What Makes an Engineer?

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What makes someone an engineer? We asked fans of ASME’s Facebook page what qualities engineers need to succeed. There were more than 300 replies! Many of you believe being a successful engineer requires a certain kind of personality, while others say that engineers develop through education and experience. But there’s one thing everyone can agree on:

Engineers need coffee.

So what kinds of (caffeinated) people are most likely to become successful engineers? Facebook commenters said that determination, creativity, and persistence were key indicators of success.

The most frequently cited trait was passion. According to your answers, it’s essential to be excited about engineering and its potential to improve the world.

But another engineer scoffed at this idea. “Passion is overrated,” he wrote. “I’d say brains!” Many of you agreed that knowledge is tops. It’s important to “learn quickly,” and another engineer said to “Learn why you’re doing it. Answer that…and you will be successful!”

Engineering success isn’t all book learning, however. Several people mentioned common sense, although one person cautions “you can’t teach that or learn it at a university.”

Another popular answer: soft skills that are highly valued in the workplace, like getting along with others, listening closely, and communicating well in speech and in writing.

Whether you were born an engineer or you became one, what’s most important is identifying and developing the unique qualities you need to succeed, as one Facebook commenter has. “As a student,” he wrote, “I would say success is impossible without support from yourself, peers, friends, and/or family.”

However you define success, becoming an engineer is hard work. Fortunately, all you need to get started is a cup of coffee.

Wendy Felton is manager, social media, at ASME.
Network with your peers at ASME’s E-fest West.