During my last semester at McGill (almost a year ago, already!) I took an ethics class, which was required to all graduating students in engineering. Towards the end of the course we were asked to submit a life-long learning plan of skills and areas we would likely develop in the future. I took this opportunity to reflect on my five years at McGill and came up with 6 points that I think are important regardless the industry or career path.
- Communication – Although there is a widespread belief that communication comes second after technical skills in engineering, my time at McGill has taught me otherwise. I’ve learnt how crucial is it to communicate clearly when I interned at an underground mine in Northern Quebec, where communication was key to ensure that operations were executed safely. Interestingly, two things have helped me improve my communication skills: writing cover letters and blogging. Blogging has been helpful as it forced me to write in ways that would entice my readers while allowing me the flexibility to post whenever I had the time.
- Interpersonal Skills – Working well with others is an integral part for achieving success. Useful tools include becoming friends with your teammates, being flexible in assigning work tasks and staying positive even though you’re at Plan C and stress level is high.
- Feedback exchange – This concept was first introduced to me during the McGill Not-For-Profit consulting program, a program that I applied for and administered by the Faculty of Management at McGill. The program provides its participants the opportunity to do consulting work while being guided by McKinsey consultants. Feedback exchange is about giving and receiving constructive feedback to identify areas that you and your team members can work on. When given properly, feedback empowers a team to achieve greater results.
- Leadership skills – Taking on leadership roles during my undergrads has helped me develop myself, make valuable connections and become more assertive. I started getting involved in the engineering community as early as during my first year and after a couple of semesters I was leading small student organizations. Taking on these various leadership roles has provided me with opportunities that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. Thanks to my involvements, I gave two live TV interviews promoting an event I helped organize, I presented an award to the VP of one of the largest gold miners in Canada and was recognized as one of the most promising women undergraduate engineering student by the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation. Having extracurricular engagements can be a challenge in terms of finding the time to balance studying, meetings, personal life and relationships, but the impact you make and the people you meet are worth the effort and time, and that’s on top of the personal and professional development you make. Important to mention that being involved in extracurricular activities makes you more attractive to companies looking to hire.
- Emotional intelligence (EQ) – Although we don’t often hear about emotional intelligence at university, I came across the concept while reading Forbes and other business magazines. The concept became known when businesses started to notice that employees with higher IQ were not outperforming those with less IQ which had to be explained by a person’s emotional intelligence. Being mindful of one’s emotions and those of the people around you, and how to foster these emotions to calm down or cheer people up is a valuable tool to succeed in any work environment. Check out these pages to learn more about EQ:
- Learning & Innovation – What I got out of studying engineering are the tools and skills to constantly learn new things and apply them. This process is crucial in staying up to date with new technologies and innovations that will never cease to shape our future. I found that a good way to keep up is reading the news (the Economist has been recommended to me several times), following innovators on social media (Twitter in particular), and taking advantage of online tutorials.