Career advice for engineers: Work with the quirks
Engineers can excel by working with what makes them unique, rather than fighting against personality traits others might consider quirky.
There is no need to check your personality at the office door on Monday mornings to present a positive and professional image to the team. In fact, I can build more trusting professional relationships, strengthen teams, and earn support in achieving my career goals by working with my own personality quirks instead of stumbling over them.
Identify your unique strengths, understand your own ways of working and learning style to maximize your efficiency — technically and interpersonally, and be satisfied with your decisions and performance when you go home at night.
Identify and get comfortable with your strengths. Use those strengths (technical and soft skills) to benefit the team. Strengths come in many forms and primarily are associated with activities that provide career satisfaction.
- Are you well-organized? Volunteer to assemble a project plan and file structure.
- Are you a strong communicator? Help your team engage in an honest and unfiltered conversation.
Work around weaknesses
Work around your weaknesses and get creative to mitigate them.
- Do you have difficulty communicating the right information or frequently enough? Set a reminder to send a standardized update to your team.
- Do you have a technical gap in your knowledge? Find and shadow a mentor.
- Are you better at writing emails than speaking up in a meeting? Write a detailed report and rehearse the high points before the meeting.
Learning style, resources
Identify your learning style and resources you need to do your job. Learn to recognize if you are not retaining new information. Ask questions if you are missing the foundation or background information.
- Have you ever had a customer explain a problem over the phone and leave out the most critical information (such as what system?). Next time, ask them to write it down. Or better yet: write it down yourself, and get feedback in writing.
- If a coworker is explaining something using a whiteboard, ask them to demonstrate the concepts with staged hardware and software.
- It may not be possible in every situation, but if something isn’t clear, speak up and ask for the information in a format that works for you.
Be mindful of your interaction style with supervisors, peers and customers. Develop unique interpersonal relationships and ways of working for every team. Modular programming is an excellent tool for control systems, but it does not translate well to relationships. An honest and trusting relationship is the foundation for building a strong team.
- Some teams require more (or less) communication. Information you have not shared can be as important as the information you have shared.
- Some project teams work better as groups, while others work better as individuals working towards a common goal.
- If facing a difficult interpersonal situation, consider the person’s motivations and that their goals may not align with yours. You may be focused on completing a project, but they may be focused on their next promotion, or have a fear of losing production time. Understanding the motivations of those around you may help find some common ground.
If you embrace your strengths and acknowledge weaknesses, you can be more comfortable in your own professional skin and achieve success and career satisfaction.
Devon MacNeill Guglietta, P.E., is senior automation engineer, GlaxoSmithKline, and among winners of Engineering Leaders Under 40 in 2018. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
KEYWORDS: Engineering career help
Engineers should identify and work with strengths and weaknesses.
Learning styles vary recognizing yours can help.
Interactions can be driven by goals.
Do you spend time thinking about interactions, and how they might improve next time?