Civil Engineering Communication Skills


Through Civilera blogs,I have been discussing on various technical topics that civil and structural engineers need to have in order to be job ready. Technical skills are mandatory and it is only a part of the skills that a civil engineer need to possess in order to succeed. A main requirement is communication skills.

Many think that communication skill means, ability to speak English fluently. This is only one part of the communication skill that is needed. Now you may think it is about reading and writing emails and other communications in English. Yes, that is also important. However, it is not just limited to that. In my 20+ years of career I have seen technically sound engineers not succeeding due to lack of these skills. You need to think beyond reading, writing and speaking. Even understanding something can be or help communication. You need to be a sharp focused engineer if you have to do extremely well. Given that technical competence is same for two engineers, the main differentiator can be this skill. I will try to explain this with examples.




Reading ,Writing & Speaking Skills

As I already mentioned, direct communication is very important. Most of this being in English, your command over the language should be really good. I have seen some able to speak really well, but extremely poor in conveying something by speaking. Some can be the other way. There is no short cut for improving this. If English is not your native language, practice. You should be able to write and convey a doubt to your boss if you are a beginner and a very decent email to your team and a client if you have to one day become a team leader. Same is the case with speaking.

Local Language is also something equally important. Sometimes the nature of your work demands you to know a local language. An example is the staff at site understanding only the local language. What they need to build, they need to know and effective communication is possible with the local language.


CV writing Skills


This is handy when you start your career or when you want to change it. The writing skills can

come handy when you present your CV. You should remember that a mistake in CV can negatively impact your selection probability. You need to be marketing really well in your CV even if you are technically good or even if your marks are great. How do you write a CV if you are a civil engineer?

Your CV should contain your civil engineering skills. However, it should be written in a way that will communicate it crisply. A busy recruiter or a civil engineering manager will be quickly glancing at your CV and as a fresh civil engineering graduate, your CV should contain only relevant information.


See the video for more information

please read here for additional information on job skills.


Interview communications


Many entry level civil engineers consider interviews as a questions and answer session. Though this may be true partly, it is a means that need to be used to market yourself well. Your real speaking skills and your overall personality will matter in addition to your structural engineering skills.

I want to add that, a well written CV will help you in your actual interview process as well. A well written and structured CV can attract questions to your advantage and you can win the civil engineering job of your dream just by having a great CV and a planned approach in the interview.

See the video for more information


Team communication

Team work is a very important need for success in civil engineering sector especially when you are a fresher or at the entry level. How your team understand you and your skills and attitude matters a lot in your success. You should be a real team player and this should be demonstrated in the project and at work level. At the same time, you need to communicate this as well. How do you communicate? By being present for your team in real needy situations of course, but You cannot be missing a team evet for any reason either. It could be a meeting, an outing or a get together or a lunch. Any team building activity is important and your absence sends a strong negative message.

Also, the communication should not end with your immediate supervisor and immediate person reporting to you. You may be reporting to a mid-level manager but then you should also find a way to communicate to other seniors. Same way to juniors. For example, if you have a junior engineer reporting to you and if you see a quality structural drawing submitted for review by him, it is your duty to ensure that the drafting engineer who prepared the drawing know about it as well. These may sound simple and odd but then all these matters to your success. Most successful people have given importance to these little things.


Cultural difference

At work, it is natural to have people from the entire country or from different parts of the globe. It is bound to create some cultural differences and some times even misunderstanding due to lack of awareness. You need to be sensitive about this matter and be open to understand that even the other person might be behaving in a way against you due to some misunderstanding. It is this open ness that makes you different from others and help you succeed.


Market your ideas & Influencing skills


You cannot succeed with out the ability to influence your peers, junior and seniors at some point in your career. You may have a good idea, a process or a system to implement. You need to win their approval easily. This is a very important skill to communicate your ideas and bring the opposers to your side by convincing them.

Your ability to market yourself comes in to play in job negotiations, change of roles and so on. In nutshell its not just what you are that matters, but how you are promoting what you are that finally shapes you up.


Indirect communication and ability


So far, the points I mentioned are more of direct communication skill. There are many indirect skills which are differentiators in success. I have listed some of the most important ones here.


