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AddedFriday, December 21, 2018 at 2:25 AM

Do you have to be really outgoing to be an engineer?

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I like being with people, but I don't like to be the center of attention or push for my own way. I like to think about things and work out details before I jump in with an answer. But I often hear that women need to speak up and be more aggressive to be successful in their careers. Is that true for women in engineering? I’ve also heard that engineers are often introverts like me. Is that true? I worry that I may have to try to change my personality if I want a great career.

Related to Communication Skills, Engineering Skills, Featured Question, Opportunities/Challenges for Women, Self Doubt, Social Concerns, Work Environment, Working with People
  • Answered 10 days AGO

    No, you do not have to be really outgoing. It takes all personality types to make a really great team and teamwork is an absolute necessity to accomplish great things. Most of the engineers that I have worked with during my 20+ year career have been “introverts.” That doesn’t stop them from speaking up when they have something important to say. Do you. Work out the details and then jump in with an answer. Value others as highly as you value yourself. Embrace being a teammate. Solve problems. Then you will have a great career in engineering with no personality changes required!

  • Nicolette Yovanof Little , The Boeing Company
    Answered 10 days AGO

    In my experience, the best engineers and leaders know their strengths and use them to their advantage in how they interact at work. You can still be an introvert and be a successful engineer, but you will need to find a balance of speaking up and communicating clearly to do so. To be a successful engineer, you need to clearly communicate and articulate your ideas and will often be working with others. This can definitely be harder as an introvert but does not necessarily require you to change your personality. Find ways to communicate and work with your team that you are still comfortable with and you can still accomplish your goals!

  • Natalie White , CyberSource
    Answered Thursday, January 3, 2019 at 3:49 PM

    You don't have to be extremely outgoing or extremely introverted to be a great engineer. I'm a software engineer, and most people think it's an isolated, introverted role because they think software engineers just sit in a cube all day writing code. However, in reality software engineering can be a very social career. Not only do you talk with your internal team of designers, product owners, testing team, and other developers, but with the right communication skills you also have the opportunity to be a liaison between non-technical business customers and technical leaders, a combination that makes you very valuable to any company! It can also give you travel opportunities that wouldn't otherwise be available to technical resources.

    However, if you are naturally an introvert and would prefer not to have a customer-facing role, engineering can provide that, too. You'll still have to talk to your teammates, but there are plenty of successful engineers who are reliable technical individual contributors their whole careers, and their laser focus helps them become subject matter experts in their fields.

    One of my favorite things about being an engineer is that you can truly make your career into anything you want it to be. It opens doors that non-technical roles can't, and can change the trajectory of your whole life!

  • Liz-Hasbleydi G. , Tech + Desing
    Answered Thursday, January 3, 2019 at 12:39 PM

    I think that being outgoing is not a necessary requirement to be in the engineering field or having a STEM career. Just be yourself, be you. Human beings in general are not absolute, either totally extroverted or totally introverted, most are a little bit of both. We manage both depending on the situation.

    I also think it's good to see ourselves as engineers independent of our gender. Perhaps some cultures place greater emphasis on a particular gender, but you selected the engineering. I think that brain capacity is the same in human beings regardless of gender. I experienced in my family support for women from my grandparents, parents, and friends so this helped me a lot to have confidence in being an engineer or any career. I did develop my thesis with a male colleague and in the present my husband supports me the same. There are men who support you as there are women who do not support other women. Ideally, we should support each other independently of the gender.

    I also believe that it is not necessary to be "aggressive" but to be astounding, be courteous, be consistent, be curious, serve society with your knowledge, know how to get along with other people, manage a certain level of consciousness, and be humble. I believe that being an engineer is creating to serve others, including animals, nature, and life in general.

    It is not necessary to change your personality to be an engineer. Just look where your knowledge as an engineer and your personality can be more compatible in the areas of engineering or STEM career that you want.

    We are humans working with humans to serve under the concepts of creativity, design, engineering, production, and innovation, creating better things in areas of STEM.

  • Hope Bovenzi , Texas Instruments
    Answered Thursday, December 27, 2018 at 10:15 AM

    Of course you don't have to be outgoing to be an [female] engineer, engineers are regular people and come in all sorts of combinations of shy, extroverted, introverted, and outgoing! I happen to be an outgoing introverted engineer which means that I really enjoy working with and talking to people which mean I love being in the lab...but just not all the time! I also want to work and collaborate with other people. It also means, that when I come home from work I really like to have alone time to recharge since I am also introverted. I've met lots of engineers who are the opposite, too. It's important to just be your hardworking self; that's what will really help you shine through as an engineer!

