Focus on STEM careers doesn’t always include much reference to the need for emotional intelligence. Yet, says Air Products’ Nicola Park, it is a vital ingredient for effective engineering teams...
As engineers we’re always looking for ways to make progress. We want to build bigger, better and more efficiently – providing improved and more streamlined solutions to every new project.
This is a never ending pursuit of perfection, and is one which is most commonly associated with technical innovations. We should be proud of these innovations – they highlight our focus and forward-thinking nature – but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking this is the only way to measure progress. Today’s world places much more emphasis on additional priorities.
While people are impressed at the feats of engineering we can achieve, we are also driven by an important ambition to find solutions to the world’s energy and environmental challenges. This is true across all sectors and in wider society – when it comes to issues around environment and sustainability - we all need to assess and optimise our behaviours. There are crucial questions which need answering to assure the future of our world, and each of us has to play a part.
This is why, as we know, technological process is no longer enough as we set benchmarks for success. It’s just as important to add a layer of emotional intelligence to our activities, making sure that we reflect on the impact of our work on the global population at every stage.
We understand the need to apply sustainable principles to our work, but what I’m advocating here is a clear cultural shift. Wherever possible, these thoughts should be at the forefront of our mind whenever we start a task – we should encourage ourselves and our colleagues to adopt an emotionally intelligent attitude on a daily basis, until it becomes second nature.
While every sector has to play a role, we’re better placed than most to find solutions. From cleaner energy solutions to issues like food security – engineers are the people influencing which innovations and approaches should be taken. Our work ranges from building more sustainably to converting energy sources from fossil fuels to more sustainable options, to give an example of something I was proud to work on recently, it’s engineers who need to provide the catalyst for change. This is why bringing about this cultural shift within the engineering industry is so important.
It’s not just the industry as a whole which will benefit from this, but individual engineers too. Change doesn’t have to come from the corporate level, individual people and small project teams can make a real difference in encouraging a more holistic attitude to engineering, one with sustainability at its heart. Those who embrace that change will reap the benefits while driving better solutions.
I’m proud and excited to be an engineer at a time when our roles have never been more important. However, we choose to move forward towards tomorrow’s world we will play a vital part in paving the way. Throughout Covid-19 people have talked about how we 'build back better’ – coming out of it with a refreshed attitude to improving our world. As things return to normal, we have to ensure we remember those conversations and apply them to our day to day work. If we do that, then we’ll start to see just how influential we can be in changing things for the better.
Nicola Park is UK & Ireland engineering manager, Air Products