Ten soft skills you need now in tech engineering

At any time, all over the world, there are field engineers working. They are working in different industries, some remotely, some onsite. Workplaces for the day vary from: a medical centre to a swamp, to a factory, to a tunnel, to an oil rig, to an office building on an industrial park, to a bank in the middle of a city, to a food packaging facility.
There are engineers working in the cold, in the heat, in high levels of humidity and in places with limited lighting.
Sometimes it’s an installation or maintenance, at other times it is an urgent repair.

This article discusses the ten soft skills you need now in tech working as a field engineer.

Soft skills for field engineering

communication thermostat

Their technical skills will vary, and so will their levels of experience.
However, there are some soft skills which all good field engineers need.
If you are new to field engineering, this article outlines ten skills to focus on.
If you are an experienced field engineer, what else would you add?

Top ten countdown

engineers using soft skills to explain

A top ten of soft skills to be a successful and effective field service engineer.

1 Empathy

Visibly show empathy from the moment you arrive on site as an engineer. Then keep showing that you understand other people’s position and situation.
Develop strong communication skills so that you can show that you are viewing the situation from the point of view of your customer or the users of the equipment.
One way to show empathy is to develop the ability to simplify technical engineering data for non-technical clients or colleagues.

2 Listening

Really listen without interrupting, and without spending the time while the other person is talking thinking about what you are going to say.
Instead, process what they have said and then think about how you want to respond.
It helps if you develop a range of techniques for staying and looking calm and composed.

3 Politeness

Maintain a high level of politeness from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. Do not go ‘off duty’ until you, the engineer, have left the customer’s premises.

4 The Golden Rule when working in engineering

Treat everyone as you would want to be treated.
You can do this by showing great attention to detail.
Never leave anything unfinished without explaining the status of the work you have done so far, and the next steps you will be taking to complete the task. Follow up on anything you have promised.
Keep reporting up to date and detailed for the next engineers’ benefit.
If you treat everyone well, you will expand your network of contacts and improve your networking skills.

5 Respect

Respect everyone equally whatever their job status, job title, or length of service.
Show that you, as an engineer, are humble and happy to learn from anyone.

6 Understand silence and poor communication

Communicating across language barriers

If someone is silent it does not necessarily show lack of knowledge. If they are not speaking in their first language don’t take their lack of ability to express ideas for a lack of knowledge.
Show your ability to communicate clearly with engineering and non engineering colleagues and clients by altering your own language to match the situation. For example if your collocutor is speaking in a 2nd language, it may be easier for them if you write down what you are saying. It is often easier to read in a 2nd language, than to understand the spoken word, especially if there is an unknown accent.

7 Compliments

Seek ways to compliment people.
Compliment people when they have done something well or something kind.

8 Start with a positive

From the start, tell people you are pleased to meet them, and you are looking forward to helping them.
Visibly showing that you are calm and methodical whatever the situation you as their engineer are facing will keep the positivity.

9 Offer help

Always offer to help with other peoples’ questions or queries, or to help other people on the site.

10 – Avoid discussions about core beliefs and faith

Avoid discussions about core beliefs and faith when in the workplace.
For example, don’t discuss politics, religion, personal taste for cars/phones/countries etc.
Even if no one disagrees with you while you are there, they may resent what you said, and it could damage the relationship.

Remember these tips apply to you too as you work in engineering

Image depicting harmful Self Talk

Remember these ten skills also apply to how you treat yourself.
When you talk to yourself remember to treat yourself with empathy. Don’t get angry at yourself if you make a mistake or something is not going right.
You won’t get everything right all of the time (no engineer does), so be polite to yourself when things are hard.
If you are working in your second or third language and you don’t understand something, you are not stupid.
Respect yourself and treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you.

Conclusion to ten soft skills in tech engineering

These are ten key soft skills, but there are many others.
The best field engineers keep developing not only their technical skills but also their soft skills.
One thing not included in the list is having a sense of humour. Humour is not easy to use until you have a relationship and know someone well, but you can use humour internally and laugh at yourself or the situation.

engineers using soft skills to persuade

Further reading on engineering

Where do excellent Field Service Managers come from?
Ten tips for talking technical to non-techies.

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  1. Great tips! I especially appreciated that end that encourages us to use these awesome skills toward ourselves. Often we can forget to be kind to ourselves. Thank you for this wisdom!