Five traits essential for engineers in today’s workforce

Engineering leadership insights from Vinod Philip, CEO of Service Power Generation at Siemens Gas and Power

We had the opportunity to ask Vinod Philip, Fung Institute Advisory Board member, about the insights he’s gained into effective engineering leadership over the years. Vinod is CEO of Service Power Generation at Siemens Gas and Power.


Portrait of Vinod.
Vinod Philip, CEO of Service Power Generation at Siemens Gas and Power

For engineers beginning to enter the workforce, Vinod strongly believes that five traits are essential for success:

1. Possess a learning orientation

“When we have new hires or early-career employees, it is very important that they are self-aware about what they know, and more importantly what they don’t know. They should be curious and willing to learn from others.

2. Foster cognitive diversity

The best employees understand and value the diversity of thought around them. They are able to be part of a group with a diversity of genders, cultures, ethnicities, function, experience and age. They are also actively looking to create and leverage the cognitive diversity around them.

3. Be willing and ready to build relationships

A lot of business depends on the quality and depth of relationships that are created, cultivated and sustained. Being able to develop trustful relationships with others is very important.

4. Cultivate emotional and cultural intelligence

A lot of business is also global, with many different societal models and frameworks. Being able to respect these and work across these is super important. For example, [at Siemens] we have a regional structure that allows us to create value and economic opportunities in [and for each] region. Our local teams can work closely with our customers because they understand the specific nuances of the region in terms of speaking the same language, living in the same environment, understanding and working within similar social norms/practices. We have a ‘boots on the ground’ focus, which means our customers can talk to experts quicker, get their parts quicker, have localized training and be visited by local Field Service teams.

5. Use communication to build bridges and inspire action

Being able to think, speak, listen and write powerfully so as to be able to trigger the desired action/reactions in others. We foster a collaborative growth culture that is based on an open, honest and supportive environment with self-organized teams who have high ownership and are comfortable with giving direct feedback that drives change in our business.

We use both a ‘what’ and ‘how’ framework for leadership development and performance management to give both elements equal importance and through targeted training and development programs, we highlight the important dimensions of Collaboration to build bridges and Customer Orientation to inspire action alongside Communication.”


On the pervasiveness of these competencies in engineers

“Being able to inspire, encourage and create followership, engagement and voluntary movement requires all of these competencies. In my opinion, these five competencies are in short-supply these days. These are in short supply because traditional engineering and scientific education is still based predominantly on analytical skills and capability developments that are ‘left-brain’ activities.

The competencies that lead to differentiation [in the workplace] are primary ‘right-brain’ activities that have traditionally been part of other disciplines like the arts, philosophy, sociology, languages, etc and therefore not explicitly made part of an engineering/technological curriculum.

Encouraging cross-pollination from these other disciplines to engineering through professors and academics via lectures or advisory roles could help strengthen the awareness of these ‘softer’ competencies within the engineering fields. The more we can incubate and grow these competencies in the minds of our future leaders when they are at an impressionable phase of their lives, the greater the ability to create lasting impact.”

Advice for early-career engineers

When asked what advice he would give to early-career engineers interested in developing these traits, Vinod shared: “My key advice to anyone wanting to develop these traits would be:

  1. Be open to learning from a range of sources.
  2. Challenge yourself, try things that feel uncomfortable initially.
  3. Look for people exhibiting these traits and understand the impact they are having on others and try to model [that] behavior.”

Connect with Vinod // Edited by Lauren Leung

Berkeley Master of Engineering

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Master of Engineering at UC Berkeley with a focus on leadership. Learn more about the program through our publication.

Berkeley Master of Engineering

Content hub for UC Berkeley’s Master of Engineering Program. Explore the many ways our students, alumni, and faculty are contributing to thier field.

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