Are Communication Skills Important?


January 2010


MEGHAN: So in your company, for instance, how often is someone going to have to be giving a presentation?

JERRY HOOPER: As a new graduate, you’re going to probably talk within your team—a team of engineers—you’re probably going to talk within that team on a meeting basis every week. As far as major presentations that you would bring to an upper management group, it may be once a month or once every three months. But you want to be prepared for that. A lot of people get nervous, or they want to shy away from doing those things. I would tell everybody to take the opportunity every time they get the chance, and make it even better than the last time.

JESSE SAETZ: About every other day we have engineers going into the presentations. These days we are tasking our young engineers with more and more responsibilities, and they are making PowerPoint presentations, and they are going up in front of some critical customers and making presentations.

JOHN WARD: As you move up in the company, you do more presentations. If you are like a fairly new individual you would be doing a lot of the groundwork. In my teams I always gave the brand new people the opportunity to interact with folks outside of the organization, knowing they could demonstrate whether they could do it or not. So being able to speak well, speak clearly, and  convey your ideas both graphically and verbally is very important. I expect you to be able to put together a PowerPoint presentation and be able to stand in front of people and explain things to them and just help them understand. And you have to attack it on a variety of levels. When you are talking with someone you can communicate with them on so many levels, and the more the better.

JERRY HOOPER: Presentation skills are key. You need to be able to speak perfectly. You need to be able to be in front of an audience. You need to understand that what you say has meaning to whoever you’re talking to. Understand who that audience is. It’s all in how you come across to people. Your confidence, your experience, your knowledge has to be pulled in to that. But you have to exude the confidence, and it has to be truthful. Everything you do has to be truthful. But presentations tell people who you are, and that is generally how people get noticed initially. You’ve got to have the fundamental building blocks, those technical skills and those types of things. But as far as moving up, it becomes people skills; it becomes interactions with other people that make the difference between whether you are going to stay as a technical type person or you’re going to move into more of a management type role.

MEGHAN: And how important is that going to be to your success as far as moving up in the company?

JOHN WARD: Well if you can’t communicate, you can’t move up. If you’re the kind of person that wants to stay in the same job for their whole life and become a technical expert and basically hermit yourself into your cubicle, then you can do that. But if you want to move up, and do more interesting things, and get out, and become broader, then communication skills are going to be a very good way of getting there.

ANGELO BIANCHINI: The more people you know, the more people know you—you’ve kind of got to go around—like where I work there are a lot of opportunities to come out and go recruiting, but they don’t exactly advertise that. If you don’t communicate, talk with your manager, go out and ask people, ask people who have experience, you’re not going to learn things; you’re not going to get the opportunities that other people are going to get.

DBRAV DUNKLEY: You can’t just be technical in our organization. I’d say most consulting organizations require strong analytical people that understand how to communicate their ideas.