This article focuses on breadth and depth of skills needed by candidates for engineering jobs. Adaptability—that is, the ability to keep up with the rapid pace of change—and practical skills rank high with today’s employers. Recruiters are finding that breadth of knowledge and experience trumps depth in the form of overspecialization in engineering; in recruitment, this means finding the engineer who fits a job opening ‘to a T.’ The best jobs are won by candidates who demonstrate a breadth of knowledge and experience in their own discipline and the disciplines related to it. According to the experts, systems engineers are specialists in simplifying complexity, resolving ambiguity, and focusing the creativity of others—but they are not generalists. The present day’s engineering students learn to define system boundaries, goals, and functions. They also learn to anticipate failure modes, to plan for mitigation and recovery, and to define and manage interfaces. Engineers with multidisciplinary skills are much more adaptable, and more in demand; but in engineering, there still are more specialists than generalists. The demands of today’s competitive business environments tilt the balance toward breadth. As technologies mature, the balance will tilt back toward depth.

You do not currently have access to this content.