I don’t need to write– I’m an engineer!


I have worked with engineers for 30 years. I have worked with students for 12 years. Many engineers and students hesitate or back away from writing challenges, opportunities or assignments. There are a few who like to write, and a few who like to write well. My engineering opportunities have increased because of my willingness to write. How about you? Do you write as an engineer? Do you write as a hobby? Are engineers better because they write? Should the college curriculum include more writing? Is it correct for someone to say, “I don’t need to learn to write– I’m an engineer!”

In the  book I am reading, Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Somerville state, “This single-minded focus in engineering is in part due to the emphasis on depth in engineering education. There’s a sense that because there’s so much technical stuff to learn, we can’t afford to spend time developing students’ other intelligences.” (David E. Goldberg and Mark Somerville, A Whole New Engineer, The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education, ThreeJoy Associates, Inc. Douglas, Michigan, 2014)

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12 Responses to I don’t need to write– I’m an engineer!

  1. Karen Taylor says:

    Up to recently, I was teaching pre-engineering students to write technical reports. Every year at the start of the school year, someone would ask, ‘why do we need this course? We are not going to be doing any writing when we get out there.’ A good portion of my class would then be spent reorienting these students to the soft skills required by engineers and examples of the writing they do. Many embark on their career paths still largely uninformed about the requisite skills needed to operate in their field or industry. You’ve raised some thought provoking questions, and I’m glad to see the responses shared here.

    • Don says:

      Wow, I can fully relate to your experience of students (and adults) moving forward without having good information on which to base their career decisions. This is one of the many reasons that in July I published a 64-page how-to GUIDE(with videos) on the topic of Conducting Informational Interviews. It’s free to anyone via the Learning Store on my website. I believe that reaching out to others in this way is the most important career development skill a young person can learn and use.

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. aerobret says:

    I’m not sure if my opportunities have increased because of my writing, but I do know it’s a good skill and strength of mine. I can put thoughts into writing better and easier than speaking them. Not everyone is like this of course. Effective communication is definitely a critical and often under-appreciated skill, so whatever medium your job requires needs to be a conscious effort at proficiency.
    I hadnt heard of that new book so thanks for the mention! It looks like a must-read. Cheers, Brett

    • Aerobret, Thanks for joining the conversation. I appreciate good communicators; those who can write, speak, and convey in a professional and meaningful manner. I’d like to see engineering writing raised in appreciation and skill. Best regards, Ken

  3. John says:

    My main work product in every job I do is a written report. The reports are certainly not compelling fiction or inspirational prose, but they must be concise, complete, and thorough. The purpose of the report is to document the analysis I perform for a client. Good writing is the only way to show a client that I did good work.

  4. Don Morgan says:

    “Soft Skills” are standard number 1 in all of my GA Engineering & technology classes! Some days its like pulling teeth to get a kid to write.

    • Don, Thank you for your comment. When I was young, I was one of those students who didn’t like to write. In fact, it was well after college before I starting reading and writing more to help me improve my writing. I always enjoyed creating a nice sketch of an idea, but now I get just as much satisfaction from a professional and succinct composition as I still do from a nicely created sketch. I think the turning point occurred for me when I started to read some classic books for recreation. I remember being highly impressed with Elizabeth Glaskel’s descriptive skill in “North and South.” I can see engineering contributions coming into my profession from many areas of life. Thanks again.

  5. Don says:

    Funny you should write this today. This morning I volunteered to be on a panel of engineers at a local high school where we met with 40+ pre-engineering students to discuss engineering careers.

    Writing was one of the many soft skills which I emphasized as being critical to becoming a “remarkable” engineer. No matter whether it’s a text, an email or a 20-page project report, written communication is a primary method of sharing our knowledge, selling our ideas, and much, much more. Clear and concise writing is a necessity for engineers.

    • Don, I agree that writing can make a remarkable engineer. In my work at a major aerospace company I write specifications, plans, procedures, reports, analyses, proposals, correspondence, recognitions, and many other compositions. I’m not afraid to write, and re-write, and re-write attempting to be clear and succinct. I think it brings an added level of confidence. My best to you in your working with pre-engineering students. I’d love to hear more about it.

      • Don says:

        Ken, I plan to blog about it in the near future on my site.
        I’m realizing that reading the various comments in this thread, and reading your blog in general, is going to help me significantly as I continue my work to help students and young engineers with their soft skills. For this, I want to thank you.

      • Don, You are very welcome. Help me help you, by giving me suggestions regarding the type and content of blogs that I post. More short stories? More personal experiences? More communication examples? I look forward to your input. Ken

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