Engineers may have innovative and exciting ideas, but if they can’t effectively communicate those ideas, what’s the use? Engineers can’t just write about the plans they conceive, either; you have to be able to draw the design so that the non-engineering folks, like the client company's president or your immediate supervisor, can understand. Without effective drawing skills, you aren’t going to get very far in engineering.
Get the Message Across
No one is saying you have to be an artist to be an effective engineer, but you’ve got to be able to sketch out a vision that’s rolling around in your head. Even before you get the authorization to pursue that idea, you have to be able to show your superiors that your idea is viable. Unless you’re in a small engineering firm with other women who take chances and create products on spec, you’re going to have to send your ideas up a chain of command. Once you get approval or a specific assignment, you can rely on your technical drawing skills to create a usable image.
Follow the Uniform Standards
So that everyone talks the same language and reads drawings with the same understanding, engineers follow standards in their drawing that follow specifications from the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI. It’s important to follow ANSI standards when drawing a medical device, a part for an aircraft or an entire building. Builders and manufacturers rely on accurate renderings from engineers. Users of the final product especially rely on standards being met. Inaccuracies in your drawings could mean the difference between life and death.
Get Comfortable on the Computer
Even if you are a talented free-style artist who can sketch exceptional designs, you’ll eventually have to transfer your sketches to computer-aided design drawings, called CAD in the industry. CAD is the globally recognized style of drawing for architectural, mechanical, construction and manufacturing drawings. The industry constantly updates its programs, too, so even as you gain experience, you’ll have to maintain your credentials by learning new CAD systems as they come out. For example, Apple designed an application called FingerCAD, which you can use to draw a house, a bridge or a piece of an engine with your fingertip when inspiration hits or when you need to be mobile with your ideas and give clients on-the-spot examples of your style.
Combine the Tech in You with Your Talent and Creativity
Engineering is one way you can use your creativity in the business world and earn a decent living without having to take the "starving artist" route. Webinars and courses in applicable creativity are a mainstay at the Society of Women Engineers, where women support each other in the education and career enhancement of female engineers. Creativity and collaboration are hallmarks of the engineering industry and offer a successful career path for women who can combine those art and business talents into a professional environment.
- Teach Engineering: Detail Drawings: Communicating with Engineers
- American National Standards Institute: ANSI Site Licenses
- American National Standards Institute: About ANSI
- Austin Community College: Architectural & Engineering Computer Aided Design
- Society of Women Engineers: From Good to Great: Applying Creativity to the Collaborative Negotiation Process
- ASME: 10 iPad Apps for Engineers
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images