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Essential Soft Skills for Engineering Professionals - a 10 week seminar series

Tektronix Bldg 38
3025 SW Zworykin Avenue
Beaverton, Oregon 97077, US (map)


h1. Essential Soft Skills for Engineering Professionals

h2. A 10 week seminar series presented on Thursday evenings from March 8th to May 10th 6 pm - Check in and light dinner, 7 pm – Presentation, 8:15 – Small group discussion

Tektronix Conference Center, Building 38 on Tektronix Campus, at the Northwest corner of SW Terman Road and Zworykin Ave., Beaverton

Max Stop: Millikan Way MAX Station on Blue Line

Engineers have the technical background their job requires; however, they often don’t understand the non-technical dynamics of working in a corporation or the non-technical skills that are essential to success. Although engineering is based upon technical skills, it is very much a human activity. It’s the people aspect of engineering that is the difference between success and failure. Your degree prepared you for the technical side of engineering, not the human side - the soft, fuzzy side. This seminar series provides an understanding of essential soft, human skills and how they benefit one’s career. The importance of soft skills to your engineering career is best shown inn the chart below which shows responses to the soft skills survey question: How beneficial is an understanding of the non-technical aspects of engineering?


You will gain an understanding of soft skills, their importance and how they benefit one’s career. This includes foundational skills – listening, writing and verbal communications and, more importantly understanding and adapting to your employer’s culture. Specifically, you will learn:

  • How to adapt to your new environment through understanding of the corporate hierarchy, history, and culture
  • What it means to be a part of a team and how to get results
  • Understanding who you are and recognizing your non-technical abilities
  • How to manage your time, tasks, and priorities
  • How emotions influence you and your interactions with others
  • The importance of listening and the elements of effective verbal communications
  • The consequences of decisions and what influences decision making
  • Leadership – what it involves and how leaders adapt
  • How to contribute through innovation and entrepreneurship

After each presentation there will be small group discussions lead by industry veterans to discuss the presentation.

This seminar series is particularly valuable for recent college graduates. It will provide invaluable insights that typically take years to acquire. The value of soft skills is best expressed by survey respondents:

p((. “It [non-technical skills] has allowed me to advance my career from being a technical contributor, to a technical leader, into technical management. …. I still heavily rely on my technical skills, but the non-technical skills have allowed me to guide my career into areas that interest me.”

p((((. - Soft skills survey respondent

p((. “I could not have been a manager and a good employee in multi-talented, many-thousand worker companies without such skills. Nor could I have contributed as a volunteer in professional societies or my communities.”

p((((. - Soft skills survey respondent

p((. “The ability to work well with people, and communicate ideas well to other technical leaders has given me many positions that elevated me above my peer group and furthered my career. This happened through all stages of my career.”

p((((. - Soft skills survey respondent

p((. “I didn't start with good non-technical skills (other than standard educational skills such as writing), but I have acquired some over time. These days, I wouldn't be employed without understanding my place in the company, what I need to do to contribute to the company's goals, and how to assure that my contributions are noticed and valued.”

p((((. - Soft skills survey respondent

p((. “Companies seem to want to hire young inexperienced people, but they don't have much patience for a long learning curve. …. The more prepared that you are, the more you know about how businesses operate and about workplace expectations, the better.”

p((((. - Soft skills survey respondent

p((. _ “Relational skills got me the job I have today. The combination of that with good organizational skills, planning, and procedures ensures that I excel. It's the people who stick with things, relate to others well, and think and evaluate what and how they are doing who succeed. “_

p((((. - Soft skills survey respondent

p((. “In small companies especially, good communication and personal skills are very valuable to stewarding a project through to completion, and they can sometimes make the difference between a really good idea being implemented versus just a "get by" idea.”

p((((. - Soft skills survey respondent

Agenda: h2. March 8th: Adapting to your new environment and community Lea McLeod

p((. Understanding and adapting to the working environment is as crucial as getting the job itself. Every industry, company, department, and group has its own, history, structure and culture that have shaped what it is today. You must adapt to this context, in a manner that allows you to show your strengths and contributes to the successes of you and your new community.

p=. The workplace doesn’t adapt to you. You must adapt to it.

p((. You will learn how to adapt to your new environment through understanding of the corporate hierarchy and culture – how an entity is structured and ran - and the resulting expectations and ethics - what you are supposed to do and how you are supposed to do it.

h2. March 15th: Functioning as a part of your company Lea McLeod

p((. Engineering is as much a human activity as it is technology. All the work you do, if not done with someone, will be done for someone or will be used by someone. To be an engineer is to be a part of a team. However, you are evaluated on your contributions, which depend on your contribution to the team, how you contribute in meetings, and your relationship with your manager.

p((. You will learn what it means to be a part of a team and how to get results. This includes assisting your team in accomplishing its objectives, contributing in meetings, understanding the role of management, and working with your manager.

