As said by Ken Macleod, “The secret of becoming a writer is to write, write and keep on writing”. Likewise in engineering communication, the success of a writer is to write in a way that keeps the reader engrossed from the beginning to the end. During my second year in Chemical Engineering, we were assigned to present several documents both for individual projects and group projects. Among the many engineering communication items we completed, I chose to reflect on four items for this portfolio. These include an essay on Obama's speech for CHE 298 (Item# 1), an oral overhead presentation for CHE 298 (Item# 2), a group wiki project for CHE 204 (Item# 3) and a briefing document for CHE 204 (Item# 4). I chose these four items so that I could review my performance in different communication synopsis and also make connections between them. While each item contained areas of strengths and weaknesses, the purpose of this portfolio is to analyze these areas to track further development of my strength as well as the continuous minimization of my weakness.
Organization skills: (ITEM# 1, 2 & 3)
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A major strength I exhibited throughout the year was my ability to organize paragraphs effectively. During the fall session of my second year, I was assigned to write an in-class essay on Obama's speech (item#1). For this assignment, I structured two different ideas into two separate paragraphs. For example, my essay contained one paragraph regarding war and another paragraph discussing equality. Dividing my ideas into two paragraphs enabled me to gain better focus on the content of each paragraph. It also allowed me to easily inter-relate between them. Another method of organization is proper document formatting, For example, in the second half of the fall term, in the wiki project (item#3) I organized my work by using tables to explain the manufacturing process of aluminum cans. Using tables enabled me to give a step-by-step process. It helped me to think in a constructive manner and articulate my reasoning by making it visually pleasing to the audience. Therefore, this overall layout change in using tables shows my further development in organization skills.
Moreover, organization is not only limited to effective writing but also plays a role in verbal communication. For instance, during the fall term of 2nd year, we were assigned to give a one-minute oral presentation (Item#2) on sports in chemical engineering. As the golden rule says “Human attention is limited”, I adjusted my speech in a systematic manner such that I engage the audience and at the same time educate them on the topic selected. I organized my presentation by giving a clear introduction, a brief description of the topic and a take-away statement so that the audience can remember the key concepts of my speech. These further improvements in applying the knowledge of organization in oral communication is one of the skills I have seen develop during the year. Hence, organization is the key to success for effective engineering communication. Without it, we will not be able to break down tasks professionally.
Idea generation: (ITEM# 1 & 4)
Idea generation plays an important part of an engineer's career. Generating ideas is easy but implementing them is often difficult. This was the case for me in communications. Often I find myself in a situation where I can generate ideas quickly but I could not implement it with a specific strategy. For instance, while writing the in-class essay (item# 1), due to time constraints, I was unable to apply ideas other than the topic of “Racial Equality”. In paragraph two of the essay, I wrote “This can be seen when the author describes people waiting in emergency rooms without no health care”. My approach was to relate the sentence to the topic of race and how it affects the community. However, I clearly could not implement it as in the next sentence I wrote “This description shows how the country is wasting money on war rather than giving money for health care. This illustration makes a great impact on our imagination”. As pointed out by the marker, the second sentence “adds nothing” to the first sentence. Hence, this flaw showed a lack of thought given as I did not know how to further develop my idea of explaining the inequality of race properly.
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Whereas, in the winter session of 2nd year, I saw an improvement in applying my ideas. For example, for the briefing document (item#4), under the section “Daily Operations”, I wrote “In order to keep the plant running, maintenance crews with about two or three people should be assigned for every 10 to 20 turbines”. This sentence told the reader what I was trying to say. I further strengthened my reasoning by saying, “The major role of these workers is to 1)check wind speeds; 2) take immediate steps in case of faults; 3) change oil frequently so that turbines don't breakdown.” Hence, in this case I was able to apply my idea and further develop it by giving a reason as to why I chose the workers and what their roles will be. Thus, by comparing the application of idea from the essay to that of the briefing document, it can be seen that I have shown some improvement in my weakness over the course of the year. Although this is a step forward in working towards my weakness, I feel that I could do better in the future if I use some of my engineering skills such as critical thinking, brainstorming, and solution-based approach.
In conclusion, I am pleased with my improvements over the course of the year. Writing many documents has helped me in expressing my point of view in a divergent and forceful manner. However, as learning is a lifelong process, certain goals I will keep in mind to improve in the future will be - to think creatively in organizing my work, to brainstorm new ideas and articulate them so that they are appealing to the audience, to use words and phrases that would engage the audience, to be confident in what I am presenting, to follow problem-solving methodology and to keep it concise whilst giving the message to the reader.