Assumptions vs Considerations

Well! This is quite important. Many times, engineers are required to take decisions. The decisions taken can have an over all impact on the project. This can be a significant one. A wrong decision can result in a completely different result and an abortive work. Abortive work is time and energy wasted and hence money. This is where assumptions and considerations matter. There is a huge difference between assumption and consideration. A successful engineer never assumes a thing. If they assume, they state it clearly and fix a responsibility at someone for that assumption. This will be widely and clearly communicated too. Many times, engineers have to take calculated assumptions which have justifications and these can be called as considerations. These are never wild assumptions but justifiable assumptions which is with in control. As an example, say, a client told you that he wants to design a commercial building but dint communicate to you what kind of commercial it is. If you assume it as an office, it can turn out to be a warehouse later and create issues as the load considerations are quite different. However, if he told you that it is an office space and dint tell you how many partition walls he wants and if you consider it your own, that wont result in a huge change of design if the client changes his mind. This is a simple example I said. There can be many assumptions like soil bearing capacity etc which can go horribly wrong. Basically, you should be good enough to decide what can be an assumption and how to ensure the assumptions are well communicated and responsibility of that assumption fixed. If you don’t do this, you are likely to fail.


Code interpretation


Many fail to understand that this is a great skill needed. As a beginner especially, you are not a

master of codes and some times you are required to work on a new code that you are not familiar with. Interpreting this code clauses is an art. I can show you tens of clauses in IS 456 itself that are wrongly interpreted that can affect the design in several ways. Same way with specification or a client brief. You should master this art to ask the right questions and to come up with the right process and solutions. It Is not just about knowing English as a language but a skill to understand how codes and specifications are written and how that needs to be interpreted.


Drawing


Drawing is an important document. A drawing conveys what you have designed. This forms the most important document that some times decides your success. The reason is simple. If you are a structural engineer, the end client is mostly seeing the drawing and will judge your ability. They don’t even get to know the other stages in the design cycle that you go through with other stake holders or even with in your office. All the hard work you did can go horribly wrong if you drawing don’t communicate the design intent or if the drawing has a discrepancy like plan showing some thing and the section showing some thing else. Here comes the benefit of using tools like Revit which won’t let you make errors easily. If you need success, you should have good detailing and improvisation skills which communicates your design.


Saying don’t know


Saying that you don’t know some thing is difficult for some people. You need to know that no one knows every thing in this world. If you are assigned a job that is of not in your expertise then you should be able to communicate this in the right way. This can be at work or in your consulting life. If you need to consult some one else for completion of the task or seek some one’s help, you should be open about it and you should know how to manage this. Certain situations will be easily manageable if you have a choice to not to accept a work. This may not be the situation always. I am not saying that, you should accept work only in your comfort zone.

When you accept it , you should know how to manage it.


Seeking Help



There can be difficult situation or challenges that you are not able to resolve on your own. You need to be open to seek help.You should also know how to manage the situation. Not seeking help can worsen the situation and invite even more trouble. Many times team work is all about solving problems together. So there is nothing wrong in seeking help.



Saying No

Saying no becomes inevitable in your work life. This could be to your boss or to your peers or to a consultant or to anyone. You should be able to handle this politely and professionally. This helps not to damage your relationships at work. At the same time this is so important to say no to some thing you dont like or some thing that you dont want to so. It is almost certain that you are likely to succed when you do some thing that you want to do. Am not saying that you should not take challenges and should remain at your comfort zone. That is different.


Adaptive to Change


To be successful,one need to be adaptive to chane. It could be a process, teams, projects, software or what ever, you should be able to quickly adapt and turn around and be productive.Its your usefulness that infact matters even if you dont like to use that word.




Listening skills

Civil engineers and structural engineers needs to listen a lot.Changes and difference in understanding of a client brief can change a lot of things for you and the client. And many times clients and other stake holders of the project are not as much interested or knowledgeble about structures and only you appreciate that even little things can have a huge impact. So it is your responsibility to pick it right.


Decision Making


You did all the communications right and still you can fail if your decision is not made and communicated at the right time. Decision making ability is a skill and many times it is not a direct communication skill. However, it closely related to that. Some time the decisions can be difficult ones to directly communicate. You need to have the way to decide and communicate the decision.



Summary


Communication is an asset to an individual. Effective communication often decides success of a person. Be it personal or professional. When it comes to engineers and especially civil engineers, communication has a different dimension that just normal communication. Those who succeed in life and profession is seen to have got several of this skill in place.Over and above, great attitude makes your communication always right.

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