Successful Engineers in the 21st Century

Engineering. One of the most highly sought-after career paths in the modern age. Engineers play a significant role in modern society from Automotive, Defence and Aerospace to Medical Devices, Plastics and Packaging. In fact, the art of engineering exists in almost every industry today. The inventors of modernisation, it is the engineers that are behind the innovative technology we now know and love.

When stepping into the fast and dynamic world of engineering, certain qualities and skills are needed to overcome complex challenges that so often arise. This includes having the ability to adapt and overcome daily technology challenges, the constraints of time and physics and the enormous amounts of costs associated with developing the latest innovation. Engineers are trained to recognise and solve such challenges with skills that are either innate or acquired over a long career. But what skills and personal qualities are leading engineering and manufacturing companies looking for in their latest recruits? We have formed a list of the eight most critical attributes needed to forge a long and successful engineering career.


Top Eight Skills Needed To Be A Successful Engineer

1. Strong Analytical Ability

Thinking analytically will allow successful engineers to overcome any challenge thrown at them. Exceptional diagnostic skills help to fully define the problem and develop a workable solution. Involving strategic thinking, it means collecting all available information and analysing the data to make the right decision going forward. Moreover, strong mathematical ability is essential in understanding and evaluating the numerical data received also. Both data-driven skillsets enable engineers to view a problem from many perspectives to solve even the most complicated of challenges. Successful engineers are naturally inquisitive. They are inclined to persistently examine the data in order to learn from the experience and move forward.

2. Excellent Problem-Solving Skills

Further to this, strong analytical skills are no good if the engineer is unable to problem-solve in the first place. Problem-solving is one of the most important characteristics of an engineer. Any innovative idea will always face its own problems that will require logical thinking to eradicate. Therefore, engineers need to be great problem solvers. Not only this, creativity plays a significant role in problem-solving. Hence, engineers should be open-minded when thinking up solutions to existing challenges. A great engineer will find a balance between logic and creativity to problem-solve and bring their ideas forward.

3. Proficient in Data Modeling

While not a requirement, engineers should be familiar with data modeling or computer modeling. Data or computer modeling is the creation of models or project prototypes that often vary in complexity. Data modeling is a critical component in many areas where engineering is applied today.

Engineers can occasionally be asked to create computer models using gathered data which therefore, can then be used in practice. Therefore, it is important that all data modeling is performed correctly to avoid any delays or additional project costs. Hence, we believe engineers should be able to demonstrate familiarity with data modeling as this will help to forecast any project challenges and how to overcome them before they occur.

4. Solid Communication Skills

It is important engineers can communicate clearly to the wider team their ideas and innovative ways of thinking. Additionally, solid communication means the engineer can not only comprehend technical difficulties but holds the ability to effectively translate technical jargon into layman’s terms without sounding condescending. Good communication should stretch beyond the organisation also. Solid communication enables the globally diverse community that consists of both engineers and non-engineers to eliminate barriers arising from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, allowing for innovative ideas to come to fruition on a global spectrum.

5. Powerful Leadership Qualities

Working in such a diverse, fast-paced, and often demanding industry, successful engineers need to know how to work with and often lead a team to successful project completion. Not only are successful engineers good team players, but by holding powerful leadership qualities, they will be able to lead, follow and work collaboratively together, effectively directing and influencing fellow team members to reach a positive outcome. This includes the ability to take initiative, assess the risks involved, be decisive yet empathetic and be willing to deliver on time, focusing on the task at hand with discipline and passion.  

It goes without saying, successful projects have an efficient and productive team behind them. But every team needs a leader for guidance and support. Should an engineer show strong leadership qualities, it will set them up for success in the future. Therefore, we believe learning how to mentor and lead a team should be an aim for every engineer.

6. Strategic Project Management Skills

Alongside being a great leader in their chosen field, engineers must be able to strategically manage different projects at any one time. This includes meeting strict project deadlines and sticking to often tight budgets. Moreover, strategic project management means being able to integrate with auxiliary departments, managing communication between individuals from several professional backgrounds.

One approach engineers should be familiar with is the discipline of Six Sigma. Six Sigma is based on the model of Just-In-Time Manufacturing. It helps to eliminate defects that can occur at any stage in the project timeline using techniques and tools designed around improving internal processes.

7. Be Enthusiastic and Motivated

Engineers should be enthusiastic about problem-solving. After all, that is what engineering is about. Being self-motivated to solve complex and often technical challenges is a key quality sought-after by companies looking to hire their next engineering expert. Moreover, it is a person’s enthusiasm and willingness to stay well-informed of the latest engineering research that makes them the wanted engineer.

An engineers passion and motivation for the science that is engineering is what leads to the discovery of the latest innovative solutions and technology. Self-motivated engineers will take all measures to remove every possibility of error, paying meticulous attention to the smallest of details to accomplish a successful project completion.

8. Passion for Continuous Learning and Self-Development

Finally, technology and the way we do things is constantly changing. Therefore, we believe engineers are never finished learning. Instead, they have a passion for continuous self-development. Although considered experts in their chosen field, successful engineers are life-long learning advocates, choosing to continue with hands-on training to remain up to date with the latest developments in technology and processes. Furthermore, by exposing themselves to practical knowledge and training, they can bring what they have learned with them into the workplace and apply it in practice.

The ever-increasing intricacy of the art of engineering means technical knowledge is advancing at lightning speed. Consequently, this requires engineers to adapt themselves to new and upcoming trends. Hence, the use of inhouse workshops and internships are useful in acquiring knowledge of the latest developments in the fields of engineering and manufacturing.

Verus’s Apprentice Manufacturing Engineer Mark Harkin begins the IBEC Manufacturing Apprenticeship this month.

There are several other skills that would prove beneficial for an individual looking to kick-start their engineering career. These include strategic planning, risk management, organisation, time management and scheduling, and quality control.


Today, engineering underpins modern life, and society would cease to function without it. Hence, those with a passion for the subject are high in demand. But not every engineer will leave their mark in the field. However, we believe that by developing and homing in on these top eight skills and qualities, every engineer will enjoy a long-standing and successful engineering career path.

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