  • Esha Singh , Life Science
    Answered Wednesday, December 26, 2018 at 7:19 AM

    I think we girls have only made ourselves introverts. When I joined my company, I was only girl amongst the 25 male engineers, but this did not shake my confidence at all. I proved myself in every stage and yes I got promoted. I would agree to a point that being a girl, its challenging and you have more responsibility to prove yourself. But, I think if you have this kind of introverted nature, don't go for manufacturing or production kind of work. You can go for research work where your nature does not matter, what matters is your research work which can give you recognition.

  • Morgan Lynch , Urban Drainage and Flood Control District
    Answered Monday, December 24, 2018 at 12:50 PM

    You absolutely do not need to be really outgoing as an engineer. Many firms offer what they call a "technical" track for a career. This allows you to work on advancing the industry and become a technical expert in your area of interest. Not all firms offer this type of track for a career, so be mindful of that as you start exploring employment opportunities. Many engineers are introverts but as a minority in the field it is important to be your best advocate. Your voice will progress with your career and there are many soft skill training opportunities to help find the best communication style that works for you.

  • Judy Tamir , Department of Environmental Protection of New York City
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:50 AM

    In my experience, it depends on the team, but there is room for introverts and extroverts in engineering. I am certainly an introvert, and I've found I may not be the first with a solution, but the first solution is rarely the final solution.

    Thinking through a problem is always a valuable skill. You will need to be able to present your solution along with it's pros and cons to the team, so you can't be too shy, but needing time for reflection before offering a solution is totally fine and often better than shooting from the hip.

  • Kathy Moseler , Paradise Robotics
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:49 AM
    Being outgoing is a plus in any career, but it is absolutely not required to be a good engineer. As a matter of fact, engineering is an excellent career for those who are shy, introverted, or socially awkward. The bulk of your time in many engineering roles is to work on solutions by yourself. I've found that the quiet/shy engineers might not actively participate in team meetings, but instead they absorb lots of information and synthesize it on their own later. Then, a one-on-one conversation reveals their depth of knowledge is far greater than those who are socially adept. Engineering is an excellent career for those who are introverted as well as extroverted because there are so many different roles in which each personality type can excel.
  • Melanie Cragnolin , Cragnolin Engineering and Design Associates DPC
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:48 AM
    I would highly recommend young women take a debate class and/or public speaking class. It will help in various situations and will assist in decision making regarding when it is an appropriate time to speak up. With more experience (5-10 years) I recommend ALWAYS sitting at the table AND speaking up!
  • Tiera Fletcher (Guinn) , MIT/The Boeing Co
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:47 AM
    Many engineers are considered introverts, so you are not alone! In any career, you want to be heard when it comes to your goals and your expertise. With that being said, you are encouraged to speak up to experience growth. However, that does not mean you have to be an outgoing personality. Be yourself and speak up when necessary.
  • Kara Kockelman , University of Texas at Austin
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:46 AM

    Introversion is common in engineering, because solutions to complex and important problems require rigorous thought. They also require application of difficult ideas, that many people don’t have the patience to study and learn. While most engineering solutions do not require much or any social interaction, the best ideas often come from conversations with a variety of other thoughtful people, to get different perspectives and be sure we’re not coming up with a narrow solution to the “wrong problem”. Thus, it’s always important to reach out to others and have those conversations, and be sure you’re seeing a problem and possible solutions from as many angles as you can appreciate in the time you are given to respond.

    I imagine it’s true that most leaders are not introverts, but extroversion is really a continuum, and leaders can still be relatively introverted, in my experience. I suspect most introverts simply need to pace themselves a bit more, to give themselves the downtime and space they need, so that they have the energy and social bandwidth ready to lead a group of peers, and/or manage a group of colleagues. I also expect that it is important to have some introverts at the top of most businesses and agencies, since it takes diversity of experience and understanding to really succeed as an institution. I believe top software companies and many of the most successful engineering-focused companies have several introverts at the top, helping resolve some of the thorniest problems.

