Communications and Life Skills: An Introduction

Interpersonal skills allow for the exchange of ideas between people.  Such skills comprise attitude and behavior, articulation and expression, and interaction and listening.  For engineers, learning about societal problems and collaborating to implement a solution requires building relationships and interacting with people.

People skills are essential in all aspects of problem solving.  A first skill is setting the relevant context of the problem.  Who has the problem? Who are the stakeholders? What makes it a problem?  How long has it been a problem? What is the severity and urgency?  Who is impacted?  The ability to listen and interact helps an engineer define the problem.

A second critical skill is to understand customer requirements.  This is achieved by building connections to others through querying customers on what delights them and their needs for form, fit, function, or human-technology interfaces. Proposing effective concepts demonstrates the ability to hear the pain associated with the problem and the pleasure derived from the solution.  The ultimate defect is delivering a product or service for a problem a customer does not have.

Relationships are the key to getting things done.  Customers start you down the path toward a solution.  Engineers, designers, marketers, manufacturing and operations people, customer service reps, and salespeople collaborate along the value chain to achieve the desired result.  Information is exchanged, ideas revised, all critical to bring next generation technologies to life.  Where are the interpersonal skills?  The lack of them is noted when something goes wrong: someone did not communicate, information was presented incorrectly, a critical relationship went unformed.

Project managers motivate and lead product development teams in order to eliminate obstacles and to enable ?.  Each step along the path from understanding the customer to delivering a solution relies on interpersonal skills to encourage, inspire, resolve conflict, form a team, organize personalities, persuade, manage, collaborate, and excite.

Strong networking and interpersonal skills bring together diverse skills quickly and efficiently.  Introductions are made through third parties that can change the course, create lifelong friendships and business associations, and place someone in a critical lifesaving role.

All this because one individual knows how to interact and transact with others.

This year’s Senior Project Handbook theme is about Interpersonal Skills.  The students investigated a diverse set of topics.  For each, you will see the product development process and how they used what they learned on their senior Capstone projects.  Most important, the students learned how to articulate and express these concepts in the hopes that they will benefit you, the reader.