What Are Good Stress Engineer Qualities – Part 1

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Let us talk about some essential qualities that make a good stress engineer in Good Stress Engineer Qualities Part 1.

Over the years in my career I realized that in addition to being technically sound, there are other very important soft skills we need to get better at. I will try to cover some of them in this first part 1 of the series, in the context of stress engineering.

In reality these skills are not specific to stress engineering but universal.

Essential Quality 1 – Good Listener

Good Stress Engineer Quality 1
Good Stress Engineer Quality 1

This may sound like a cliche but it happened to me a number of times. For example, a designer is talking to me about a part or design concept and I almost immediately wander off into my own analysis thoughts. Right there, I lose focus on what she is saying. Well guess what, I may have missed some critical points. Pay close attention to what is being said in PDR and CDR meetings. Someone comes to you with a question, a good listener will be able to ask the right questions back and give meaningful thoughtful answers rather than barking something back.

It is tempting to immediately start thinking about analysis stuff while someone is talking about a design, or think about how the design may not work even before she is finished. Big mistake. So make sure you first listen carefully. There is no need to hastily get into analysis thought process. For that matter, it can be any one talking to you, a program manager, engineering manager or a project engineer, or may be your life partner. Our first job is to try and understand the point of view of the person talking to us. Then when asked, take your time to think before you start talking. It will go a long way in making you a better stress engineer.

I am still learning this essential skill, because in real life it is not as easy to be a good listener as we think it is. A conscious effort is needed, practice will get you there.

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Essential Quality 2 – Visualize the Physics

Good Stress Engineer Quality 2
Good Stress Engineer Quality 2

One of the best things we can do to try and understand a mechanism of a design is to visualize the physics and interaction happening under load at a particular point along the load path. How would the applied load be reacted? How can the system be stable or in static equilibrium?

For example, there is a panel sandwiched between a channel fitting and loaded transversely. How would the channel transfer the load and how can the joint stay in equilibrium? Imagine the physics in your brain as if you are holding it an applying the load. It helped me in many situations get clarity on the type of analysis that needs to be done.

This is how you can create meaningful FBD’s or Free Body Diagrams. I am still learning, but happy that I am working on it.

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Essential Quality 3 - Go to the Production Shop

Good Stress Engineer Quality 3
Good Stress Engineer Quality 3

It is sad, but it is the truth. Most of our lives we are looking at the system screen at our desks. If you never go to the shop floor and get a good feel for the manufacturing of the parts you are looking at then it can be very dangerous for your career. Gain as much insight as possible on the production aspects of the parts you are analyzing. Get a physical feel for them, see, touch, smell, and get your hands dirty. You need to go and look at the raw material that make a sandwich panel, your comprehension will improve by leaps and bounds. You will appreciate the engineering a lot more than otherwise.

It is very important to find out the nitty gritty details about fabrication, aspect that affect the part's manufacturability, its supply chain issues such as lead times, cost issues, material availability and so on and so forth. A good stress engineer at the very least tries to get a good grasp of these things. This will tie into another quality we will discuss in the next part of the series, called "Cross Functionality".

In Part 2, we will discuss some more interesting qualities. I can see this series could be multiple parts so make sure you pay attention to the lines below, 😉

Let me know what you think. Get involved and comment whether you agree or not. All comments are welcome and you are encouraged to participate. Share your thoughts, and this article with your friends. Spread the joy around..

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Surya Batchu
Surya Batchu

Surya Batchu is the founder of Stress Ebook LLC. A senior stress engineer specializing in aerospace stress analysis and finite element analysis, Surya has close to two decades of real world aerospace industry experience. He shares his expertise with you on this blog and the website via paid courses, so you can benefit from it and get ahead in your own career.