  • Umit Ozkan , Ohio State University
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:45 AM
    It is important to have the social skills so that you are comfortable interacting with different people, but you do not need to force yourself to be the “life of the party” all the time. Sometimes a thoughtful and well-reasoned response is far more effective than a quick but half-baked idea. Sometimes being an introvert can be an advantage, rather than an impediment. Be prepared to speak up when you have something to say, but you don’t need to be the first to respond or be the “loudest voice” in the mix.
  • Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:43 AM

    Before I answer the actual question about introversion and extraversion, I feel the need to strongly stress this concept: Do not change yourself in order to fulfill job. It won’t be a “great career” if you have to change your personality just to feel like you fit in. Yes, everyone has opportunities to grow; expanding your skillset, such as being comfortable speaking up if you have something to say, is a good thing to learn because your opinion is as worthwhile as anyone else’s. But I firmly believe that there’s space for all sorts of personalities in the world (both the world of engineering and the more general world, so to speak). If you are an introvert and you want to be an engineer, there will be a place for you to flourish.

    Like you, I like to have the time to think things through before answering a question. What I have found is that there are tips, tricks, and tools to navigate the engineering world if and when it isn’t equipped for someone like us. For example, it is totally normal and acceptable in my department to answer a questions with “Off the top of my head, my initial thought is ____, but give me more time to think about it so I can give you a more complete answer. Can I follow up with you tomorrow?” I believe that people would rather you ask for some time to think as opposed to you rushing to give a half-baked answer, and they’ll trust you more the next time. If anything, being very thoughtful with what I say has helped me develop a reputation for my diligence and thoroughness. So when I do speak people are more likely to listen because they know that whatever I say has been thought through.

    Another trick that I employ is that I ask for an agenda or a list of topics/goals before a meeting. This gives me the time to think and do some research before walking into a meeting, meaning I may be more comfortable sharing my thoughts or ideas (or concerns). Also, if something isn’t immediately urgent, I like to communicate with peers via email (as opposed to over the phone or dropping in on them for a face-to-face conversation). Email also gives me the time and space to fully think through my ideas.

    As much as you think that you have to change your personality to fit engineering, maybe the world of engineering should also be ready to change how it works to fit more personalities. It’s true, there are still places in this world that need to evolve and catch up. Even at my workplace, sometimes the loudest voice wins and the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. But I think industries have been recognizing for a while that only valuing the “aggressive” voices leaves a lot of people out of the conversations, which means a lot of great ideas go unheard and unconsidered. It’s a better business strategy for everyone to have a seat at the table and for all the voices to have a chance to speak. So being an introvert should not be seen as a hindrance to your future success.<>/p>

    OK, that was a long answer but the most important thing is still: DO NOT change your personality to fit a definition of successful. It is very hard to try to be someone that you are not. Embrace and use your personality attributes as your strengths.

  • Jamie Krakover , The Boeing Company
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:34 AM
    No, you do not have to be outgoing to be an engineer. In fact many engineers, including myself, are introverts. That said, engineering is a balance. There will be times where you work alone or in small groups, and have time to think through things before jumping in with answer. There will also be times where you will be asked to give presentations of the work you've done and explain it to others. There is not one true identity that sums up an engineer and you should be who you are. Don't feel like you have to change for anyone or any job. You can be a great engineer by being who you are.
  • Nancy Post , John Deere
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:29 AM

    We are all unique individuals and should embrace what we bring to a team and to our interactions with others. What makes us unique, add richness to a team. I am actually very outgoing and love to talk to people, but I also think deeply and like to ponder topics. I have been complimented by my manager on this because he know he may not get an immediate answer to a complex topic, but will get a very strong, thought out response when he gets one. (His words.)

    So, you don’t need to change your personality. I would suggest that you find a way to feel comfortable speaking up and contributing to discussions so that you are able to add value and so that others are able to benefit from your intelligence. Early in your career, you may need to have more one-on-one conversations if you are more comfortable with that.

    When I’m uncomfortable, I try to remind myself that what I have to say is not about me, but rather about improving the business, so I should speak up. If you are shy, this may help to clarify that speaking isn’t to draw attention to yourself, but to focus on the business as a whole and drive improvement.

  • Claudia Galvan , Early Stage Innovation
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 3:25 AM
    You do not need to change your personality to have a great career, engineers can be introverted or extroverted or something in between. The important thing is that you focus on your strengths. I am introverted and that allows me to focus and listen, but I also like to share what I know and I spend a lot of time doing presentations. It took me a lot of practice but now I am comfortable presenting in front of many people.
  • Monique Frize , Carleton University and University of Ottawa
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:44 AM

    The Myers-Briggs personality types tested with engineers showed that indeed, many engineers are introverted. This does not stop them from having a good career. So no need to change your personality to become an engineer. However, it would be useful for your career to enroll in a session on leadership. Learning to be a leader does not entail changing who you are; it enables you to learn strategies to become a leader of ideas and a leader of people (for management positions for example). Another useful approach is to learn how to speak in public, overcoming shyness and learning how to deliver ideas or plans effectively. This helps when engineers have to deliver reports on work done or to explain new ideas to employers as potential new projects.

