If you asked people what skills are needed for an engineering career, most would probably respond with “math and science.” That is largely true, but which math and science skills? Are calculus and physics enough to carry you through your whole career?
There are some critical skills that engineers need that are not so obvious, and often not covered in their basic schooling.
Below we will review some of them and explain why they are needed in today’s world.
Firstly, analytics and statistics play an immersive role today that engineering decisions are often business decisions. If you have a solution for a specific problem to propose, you often get challenged to show the data that supports the choice and the trade study that compares your solution to alternatives. Statistics are used as part of data analysis, trade studies, and generation of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the health of processes. The above are necessary resources mechanical engineers are expected to practice and know.
The next set of skills is programming and algorithms. Most probably, mechanical engineers in the past didn’t expect to write algorithms and programs, something that was, understandably, considered computer science. However, nowadays, it is not strange that they frequently write quite a few programs to parse the data they have collected to identify trends and form conclusions.
Often, when data has been collected, it is not enough to calculate the mean, standard deviation, confidence interval, variance, and so on. In addition to looping through large sums of data, the relationship between multiple factors needs to be analyzed. This involves evaluating conditionals while processing the data or parsing a large data set into additional vectors and matrices that will be evaluated separately.
The term algorithm can sound daunting initially, but it simply means defining a logical process for solving a problem. Product development is at its core an algorithm. (Dave Martin, 2019)
Communication and presentation form the following set of critical skills needed in an engineering career. You may have gathered all necessary material, run all tests and experiment with all alternatives and know what the solution should be. However, it doesn’t matter how good your results are if you can’t convince your customer of your intended conclusion. Sometimes good “view-graph engineering” is the difference between making the right or wrong engineering or business decision.
Here’s how you can use your tools to become better at communication and presentation:
- If you’re using engineering calculation software, you will want to master the various graphing and chart tools for creating 2D and 3D plots of your results.
- If you’re using a computer-aided design (CAD) package, learn how to use the tools for:
- Rendering to create photo-realistic images.
- Mechanisms to simulate the motion and reaction of components.
- Animation for creating movies of your product. A picture is worth ten thousand words – and a moving picture even more so.
Much of mechanical engineering education and training is based around design, simulation, and manufacturing, but the business side of product development involves skills based around decision making and management. If you want to develop your proficiency in these areas, the capabilities exist in your CAD tools and engineering math software like PTC Mathcad. (Dave Martin, 2019)
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