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What types of engineers work less with people?

I'm not a very social person and I try to avoid it if I can.
I'm looking into the engineering field and I want to figure what types might work.

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Subject: Career question for you

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Richard’s Answer

Fiona, I first want to assure you that as you gain experience and grow as an engineer (and as a person in general) your confidence around others will grow. This is especially easy when you realize you're surrounded by fellow engineers who all come from a similar background, have similar interests, and very similar personalities. I was nervous and quite shy as a young engineer going through college and in my first few years of work, but soon because I was surrounded by great individuals, I came out of my shell and focused on the work. I ended up learning a lot when I wasn't afraid to ask questions and eventually started leading teams of engineers, presenting our work regularly in front of dozens of people.

With that being said engineering, like most careers, and regardless of which type, involves a lot of communication. If you think about it, what would be the point of designing the perfect bridge or the perfect airplane if you couldn't convince others it was perfect. Again, this isn't something to worry about now, because as you grow your confidence in the field, this type of communication becomes a natural part of your day to day work. You'll chat with your team to discuss updates, you'll meet with your manager and customers to give them an overview of your work, and as you climb in rank, you'll then meet with lots of younger engineers to teach them the way.

The specific field of engineering you are interested in will be dependent on a number of factors, but the most important should be what you love doing regardless of how much your paid or how long your day is. There are so many fields to consider that I recommend doing a number of google searches, including searching for day-in-the-life videos on YouTube of several different fields. Here are a few you may be interested in

Richard recommends the following next steps:

If you feel you'd work better in a generally quieter environment than I would suggest software engineering, where you'll typically do a lot of coding and testing on the computer (again you'll eventually be presenting this work to your team so there is still a facet of communication).
If you prefer physical systems, you can go into civil or mechanical engineering and work in computer aided design (see tools like Solidworks or AutoCAD for example).
If you prefer working in a lab (which is generally a more independent task) than I would suggest looking at biomedical or chemical engineering (though in my experience most chemical engineers end up working in the energy industry rather than in a lab with chemicals)
Environmental or agricultural engineering may involve some work in rural areas or far away ecosystems if you prefer a lifestyle away from a bustling city
And of course, as someone working in aerospace, I'd have to recommend aerospace and space (as in satellites and rockets) engineering. We do a lot of work behind the computer (so it's generally quiet), but you can also work in the factories that build these amazing systems. There's a lot to do in any of these fields but this one always has a few extra problems to solve.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for the advice. Fiona
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Cory’s Answer

Engaging others can be challenging. In my personal experience, finding a means or method to cover up a problem will only make it worse. I agree with a lot of the responses above. Just consider this the engineering you pick should about what you want to do not about what you don’t want to do.

I have worked in several roles and responsibilities in several engineering fields all of them unequivocally require personal communication and relationships. If you don’t develop this skill it will or can lead to misperceptions on the value of your work as a professional cause you will be passed by less technically competent but more social piers.

My case in point for the note above would be best summarized by this:


“During a leadership course I was privileged to visit a weather station. The moderator was introducing the topic of meteorology and how they mode climate. I was totally intrigue and fascinated by the lectures technicality but it want this that I remember most it was this next piece of info.


The moderator went on to say that the weatherman or woman for your local channel isn’t the best weather person they are the most presentable. In my mind that was totallly true and blew me away.”


To me there are two things to take away from that; 1.) How are you measuring what you want to do and the skills you need to acquire? To me being the best weather person always meant being on tv. This obviously wasn’t the case so know what you want and how to get there before your worry about the social aspect of the job. 2.) Being a technical field isn’t just measured on technical factors. Again know the job and know the requirements to do the job.

The reason for mentioning this is that focusing on the social or personal engagement level may be a necessary factor for your job selection but more importantly know the requirements or skill sets cause most people. Doing this should you figure out what you like and don’t like without covering up something that will spoil later. Good luck.
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David’s Answer

Fiona,
I understand. I too was quite shy early in my career. I hated asking questions because it revealed my ignorance and inexperience. Eventually I learned that people like it when you ask good questions and that the interactions weren't as bad as I had imagined them to be.

As an engineer, you will solve problems by designing and building stuff. Even if you are working alone on an issue, there are times when you need to 1) ask questions and clarify the constraints of the problem, 2) brainstorm the issue in a group, 3) get feedback on the direction things are going, 4) report progress or issues, 5) present what you've developed. So yes, some interaction is necessary, but it is typically rewarding interaction. If you are wired like an engineer, then don't let the social component stand in your way, because you are a problem-solver and you will figure it out.

I wish you all the best!
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Karin’s Answer

Hi Fiona,

I would say there are basically no jobs where you don't have to collaborate and communicate. Even if you are a software engineer, you would not work alone. You would work on a certain part and others work on other parts. You'll have meetings and you'll have to present your work.

Are you only uncomfortable with people you don't know? Does it get better if you work in a team where you all know each other? I think it should get better when you know people and know that you can trust them.

Many job applications start with the softskills these days, and ability to work in a team and good communication are always reqested. If you know that that is a weakness, you should maybe start working on that.

I hopr this helps! Good luck!

KP
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the information I'll definitely use this in the future and think about it more. Also thanks for responding! Fiona
Thank you comment icon You are very welcome! Karin P.
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