A personal differentiator

After more than four decades of being an engineer, Herb Flink is retiring. Flink spent 37 of those years with Parker Fluid Control Division in New Britain, CT, most recently as its customer support engineering manager. On March 1, 2007, he will leave the company that provided many opportunities to indulge numerous areas of interest, including customer support, problem solving, and training for ...

By Renee Robbins, Editorial Director February 1, 2007

After more than four decades of being an engineer, Herb Flink is retiring. Flink spent 37 of those years with Parker Fluid Control Division in New Britain, CT, most recently as its customer support engineering manager. On March 1, 2007, he will leave the company that provided many opportunities to indulge numerous areas of interest, including customer support, problem solving, and training for new engineers. It’s that latter topic that has him hooked.

“Today’s engineers are measured by how well they link technical expertise with effective communication skills.” says Flink. “It is vital to take the time and do whatever is necessary to make yourself understood. In fact, it is your responsibility as an engineer to make sure the other party understands your explanations.”

Flink believes excellent communication skills are not only an asset, but a differentiator. “Strong oral and written communication skills can improve job performance, enhance work relationships and help overcome obstacles,” he says.

Flink recommends implementing a long-term plan of assessment and improvement in a number of areas. Some of these include active listening, verbal and written communications, team communications, customer communications, negotiation, and conflict resolution. “You can systematically categorize these areas and then rate your skills,” he says. “Next, I urge you to interview your friends, co-workers, peers, supervisors, managers, and even long-standing good customers with whom you have developed a good relationship. Ask them for an honest assessment of your skills, and then construct a plan to improve your weakest areas.”

As daunting as this task might be, “press on,” urges Flink. “It is important to remember that you have already mastered your technical skills; it is your communication skills that you are considering here.” Based on the training Flink has done on the subject, he’s put together a whitepaper with specific advice and encouragement for both new and seasoned engineers. It’s available in the Resource Center section of www.controleng.com .

Another engineer that has spent many years honing his communication skills has found a new outlet for them. Former Control Engineering Senior Editor Frank Bartos, P.E., has a new quarterly column in our pages. “Advancing Technology” debuts this month (on page 20) and will cover new and emerging technology for automation and control. Let it be an oasis of technical calm as you ride the waves of interpersonal communications.

renee.robbins@reedbusiness.com

Online Extra
Read Herb Flink’s whitepaper, “ Communications Skills 101 .”