I am a retired electrical engineer (although I also wrote software and managed projects) and have always felt that many engineers (all types and myself included) tended to be (at least somewhat) nerdy which really means not so high on the social measurement scale. The nature of engineering frequently requires serious concentrating and solitary effort so a lot of daily social interaction can interfere with the technical work. But not all the time. It depends on the specific job, company, and industry. FYI... Good social skills usually allows for better communication and good communication is always important.
Can you be a good engineer without being very social? Yes, but it will most likely restrict you to the technical tasks and will not allow you to have as much growth and salary increases. Many/most engineers have to interact heavily with other people such as customers, managers, and other engineers and these interactions are always better when those involved have good social skills. If you lack good social/communication skills, your manager will likely restrict you to desk/lab work and ask someone else to attend the coordination meetings. Guess who will be getting the better raises and promotions?
As your career progresses, you will likely consider supervisory or management roles but these, for sure, require good social and communication skills.
If you are questioning your own social/communication skills then I will say that these skills can be improved with practice. Hang out with other folks who have these skills (go to lunch with them and ask to sit in on customer and design meetings). Observe and keep trying - the improvements will become visible.
That's such a great question. There is so much myth and misunderstanding about us, engineers.
My recommendation, as a fellow engineer, is YES. In this one, as in any other profession, networking is very important. It is especially important to understand that engineering is not just about doing the work. The job of the engineer always requires intake and delivery also. A minimum of social skills will greatly help you to successfully interact with your customers and peers.
All fields of technology are always advancing. It is true there is a lot one can learn from the wealth of literature available on-line; however, tapping into the experience of colleagues and peers is the best way to validate understanding. You do not need to be a great politician or remember everyone's birthdays in order to be a successful engineer but some social skills will help a great deal in order to be able to listen and collaborate.
Although I am a mechanical engineer, I believe this applies to practically any career, regardless of engineering professions. It is essential to be able to communicate. Most projects require interacting with not only fellow engineers within your department but also it is likely that you will be part of cross functional teams. By this I mean that projects require input and output from not only the engineering sector but also individuals from sales and marketing, supply chain, accounting, quality, manufacturing, regulatory departments if applicable, and of course, supervisors and managers. Communication will be in the form of verbal, email, and report-writing methods. Just know that there are times when you have to convey information to individuals and groups at times.
I hope this is helpful. If you would like more detail please indicate so and I will be happy to explain. Best of luck to you.
As in any profession, even if performed at a distance, relationships are indeed a very important part of performance and growth.
Not always, and it depends a lot on the function or task, you will work directly with people all the time, your work may be more technical, more individual, but to present your ideas, you will have to relate and communicate well with the too much.