Advice for young engineers: Grow your EQ for success
Jay H. Wadhwani is Chief Operating Officer at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Asia Pacific. As part of a new series offering advice to young engineers, he reflects on his own career, the people who helped him along the way, and why EQ is a key ingredient of success.
What advice would I offer young engineers just starting their career? The main pointer would be to develop your emotional quotient (EQ), something which is also referred to as emotional intelligence. It’s the ability to relate to others, which is a critical skill that will help engineering newcomers succeed in both their careers and their personal lives. The good news is, it can be learned.
Effective EQ is about understanding, using, and managing your own emotions positively, to communicate effectively, empathize with others, and manage situations. These are skills that I have cultivated throughout my career and which have been invaluable, both as a project manager and later as an executive.
I quickly learned that bringing people together to resolve problems in an amicable way is a skill highly valued by companies.
As a young man I had a natural ability to get on with people, which I inherited from my father. My father was a mechanical engineer and, as a boy, I was keen to follow in his footsteps. From an early age I was fascinated by how things worked and was always dismantling toys to check their inner workings − although I wasn’t always able to put them back together. As I got older, my interest moved to taking bikes apart, which by that age I could reassemble.
Although I work in engineering, I am not an engineer. I did study engineering at university and followed my father into the oil and gas business, but my career took a different turn when I discovered project management. I loved it from the outset and, armed with my father’s handed-down diplomacy skills, I was a natural. I quickly learned that bringing people together to resolve problems in an amicable way is a skill highly valued by companies.
My advice to young people entering the world of engineering is…
Be patient. Success takes a lot of hard work and doesn’t happen overnight. However, make sure you take opportunities when they appear as they don’t arrive at fixed intervals. If you miss one, it could be years before another comes along.
Don’t be arrogant, or you will not get far. Learn from others and treat them with respect. Success rests on walking a fine line between ambition and humility, which is seldom an easy journey.
Make a plan, so you know where you want to get to and how you intend to get there. You’ll make constant course corrections along the way, but a plan will serve as a blueprint for your ambitions and goals.
I set my sights on becoming Vice President of Operations, which was a fairly senior position, and set out the path I would take to get there. The plan changed many times, but the goal remained the same, and with the help of others I made it happen. And it doesn’t stop here. I continue to plan for the next stage of my career.
Get a mentor or two − or five. Patience wasn’t a strongpoint early in my career, but I was lucky to have some great mentors who helped nurture my talents and groomed me for senior positions. Mentors can guide you, and give you the benefit of their experience.
One executive that I greatly admired gave me some advice that changed my entire outlook. It was 20 or 25 years ago, but I remember it clearly. “Jay, focus on what’s on your plate now and the future will take care of itself,” he said. He was so right, of course. How good a job you do defines you and will attract the right attention.
Use both your heart and your brain. Being able to understand and interact with people at all levels is key to success.
Learn to be a people person. If you’re born with emotional intelligence then you are well placed to build on it; if not, there are lots of books and courses to learn from.
Use both your heart and your brain. Being able to understand and interact with people at all levels is key to success and goes a long way in helping develop your professional network.
Networking is very, very important, both externally and internally. Living and working for nine years in Europe and 10 in Asia, I have met lots of talented people, many that I now know one-on-one, who are just a phone call away if I need help.