How Engineers Use Storytelling to Connect and Communicate

12 SEP 2019

Storytelling is the oldest form of art and continues to be one of the most powerful mechanisms we use to communicate with one another. 

Whether at school, at work, or at home, telling stories helps visualize what we share, and connect people to our message. Every day, our engineers tell stories that allow their technical work to make sense to a wide range of stakeholders who sit across all areas of the firm. But they also use storytelling to connect with colleagues on a more personal level.

At Goldman Sachs, various platforms enable us to connect, and build communities. Through Engineering Exchanges, a global speaker series open to all engineers, regardless of role or seniority, they have the opportunity to share ideas, stories and anecdotes on interesting products and processes, as well as cultural and social topics.

In a recent session, The Art of Storytelling, Soomin Hu, global co-head of Investment Banking Division (IBD) Engineering, and George Lee, the co-chief information officer of Goldman Sachs, opened up to a global audience about their own life stories. Soomin shared her family’s journey of immigration from Seoul, South Korea when she was 14, and the consequential tests of strength and resilience that followed after the death of her father. She spoke about how she persevered through the tragedy, relying on faith and relationships, including the second family she formed at Goldman Sachs, while working part-time throughout college. Fifteen years later, she now co-heads a team of engineers from New York. “The opportunity to share my story with colleagues is not something I take for granted,” Soomin said. “Humanizing ourselves at work and creating deeper connections through storytelling is worth those vulnerable moments – never be afraid to tell yours.”

In the same session, George opened up about his deep passion for reading and stories. For George, among other things, reading helps him connect with clients and colleagues, and is a constant source of learning to develop diverse perspectives. His favorite book genres range from science fiction and futurism, to truth-stranger-than-fiction novels – including He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him. Perhaps, this is his most powerful and personal story yet, written by his stepmother Mimi Baird, in a quest to understand her father, Dr. Perry Baird. “As a banker and, now, as a leader of engineers, my interest in hearing, reframing and telling great stories has been central to my career,” George said.

Storytelling is widely known as a creative pursuit. But for George and Soomin, it can be effective in the workplace too. By sharing their stories, George and Soomin embodied how storytelling connects them and creates a safe space to share, exchange ideas and create connections with people at work.  

Speaking platforms like Engineering Exchanges, create a culture of inclusiveness, and have been motivational for employees. Joshua, a new analyst on the Regulatory and Controls team says, “the firm gives engineers the opportunity to bring their whole selves to work by creating an atmosphere of transparency, support, community and inspiration.”