    Best wishes for a successful career.

  • Heather Hunt , University of Missouri
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:41 AM

    Nope! All of my female engineering friends (who have made it through not only undergraduate but also graduate studies in engineering, law, and medicine) are introverts. We've still been successful. And yes, most engineers are introverts. Of course, introversion vs. extroversion is not about being outgoing or social, but about how you get your energy. Being around a lot of people I don't know is absolutely exhausting – but I can still do it, it just means I need more time to myself at a later point to recharge. Introverts can be super outgoing or not outgoing at all. Now, to the question about speaking up and advocating for yourself: everyone should be willing to advocate for themselves, whether you are a man or a woman, an extrovert or an introvert. This may take some practice, but that does not mean you are not capable of it. Don't let that dissuade you from a great career doing something that you will love and that can change the world.

    I highly recommend a few books for you: Networking for People Who Hate Networking, and Quiet. The first provides a toolbox for introverts to navigate situations that seem to be designed for extroverts. The second talks about introversion, and how when you are generally quiet, speaking up becomes all the more powerful. And remember – just because someone is saying something loudly / forcefully / confidently, it doesn't always mean they are right.

  • Nandika D'Souza , University of North Texas
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:39 AM
    A high percentage of engineers respond affirmatively to being uncomfortable in self advocacy. That being said, dealing with books such as Lean In which asks for women to be self-advocates can make it seem like engineers have to be different than they are naturally happy being. However, there is no comparison to being technically accurate and the most dependable quantitative person in a team or in a company. The one aspect I generally find helpful is to find a tag team of a communicator and a quiet doer. Both rise and do well. I recommend doing strength-finders, finding the 5 things you are happy when you do and carve out tracks that enable you to utilize those aspects. In summary, be yourself and you will ascend based on excellence.
  • Amy Betz , Kansas State University
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:38 AM
    Engineers should be as diverse as the population they represent. In my experience, some engineers are introverted, some are extroverted, and others can not categorized that way. For a long time, engineering has been a male-dominated profession and because of that many women have found success through adapting to be more like other engineers. However, that is not the only way to be successful. All engineers also believe in innovation, new ideas, and creativity. Recently, empathy, vulnerability, and sensitivity are all characteristics that are finding their way into discussion about what it means to be an engineer. Communication avenues are also changing. You don't always need to stand in a boardroom to be heard anymore. Technology can enable you to express your ideas in ways that you are comfortable with. You do not need to change who you are to be successful in your career. However, you may need to think a little harder, be a bit more open, and embrace new avenues. While it might not always seem fair that you might need to work a little harder to forge a path that allows you to maintain your personality and your career, take solace in the fact that you are blazing a trail for someone else!
  • Stacey DelVecchio , Caterpillar Inc
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:35 AM
    Absolutely not. We need all kinds of diversity in engineering and that includes introverts as well as extraverts. The important thing is that a team be made up of engineers that are quiet, loud, outgoing, shy, serious, funny, and just about any other kind of communication style. And yes… we do work in teams. We often tell women to speak up, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be speaking up all the time. I have often found that people really listen to the less outgoing engineers when they have something to say as they know that it will be well thought out and to the point. You can definitely have a great career in engineering without having to change your personality.
  • Tricia Berry , The University of Texas at Austin
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:34 AM
    You should never feel like you have to change your personality to fit into a job. Engineering is a fabulous field where all kinds of personalities thrive. There are engineering jobs where you may be out visiting with customers and leading teams or there are engineering jobs where you are more of an individual contributor working on your own project or a part of a project that feeds into a larger team. You can find the type of job, setting, and personality fit that works for you within engineering. Regardless of your career path, you will need to speak up to share your ideas or report out on a project. This can be in different settings, however, such as one-on-one with your manager or with a small group of your teammates. With any job, find mentors and role models who can help you understand when to speak up, how to speak up, and how to ensure that your ideas are heard even when you need to take the time to process the information and think through a response.
  • Priscilla Bennett , Spire / Laclede Gas Company
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:33 AM

