Learning the Value of Effective Communication

June 24, 2015

Photo: Chris Scott - Focus Scout

It's funny how I am so easily able to communicate my passions and experiences via writing, but sometimes struggle to do so with friends and family.

Communication is vital to the sustained growth of any relationship, whether personal or professional.

Spouses must communicate their thoughts to each other.

Engineers must be able to effectively communicate their design and its functions to their peers, partners and superiors.

A company needs strong communication with its customers to have any chance at success. Especially now, companies need to have an up-to-date, sleek website, as well as a strong social media presence, to stay ahead with their marketing efforts. Like any relationship, communication keeps companies afloat and, during the past month at Aztera, I have helped customers with digital marketing — that is, helping them reach their own customers through effective digital communication.

Also, I recently have had the chance to start overlapping my two backgrounds in aerospace engineering and entrepreneurship.

Aztera has partnered with one of the leading solar energy providers in the photovoltaic industry and has been engineering products to increase the efficiency of solar cells. A new direction that our partnership is taking involves using small unmanned aircraft systems — also known as UASs or drones — to monitor solar farms from the sky. Our approach is to use infrared imaging systems to scan and survey solar panels to identify inefficiencies.

With new Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations around the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems, many entrepreneurs are forming companies that utilize remarkable UAS technologies for a variety of purposes. The applications are abundant. In agriculture, drones are used to survey crops and provide growers with useful data. In mining, they are used for search and rescue missions. They also are used in the photography and film industry, and even in the parcel and postal industry.

I have been tasked with drafting our company's petition for exemption under the FAA's Section 333, which "provides operators who wish to pursue safe and legal entry into the National Aerospace System a competitive advantage in the UAS marketplace." That should in turn provide immense economic benefits. This process entails communicating to the FAA how our proposed use of a specific UAS will benefit the public as a whole and provide an equal or greater level of safety in operating our drone as the current rules and regulations do.

Again, successfully communicating our need for exemption to the FAA will lead to a petition being granted for commercial operations of our UAS to proceed. Poor communication will lead to resubmitting a petition — and a loss of vital time and, in turn, cash flow.

The ability to communicate outside of your comfort zone is crucial to success in the engineering and business worlds. Take networking, for example, which is one of the most important skills that a person can possess, no matter your field of specialty. On a Friday night, you and your friends go out to a bar. After the first round, a woman sits down beside you. Through introduction, you learn she is the CEO of a company that manufactures bathroom appliances, including showerheads. It just happens that you are part of a startup team that has designed a next-generation, smart showerhead, and you are looking for a partner to license the technology to. The situation requires you to communicate your team’s idea on the spot in a non-professional setting.

Honing personal communication skills will lead to being better prepared for such spontaneous instances — and perhaps even to life-changing opportunities. I know that I have room for improvement in this area, and most others probably do, too.

Andrew Granatstein, an Honors College student studying aerospace engineering who is also a student in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, is one of four students selected as a 2015 UANews student columnist. The columnist initiative was launched in June by UANews and provides students the opportunity to share insights about the work and research they will be doing over the summer in various parts of the United States and abroad. It's the UA's 100% Engagement in action, and the students' experiences will prepare them to be real-world ready upon graduation.