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Good communication is a crucial skill for a systems engineer leading a project team.

Cynthia J. “CJ” Bixby is the chief engineer at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. In this video clip from 2018, Bixby discusses ideas and tips for being a better communicator.

Video key learning points:

  1. 1.

    A systems engineer should tailor communications so the targeted group can hear your intent and your acknowledgement of their concerns.

  2. 2.

    Pictures and graphics representing a concept help convey complex messages and allow people to more easily retain the information.

  3. 3.

    A systems engineer can improve their communication skills by practicing communicating and watching how other people communicate.

  4. 4.

    Optimal communication is about listening as well as speaking. A systems engineer needs to listen to their audience or team to gain understanding of their concerns.

  5. 5.

    Every conversation is an opportunity to build trust. A systems engineer needs to have the trust of the discipline engineers to have a productive team.

  6. 6.

    An engineer needs to prepare for important conversations so they understand what reactions they might get from their audience and understand how to handle the different reactions that may occur.

  7. 7.

    Systems engineering is about leading a team, so leadership skill development is crucial for success.


Related Resources 

Small Steps, Giant Leaps Podcast with CJ Bixby: Airworthiness

APPEL KS Article: Critical Knowledge inSight: Communication and Listening

NASA VPMC Full Session: 7 Habits of Highly Effective (NASA) Systems Engineers

APPEL KS Article: Managing Conversations for Performance Breakthroughs

APPEL KS Course: Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue (APPEL-vCC)

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