    This is a great question and I’m sure one we all ponder when jumping into anything new. No worries. The great thing about being an engineer is the opportunity to work with a variety of personalities, groups, and associations and while we may not always feel most comfortable with one over the other, we are never really “locked into” a single environment style. As you learn more about your area of expertise, you’ll find you will be more excited to share your knowledge and talking in front of others will come a little more naturally. Being aggressive is not always a “requirement” but being able to articulate your information is certainly something you want to learn early and well. I know of both introverts and extroverts in the engineering community and both are equally successful learning to share their findings with those who need the information. Presentations are often a part of an engineer’s responsibility (again, learning to articulate and share your expertise) but I don’t believe anyone expects an engineer to change their personality so much as simply learning to share what you know to a small (or large) group with clarity. Often humor helps with presentations, but the key is knowing your audience and presenting in the style they are most comfortable receiving. Different cultures and areas of the country differ, but part of being an engineer is absorbing information, learning to use it wisely and in turn sharing your findings and observations in a clear, concise, informative manner.

    Personally, I would not call myself an introvert or even an extrovert, but someone who knows when to hop up and say something and when to sit and listen a little more. When presenting in front of a large group, I often find I am more absorbed in my topic and rarely notice the crowd watching me since most are more interested in the content of what I’m saying rather than how I appear. I wouldn’t change your personality – be true to yourself and you’ll find others appreciate your knowledge and your willingness to help and share with what you know!

  • Stephanie Cheung , University of Toronto
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:32 AM
    This is a really great question. You can definitely be assertive and share your ideas as an introvert – your thoughts and ideas are important, and your engineering field will certainly be better off with your contributions in it! What you've heard about women speaking up to succeed is really all about making sure that our contributions are respected and heard, and that can be accomplished as an introvert and without any aggression. Speaking up and being assertive are important skills for contributing to a project, but they are different from being aggressive. Like any skill, it takes practice to be assertive, but you won't have to change your personality to make sure that your opinions are respected and valued. Your way of thoughtfully approaching a problem is certainly important, and totally compatible with speaking up when you are ready to share your idea. Don't hesitate to be open about your communication style, either. It can sometimes help to say, "I have an idea in mind but I'd like to collect my thoughts before I share it.” A great team is better with thoughtful, respective collaborators rather than aggressive and pushy people.
  • Carmen Espinal , NTN Bearing Corporation of America
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:29 AM

    It is true that in your career as an engineer you will face situations where your opinion will be shot down by individuals who are more concerned with them imposing their point of view regardless if it’s the best way to go about a problem or not. And they will probably be more adamant if they feel fear or catch on to the fact that you are shy. But being aggressive is not a good way to stand your ground. I don’t think you should be aggressive in order to be successful as a female engineer. In fact a lot of people don’t like that character trait regardless of gender. I think you should be assertive – confident, decisive, and emphatic. Also, always have facts and data to show when presenting an argument. That will be enough to have all smart people in the room on your side.

    I know of successful engineers that are both introverts and extroverts. The introverts tend to have jobs as Design engineers or work in a laboratory-type setting. The extroverts tend to be Sales engineers, Applications engineers, etc. I also know of successful engineers that used to be introverts, but slowly become extroverts thanks to their career. I don’t think you should force being something other than what you are. At the same time I do encourage you to take on challenges that put you slightly out of your comfort zone because only then you will truly know what you are capable of. Good luck to you!

  • Alicia Bailey , Sain Associates
    Answered Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2:28 AM
    I have found some of the best engineers are ones with a well-rounded personality. It’s been my experience that although most engineers probably do lean toward being introverted and enjoy the solitude of working on engineering solutions, they also have continual interaction with people. I have met quite a few outgoing engineers and I think it serves them well in engineering. I deal with a lot of people on a daily basis – coworkers, clients, outside team members, the public, etc. For women, I have not found that I have to be aggressive, but I do find I have to be assertive at times. There is a fine line between being aggressive and assertive. Being assertive does not mean being pushy, being the first person to be heard every time, always being correct, or being the center of attention. Being assertive means being direct, speaking on facts, reacting with your head not your feelings, and being clear on your questions/answers.
  • Adriana Garcia , AG Consultink
    Answered Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 10:04 AM

    I think due to my experience of more than 20 years as an electrical engineer, that you should not change your personality, but you must guarantee to feel empowered of your profession always, because that will give you strength in your actions as a professional. You can have a calm and deliberate personality but you can be forceful in your actions and inspire strength, as long as you feel confident in your profession.

    Being empowered in your profession does not mean competing with men to show that you can do as much as they do, but to recognize the qualities of both genders, cooperate professionally and feel free of your femininity as a person despite being an engineer.