In his recent interview on the Munro Live Youtube Channel Elon Musk alluded to the need for Engineers to turn to managing businesses as a part of their roles – this is because taking full advantage of a business  process requires efficiency and as a result  technical  excellence in business  is  becoming  a  necessity rather than the luxury it once was.  Efficiency is the one common concept that all Engineers are trained in so I thought to write on the one topic that Engineers are trained on the least – Business Communication.  The reason for this is that there is a general definition of soft and hard skills; with technical skills involving maths, science and tech being on the hard side and sales, communication and marketing being on the soft side.  However, with the onset of digital communication these definitions should be done away with!


Communication plays a vitally important role for any Engineer intending to become an effective business leader.  Communication is part of the process in any job and it is frequent and critically important for any operation. It can make the difference between success and failure for an organization or individual and that is why it is so important for Engineers to understand the importance of communication.

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives” – Anonymous

Elon Musk on stage
Photograph by Tim Rue — Bloomberg via Getty Images, 2015.

Why communication skills are critical for Engineers? 

The Oxford Dictionary defines communication as the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.  Another definition communicates this more effectively by defining it as: the process of passing any information from one person to the other person with the aid of some medium.  To understand the importance of communication consider the following scenario.  Lerato works as a Design Engineer with a top Petrochemical Company. She was requested to give a presentation on the assignments she has undertaken in the past 12 months and her achievements. Her appraisal was due that same month, and she did not get a promotion. And what was the culprit to missing out on a bigger paycheck? Her presentation!  This was all because of her not being clear in expressing her thoughts even though her design drawings and reports were those of a talented Engineer.  However, because she could not express her views in front of her boss and the top management, she lost out on a golden opportunity.

Design engineering doing a presentation.
Engineers need to good at presenting their ideas and designs.

Engineers need to be able to clearly present their work in order to succeed in industry.

The most important thing that Engineers need to understand when it comes to communication is that graphical or technical communication is done in order to mitigate errors or minimise the possibility of mistakes – this is drilled into every Engineering student right from your first day in class.  In contrast Business Communication is carried out in order to maximise or increase the possibility of success and this is something which you need to drill into yourself.  To the Engineer, the importance of communication lies in making a mind shift from minimising errors to maximising success.  If you see communication as a means to succeeding you will realise that is the difference between getting the funding to build your design, securing that tender or getting your professional registration.

-IndiWorks Engineering Service Delivery; [email protected]