…I think it interesting that some up-and-coming engineers do not consider writing a necessary skill. I see writing as an important tool – an opportunity to show character on paper…
I have had an interesting semester so far – and as usual, time flew by so fast. I am taking enough classes to give me many reasons not to blog this year. But, nay nay, blogging I shall, I will , blogging I must. The school term has not been not been distressful at all. I have had the chance to write many papers for some classes – even engineering classes. One of my biggest achievements this semester is the archival exhibit I co-worked on and put up at the University’s Institute of Visual Studies. But I will talk about that another day.
I have wondered several times what-at-all a person can do with writing. Especially when they are in fields of study like engineering, architecture, or medical sciences. For as long as I have known myself, 70 percent of my free time has been spent writing. In Nigeria and Ghana, the countries I grew up in, people mostly saw writing in terms of academia and for official use. That is, you write an academic paper, you write school essays , you write official letters..etc. Others also knew writing as a form of communication – students in school used to write letters (till text technology appeared on the scene, of course). So when I talked of myself as being passionate about writing, it didn’t really make much sense to my people “at home”.
Student engineers in my college work in teams a lot – for whatever reason. I am sure faculty have the best intentions, but I also believe that working independently can breed innovation. When a student doesn’t have to deal with the dynamics of – rather, the drama that comes with working in a team, they can fully focus their attention on tasks and improve their inherent work capabilities and innovation. I think learning to work in a team environment is a necessary tool for success in a working environment, but then so is the ability to work independently and still be productive also. But…I am only a student, what do I know?
Last semester I decided to challenge myself in a team-working environment. In the past, I usually stuck to the role of secretary, ’cause I believed it would keep me writing for the team “in peace”, and I could be away from team drama. But that never really happened. I painfully learned that choosing to be just a quiet team member who writes team reports is not regarded as “work” or a meaningful contribution to the team. A team member in this part of the world has to speak frequently during meetings, whether or not they have something to say. “Just say anything you think, so they would know you are contributing”, a student co-worker advised me. I think this has to do with the Extrovert-Ideal Syndrome which Susan Cain, author of best-selling book Quiet, writes about way better than I can do at this moment. I will share the colorful details of my teamwork experiences another day.
As I mentioned earlier, last semester, I chose to be the team manager of my engineering design team. No. No. No. It was a hard learning experience for me. I had to learn to work with extroverts who questioned decisions I made without regard for authority. I worked with introverts who were indifferent to team drama. Fun part was that I had to manage all these people! I know continuous muscle strengthening shows you muscles in your body you never knew were even there. That’s what this experience did for me. One memorable occurrence while working with that team was when one member blurted, “Wini, I think you don’t know what the f*** you want!” I froze…thinking of what to do. I simply sighed and moved on to continue what I was saying. But all in all, that leadership experience molded me into a good supervisor generally. It also gave me a reason to purchase a book that discussed the subject of introversion, extroversion, and teamwork.
This semester however, I chose to return to my position of being secretary in a team. This time I played a different role in the team – I chose to be a facilitator in discussions and the “chief-editor” of team memos. I usually ask each member in the team questions during meetings to make sure we are all on the same page, and each member is staying on top of his/her work. I write most team memos and edit the rest of them, which is what I enjoy doing.
I think it interesting that some up-and-coming engineers do not consider writing a necessary skill. In my mind…I wonder how else I would communicate my ideas to others. Yeah, yeah, you can talk about your ideas, you can make a video about your ideas, but let’s be real – how many supervisors are willing to dedicate time to watching videos about proposals and ideas. A number of supervisors would be willing to, I believe, but many would not. I see writing as an important tool – an opportunity to show character on paper.
I have had my fair share of writing this semester, from lab reports to memos. I enjoy taking up the task of writing when others shy away from it. I love how others let me do most of the writing work – it is my pleasure!
Writing. Engineers. Teamwork. The Struggle.