has some valuable input or specialist skills8.

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As engineers, we will be held accountable for our work and decisions made. This requires that engineers must behave in a professional and ethical manner under all circumstances. Maj. N Landry encouraged that engineers should have a thorough knowledge of business strategies and management practices to successfully negotiate both their projects and career. For a successful project outcome, engineers need to work in harmony with a variety of people and cultures. An understanding of cultural differences is vital in today’s global environment.

Engineers should also adopt the “Lifetime Learner” attitude1. Engineers must actively seek developments in technology and knowledge to provide the best solutions and stay a step ahead in their field. Class discussions also touched upon the necessity for engineers to use their imagination and creativity when approaching a problem to solve, rather than only referring to past solutions or similar projects for ideas.

In conclusion, it is expected globally that graduate engineers are equipped with a variety of skills to manage both their professional roles and career path. This gives us as students much to look forward to in the coming years!

1. AERO110A Class Discussion, Monday 4th February & Monday rd March, 00

. AERO 110A Presentation, Major Normand Landry, Monday rd March 00.

. The Institution of Engineers Australia, Welcome to Careers, The Institution of Engineers Australia, viewed 5th March 00, http//www.ieaust.org.au/careers/index.html

4. RMIT Faculty of Engineering, Statement from the Dean, RMIT Faculty of Engineering, viewed March, viewed March 5th 00,

http//www.rmit.edu.au/browse/Our%0Organisation/Faculties/Engineering/About/ Statement%0from%0the%0Dean/

5. Queens University Faculty of Applied Science, Important Skills Prioritised by Practicing Engineers, Queens University Faculty of Applied Science, viewed March 5th 00, http//firstyr.appsci.queensu.ca/apsc14/skills.asp

6. University of Utah 00, Important Engineering Skills, University of Utah Mechanical Engineering, viewed 5th March 00,


7. Colorado State University - The Writing Centre, Perspectives on Communicating as an Engineer, CSU Center for Research on Writing & Communication Technologies, viewed March 5th 00, http//writing.colostate.edu/references/documents/ee-com/popd.cfm

8. Gerald M Blair, Presentation Skills for Emergent Managers, University of Edinborough School of Engineering, viewed March 5th 00

http//www.see.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/Management/art1.html?http//oldeee.see.ed.ac.uk/~gerar d/Management/art1.html

. RMIT Faculty of Engineering, Vision, Mission and Goals, RMIT Faculty of Engineering, viewed March 5th 00, http//www.rmit.edu.au/browse?SIMID=7lojexpb7k11&VIEW=META

10. Voland, G., Engineering by Design, Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1, p.

11. RMIT University Library 00, Citing print and electronic sources, RMIT University Library, viewed March 5th 00, http//www.rmit.edu.au/library/citing

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