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Engineer personalities

We've always known that certain personalities suit certain jobs. But we read with interest a study by Robert Seviour on the personalities of engineers. As an engineer himself, Seviour teaches sales skills to engineers using his own experiences of going from a mechanical 'hands on' engineer to working in sales.

This is something that strikes a chord with us, as we discussed the transitions from sea-going roles to shore-based managerial roles at the Maritime HR Forum conference in June. We covered how difficult it sometimes is to go from a very practical, technical role to one that is more office-based. Sometimes these transitions are harder than you'd think.

In Seviour's study of the 'engineer personality', he noted that the common opinion of engineers is that they are intelligent and logical, but with poor communication skills and even – yes, ouch! – poor dress sense.

Seviour goes on to state that good engineers show these basic traits: they're curious, scientific, logical, able to concentrate intently, perfectionists, enjoy debate, have a good sense of humour and want to solve problems.

However they're just the positive traits; others that came up in his studies included being dogmatic, unimaginative, authoritarian, impersonal, having poor social skills and not fans of making business decisions.

In his 17 years of running successful Selling for Engineers seminars, Seviour uses group exercises to identify different character types, and categorise them as CEOs, lab techs, and 'salt of the earth' types. What emerges in all these seminars is that all have good and bad traits, and all are dependent on certain situations.

However one sticking point is that people believe 'engineer types' are not commercially minded; this differs hugely from an 'entrepreneur type' who enjoys risk, and strives hungrily for success. Maybe the right balance is those who have the commercial business hunger, but who also show engineer traits such as thinking in a measured and logical manner.

Whether engineers can make 'good' business people is of course debatable and entirely dependent on the individual, but it's interesting to note the personality types all the same.

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