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Traits all engineers share?

  1. Apr 9, 2012 #1
    People stress the importance of mathematics and science/physics when becoming engineers. What are some important qualities of personality that people should have, or need to develop?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2012 #2
    A propensity toward rational thought helps a lot. The educational process is designed to weed out the worst offenders lacking that skill. That is why you get Calculus up front and perhaps 50 students will sign up for the class and maybe fewer than ten will complete the class successfully. That is one of the “filter” classes. It weeds out those without the thinking skills required to be an engineer.

    If you plan to go into mechanical engineering, then you really need the ability to think in five dimensional motion pictures. That is the three normal dimensions, plus speed and acceleration. If you go into some branches, then you need to add a sixth dimension to your thought process, which is dimensional changes due to temperature changes. If you see a structure, then in your mind you must also see the load path with all its vectors, fully understanding where they go and what they do. You will need an intuitive feel for how the structure will begin to fail and which failure mode is involved, and then develop the ability to verify your intuition with analysis.

    The smartest and best engineer is worth nothing if he/she cannot communicate these ideas to those with less understanding of the subject matter. So you will need to write well, and be able to stand up before a group of people to present your work. If they don’t understand what you have to communicate, then all the other work you have done is for nothing and you have failed. As my dad taught me as a child, if someone does not want to read what I’ve written, then they won’t and I would have failed to communicate my ideas in writing—and would therefore essentially be illiterate.

    I can only speak well for mechanical engineering requirements. I’ll let others speak for their fields.
  4. Apr 9, 2012 #3
    An attention to detail and the ability to check your calculations from a variety of perspectives. No detail is too small to overlook when it could quite possibly mean someone's life or millions of dollars of damage to a structure or expensive prototype. As far as checking your calculations, engineers should never trust the output of a finite element analysis program or other software program if you yourself cannot solve at least a rough hand calculation which verifies the results.

    Be confident yet avoid arrogance. People will look to you for answers since you are a knowledgeable specialist but people also do not like to be talked down to, which I fear is a trait that runs rampant among many engineers.

    I will tell you that it is an ongoing joke in college that engineers cannot write and there is no need for them to do so since they are good with numbers.... This is bull$****! Many universities are implementing writing courses for engineers. Who is going to want to hire you if your resume is full of grammatical errors and is difficult to read? Unless you plan on staying in theory your whole life, you should also develop some people skills. I have an individual I know from graduate school who is far smarter than everyone else but is extremely awkward. I feel bad for him because I can only imagine how weird it must be when he is in an interview.

    Hope this helps.
  5. Apr 10, 2012 #4
    I want to thank-you for your reply. I plan on using it for a website im creating as a direct response from individuals, not survey responses =)
  6. Apr 10, 2012 #5
    POOTY I'm also planning on using your response as a direct response =), not being an engineer myself (yet), i want others to see what people with knowledge and experience have to say.
  7. Apr 10, 2012 #6

    jim hardy

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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member


    some are organized and have neat desks, some not

    some are good with people, some not

    some are physically active and stay fit, some not

    i'd say the main thing they have in common is inordinate curiosity.

    Well - one other thing.
    Everywhere i've worked the engineer's parking lot causes dismay among all other employees . "Why do those engineers drive such old junker cars ? "
    I think deep down inside they feel machines are some sort of kindred spirits.

    Pehaps a study of engineer jokes would be telling.
  8. Apr 10, 2012 #7
    AK: Quote away. Sounds like an interesting project. I'd like a like when you have something ready to see.
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