Why do engineers need the Liberal Arts?

Providing innovative solutions and effectively harnessing the power of existing technology are the hallmarks associated with any successful engineer. What sets apart a truly great engineer from a mediocre one would be his or her ability to unpack complex problems and to arrive at genuine remedies to real world problems. Out of the box creative abilities and critical thinking are the phenomenal skills that liberal arts can provide an engineer with. Effective communication is a crucial skill in today’s engineering world with the ever-increasing demand for socially sensible and intelligent technology. Whether an engineer is drafting a project report or presenting a product-design, he or she would have to convey his or her ideas with lucidity and clarity- an essential skill proffered only through a liberal arts education.

A run-of-the-mill degree in engineering alone will not ensure a secure job for a graduate. Multi-national companies and engineering firms today look for quick adaptability, creativity and inter-cultural proficiency in their employees. In fact, companies like Google, Amazon and HP have openly stated that they are looking for candidates who can combine sound technical knowledge with leadership abilities, cultural intelligence and communication skills. During the reveal of the iPad 2, Steve Jobs said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that makes our heart sing.”

An engineer today whether he or she is thinking of the next big start-up or planning to join a software-giant has to have a basic know how not only of the global and national economy but also has to have a firm grasp of the culture and psyche of the society that he or she has to engage with. It is only through a liberal arts education that any student can aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of the world and the nation.

Leadership and team-building skills are two relevant skills which are required both in engineering as well as the administrative fields; the shift in emphasis from interview based recruitment to the inclusion of group discussions, pressure-tests and live demonstrations bear witness to the paradigmatic change in the recruitment policies of multi-national companies. Both these are social skills which have traditionally been the forte of the liberal arts and with some training in the disciplines of liberal arts, candidates can hope to be greatly enhance their chances to be placed among the best and to lead with confidence or be cooperative team-players in any corporate or non-corporate endeavour.

Engineering being an applied branch of knowledge cannot divest itself of its social role and plays a key role in the progress of the nation. It is up to the young population of engineers and to-be engineers to complete the important task of nation-building at a tangible and conceptual level. Through the construction of more environment sensitive dams, eco-friendly automobiles, cost effective drinking water solution, energy-efficient solar panels and so on, and also of impacting science policy-making on a global level, engineers can leave a long-lasting imprint on the history of the nation.

More and more of our engineers are entering the bureaucratic field in India in its recent past particularly with the introduction of the Aptitude Tests in the exams for UPSC as well as SSCs, but to be a competent administrator, along with logical reasoning which is a key skill that engineering provides, the bureaucrat would also require general awareness and social sensibility which only a training in the Liberal Arts can provide.

A skilful engineering would also require the ability to continually innovate and provide precise answers to dynamic problems – a skill which requires him or her to engage with multiple social groups on real-time basis, this significant skill can only be imparted through a liberal arts education as liberal arts deals with everyday social, economic and cultural issues at a global as well as local level. Developing a perspective and carving out a unique niche for oneself is another most relevant aspect of learning liberal arts.

If you do not want to be just another graduate in the throng of engineers that India has today, your engineering curriculum must possess an extra advantage which should work in your favour making you an extra-ordinary asset for the company that is looking for enterprising employees. Or if you are the next technocrat-in –the –making, you would definitely need the social and communication skills that liberal arts can provide you with.

It is only a curriculum which has a generous helping of the Liberal Arts as part of the Engineering Program which can make an engineer a technocrat with sharp communication skills, an analytic mind and a focus on life-long learning and SRM-AP provide the right combination of engineering and technical courses with that of liberal arts to provide you with the unique skills required to meet both the demands of the job-market as well as for future research.