By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Did you know that 3D printing has become a must-have skill for engineers? Of course, math, detail orientation and problem-solving abilities are perennial requirements. However, the skills that can give you a leg up on the competition continue to evolve.
If you haven’t looked for a new job in a while, what employers are looking for in contract and full-time engineering prospects has changed considerably due to shifting business priorities and work practices. This list of in-demand skills that apply across multiple disciplines may surprise you.
A 2014 report from Wanted Analytics found that in one month, 35 percent of engineering job listings requested familiarity with 3D printing and its additive manufacturing processes. The job listings spanned a variety of fields, including biomedical, software and transportation.
Matt Fiedler, creator of the Gigabot 3-D printer, told IEEE that 3D printing skills are valuable because they can help engineers rapidly test their designs and make adjustments. “Engineers need to fail and recover quickly,” he added. “They need to go through iterations before they come up with designs that work optimally.”
Although some engineers possess the ability to envision new products or cutting-edge solutions, creativity is rapidly becoming a required skill set. This is due, in part, to the growth of new specialties such as robotics and the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Interestingly, creativity, not technical skills, tops employers’ wish lists for IoT positions.
Since 2014, employer demand for product engineers with skills related to IoT jumped nearly 275 percent while job postings for computer systems engineers in IoT has risen 110 percent. And IoT is expected to add $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP in the next 20 years, according to a report from G.E. and Accenture. In other words, the sky’s the limit for engineers who use their “whole brains.”
In today’s environment, successful engineers often serve as enthusiastic ambassadors for their team, product or company. The role of ambassador is part advocate, part lobbyist and part cheerleader. Ambassadors talk up their projects, colleagues and/or company in a positive way to clients, potential clients, prospective employees and senior leaders in order to increase awareness, project a positive image and generate excitement.
Leading Without Authority
Given the rise of flat organizational structures and cross-functional project teams, the ability to lead, with or without authority, is becoming a must-have skill for engineers. Leading without authority is a higher evolutionary skill. It requires engineers to influence, persuade, listen and motivate. As Steve DeMaio wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “Engineers who truly revere math and physics, for example, tend not only to build better things but also to motivate other people (whom they often don’t manage) with their love of the discipline.” His advice for leading without authority: “Let your enthusiasm for the work be contagious.”
Global resources are becoming scarcer as the world’s population grows. Engineers across every discipline will need to come up with techniques and designs that will lead to the smallest carbon footprint as well as eco-friendly processes that conserve resources. Going forward, every engineer will need to view their work, and the world, through a green lens.
Knowledge of Business Technology
Do you know your way around social media, the cloud or perhaps a CRM program? Are you familiar with mobile and open source technologies, crowdsourcing or big data analytics? The demand for proficiency with business technology has never been greater. Engineering professionals who possess these skills will thrive, according to Mark Babbitt, CEO of YouTern, while those who stick with the basics will be pigeon-holed as “just an engineer.”
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