Here's the 3 areas an engineer reads books for:
Engineering Technical Skills
Engineering Soft Skills
Engineer as a Person
For each area listed above they can be broken down into the following subcategories.
Engineering Books for Technical Skills
Subject Matter Expertise, Technology, Industry, Meta Engineering
Engineering Books for Soft Skills
Management, Business, Leadership, Communication, Innovation
Engineering Books for Engineers as a Person
Career, Life Balance, Success, Personal Finance, History, Legacy
Every skill that you obtain throughout your career you gain through experience and study, as you continue you have 2 main drivers for which skills and areas you improve. That is you, the engineer and your ambition, and the other is your company for minimum skills requirements for you to perform your job.
Change your mindset from "What do I want for my Engineering Career?" to "What do I want for my Engineering Life?"
Companies Align Your Development with Company Goals
Companies typically have a budget to develop their engineers, some small, some more than others, but the idea is that there will be some certifications that may be the minimum requirement for the role. In some cases a company will give you some options to develop or put forward something you can develop that aligns with your position. This is a step in the right direction, but why do Engineers outsource their development to their employers?
You might say money, but that isn't the right way to think about it. Engineers need and should be thinking about their future selves. The easiest is to focus on technical skills. They are tangible and you can see, I need to learn this technology so I can utilize it when a project needs it, learn this technology.
There's nothing wrong with this strategy and you should definitely pursue technical skills as it is your key asset. But there are 2 other areas of skill that could benefit you, your soft skills and skills for an engineer as a person.
If you imagine as you have technical skills to soft skills to personal skills there is a inverse correlation to utility for your company. While your company focuses on your skills that align with them, engineers should consider the skills that align with them beyond the company.
You may argue the technical skills apply to all jobs and you would be right. The idea is to keep a balance and not to neglect the skills that benefit you. I reached out to several engineers who have been in the industry for 10-30 years to see what they would advise their younger selves.
The top things senior engineers would advise their younger selves
What popped out most was to experience other careers, focus on areas, balance with life goals, learn financial skills, work on communication skills, learn to problem solve faster, build your long term career, set short term and long term goals and align your direction with technology of the future.
You notice that none of the advice was predicated on picking up a specific technical skill.
I just wanted to let that sit for a moment but when we start out we are so eager to develop our technical skill because we want to increase our value for our companies. My suggestion here is to make sure you also balance in things for you. An Engineer is a combination of Technical Skills, Soft Skills and at the end of the day an Engineer as a Person.
Breaking down the subcategories
Subject Matter Expertise - Skills about a specific subject matter, e.g. operational technology, control systems, specific vendor, specific engineering standards, etc.
Technology - Skills related to using a particular product, software, material, tool or technology. Consider a programming language, an engineering instrument etc.
Industry - Industry specific skills that relate to the industry you are working in. E.g. you might be an Electrical Engineer, but some aspects differ in the power generation industry to the building services, transport or roads industry.
Meta Engineering - Technical Skills that apply across the above such as problem solving skills, programming skills, computer skills, mathematical skills, analysis, etc.
Management - Project management skills, scheduling, multi-tasking, delegation, health and safety
Business - Business development, building business cases, consultation, client relationships, technical sales, marketing, startups etc
Leadership - General leadership skills, team management, feedback
Communication - Negotiation skills, interpersonal skills, general communication skills, effective reporting
Innovation - Creativity, developing new solutions, product development, design skills, etc.
Engineer as a Person Skills
Career Development - Creating a Portfolio, Networking, Resume, Interview, Planning, Mentoring, Mentorship, Upskill Progression
Life Balance - Maintaining relationships, mindfulness, family, health, hobbies, fitness, reading, etc.
Success and Goals - Goal setting, SMART goals, short term, long term, career story, peer review, feedback
Personal Finance - Retirement, Investing, Savings, Building long term wealth, Pay Rise, Promotion, Salary
History - Engineering history, Engineering failures, Lessons Learned
Legacy - Impact, Future Engineers, Kids, Communities, Organizations and Groups, Charity, Teaching, Training, etc.
My hope is that you will consider this full breakdown of areas, subcategories and skills and if you are an engineer reading this thinking about what it is that you want to achieve, take a moment to consider developing some of your non-technical skills because you should consider why you are in engineering in the first place. Maybe you started out liking math, or playing with technology, or even someone made you take it but that doesn't mean that is why you stay in engineering. You are not just choosing engineering as a career, you are choosing the engineering life.
If you change your mindset from "what do I want for my Engineering Career?" to "what do I want for my Engineering Life?" you just might be able to cultivate a better career than you would have otherwise, plus the little advantage of cultivating a better life for yourself too.
So how can I help you gain some knowledge and skills? Let's start with some books.
The List of Engineering Books for helping an Engineers entire life and career
We created a list of books for engineers that are broken down into these 3 categories. While there are several technical skills books (many textbooks) and courses out there we also wanted to make sure we have books that cover areas in soft skills and engineers as people but that are specifically written for engineers.
General business advice, communications, financial advice is useful of course but you might want to know how does an Engineer reach their full potential. How will you cultivate a life for yourself that feels fulfilling, successful, happy, useful and impactful?
You need to obtain knowledge and skills across this entire spectrum.
Want to gain knowledge and skills to serve your entire life and career?
Check out our list of the best engineering books that are categorized as per this framework. Sign Up and you will get access to many resources to help you on your journey to solve the problems of the world.