h2. March 22nd: Understanding yourself and others, in the objective sense Joan Badbaw

p((. As engineering professionals you are required to be adept at a plethora of technical skills. Yet, the most powerful instrument you have to deliver and use those skills is yourself. Your ability to use yourself effectively relies in a large part on the level of awareness you have on the impact you make and your choices to direct and modify that impact.

p((. Results from instruments such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Gallop Strengths Finder, and Gallop Q12 provide quite a bit of insightful information. The goal is to find a way to translate that information into something usable in everyday interactions.

h2. March 29th: Deadlines and projects: The real world you work in Greg Hutchins

p((. More and more, we live in a projectized world. What do I mean? Work is being chunked in terms of a project with hard deadlines. If you work for a large company, you’ll also be working with global project teams.

p((. You will learn:

  • Why today’s business and work environment is all about VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, & Ambiguity).
  • Why project management is the key to work and life competency.
  • How to manage a project to ensure success.
  • Why the future of work is all about project risk management.

h2. April 5th: Understanding the Subjective Aspects of the Workplace Julie Endress

p((. Humans are more than rational beings and at times our emotions dictate our actions without us realizing it. Dealing with the emotional actions of others can cause stress. Yet, if dealt with appropriately, these situations can add to understanding and lead to enhanced teamwork, creativity, and a fun atmosphere.

p((. Being effective with others requires us to be effective in managing ourselves. We do this best when we have full access to our head, heart and gut. This talk will show the significance of the interior experience including emotions. It will introduce and provide an opportunity to practice in two skill areas: Sensing and centering as well as communication.

h2. April 12th: Speaking With Impact: Presentation Skills for Engineers Dave Underhill

p((. Today, engineers are constantly challenged to communicate the value of their work with customers, co-workers, managers and other key decision makers within their organizations. This is important in any situation, from team meetings to project status updates. One way to address this challenge is by delivering clear, concise and compelling presentations. In this presentation, you will gain insights on how to:

  • Focus on what’s important to your audience;
  • Create a clear message;
  • Tell a compelling story; and
  • Engage people in your presentation;

p((. You’ll walk away with new ideas and tools you can use right away!

h2. April 19th: Organizing Ideas – The Key to Effective Writing Matthew Spence

p((. Engineers frequently struggle with presenting the results of their work in written form. Explaining complex topics to nontechnical audiences and determining how much detail readers need to know can be particularly challenging.

p((. Therefore, the session on Written Communication will present principles of written communication that will enable you to identify your most important information and organize your ideas about a topic in less time. The session will identify common mistakes people make in business writing, and present a format for e-mails, text messages, memos, and executive summaries that will enable you to summarize any message in a single page. Guidelines for tailoring your message to readers’ needs and composing longer documents will also be discussed.

h2. April 26th: The Impact of Emotions, Irrationality, and Temperament on Decisions John Prohodsky

p((. We make decisions continuously - large decisions, small decisions, trivial decisions, and routine decisions. The decisions we make have a major influence on career success. Making good decisions not only helps the project and company to succeed, but also builds a positive reputation. Your technical training has prepared you to make rational decisions based on facts… is wrong! Decisions are based on not only what we know but are also filtered by emotions, influenced by temperament, and grounded in previous decisions. Being human means we are both rational and irrational beings. The interplay between our rational and irrational sides shapes our decisions. In this presentation you will learn about the:

  • Consequences of decisions;
  • Emotional filtering of decisions;
  • Influence of temperament;
  • Impact of external influences; and
  • Effect of irrationality

h2. May 3rd: Adaptive Leadership Bob Lieberman

p((. As leaders, we must often suspend judgment and delay commitment (and know how and when to do so), because leading people is a messy business. Teamwork is not a linear enterprise, and teams (and departments and companies) need social and psychological support, not just direction and a good set of tools. Teams also need champions, just as much as their ideas do.

p((. It's a leader's job to provide these things. First, he or she must inspire and win the trust and support of fellow colleagues – up, down and sideways in the organizational hierarchy. Then, he or she must connect with others, understand others' needs and aspirations, show and command respect, and communicate effectively. If you're an engineer, these skills represent a second repertoire for you, one which requires you to see the workplace as an opportunity for adaptation and growth, not just production. This session provides you with a framework for seeing the workplace in that way.

h2. May 10th: Contributing Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship Steve Morris

p((. Everyone says we need more innovation and entrepreneurship; the products and services created by entrepreneurs increase profits and market share and grow the GDP. However, their attitude is best expressed by Jean Luc Picard, captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek: Next Generation, saying “Make it so.” There’s a small problem - most companies don’t know how to innovate and be entrepreneurial. The steps can be taught but the essence can’t. Innovation and entrepreneurship steps include generating ideas, business model development, market evaluation, budgets, risk management, and continuous evaluation and learning. Then you need to pitch your great idea to those who will fund its development.

p((. You will learn the typical steps innovators and entrepreneurs go through, how to evaluate ideas, what can go wrong, and why ideas get funded.

Location: Bldg: Tektronix Conference Center, Building 38 on Tektronix Campus, Northwest corner of SW Terman Road and Zworykin Ave. Beaverton