Member Blog: Unlocking the Artistic Side of Engineering

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Despite the stereotype of a typical engineer as being calculated and precise, most engineers have a creative side with an ability to cross the boundaries of mathematics and science.

Growing up with a parent who was an avid landscape artist, I have always had a passion for drawing and painting. I took art classes throughout my years of school and University, but never really considered myself good enough to pursue it further. My drive to pursue a career in engineering and raising a family caused that interest to take a back seat. Now that I’m getting on in my years, I think about revisiting that original passion.

I attended a national conference for engineering companies back in October where I heard a speaker talking about the advancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) by adding Arts to make STEAM. I never considered incorporating Arts into my engineering role, but it makes sense. There is an artistic side to what we do every day, from incorporating creative elements into writing reports to creating site designs. Harnessing your artistic side allows you to think outside the box and to look at something different than the standard, rigid rules of engineering.

Setting aside my own personal interests, I have been thinking about how Nobis Group and other companies can incorporate the arts into our workplace cultures because we all realize that recruitment and retention of engineers remains one of the top industry concerns post-COVID. A shortage of engineers will remain for many years and we are burning out our existing talent.

So, how can we set ourselves apart from other equally qualified engineering firms to recruit new talent? By incorporating Arts into our company values that support and encourage employees to pursue their passions in Music, Acting, Drama, Visual Art, Creative Writing, and more. This could entail taking a class, adding a weekly social to our schedule to celebrate co-workers’ artistic talents, having a company event at an art gallery, or even a musical concert.

While writing this article, I interviewed a potential mid-level engineering candidate (something we call a “unicorn”). I asked what their interests were outside of work and not surprisingly they said they were an avid musician prior to entering the engineering world. But, like many, decided that music would not pay the bills, so a career in engineering was much more practical. A familiar decision many of us have faced.

Where do we go next? Personally, I need to carve out time in my schedule to pursue some bucket list items: travel, learning a new language, and enrolling in drawing/painting classes. Next, I need to set goals and finally sign up for a class or two. From a company perspective, it is important to poll and listen to employees to understand the breadth of their interest in the Arts and creative opportunities to celebrate and encourage their interests. Let’s blend the worlds of STEM with the Arts to spark creativity and innovation within the engineering industry. Full STEAM ahead!

Author: J. Christopher Nadeau, PE – Director of Commercial Services | Associate, Nobis Group