An engineer working in a management capacity is a rare breed of leader. With skills in three major areas — engineering, business/management and entrepreneurism — career possibilities are seemingly limitless. Some entrepreneurial-minded engineering managers innovate in the context of a larger organization while others launch their own enterprises, partnering or contracting with complementary professionals. With the ability to grasp the mechanics and the big picture simultaneously, demand for this unique skillset is growing. If you are interested in pursuing a career that allows you to use all of these skills throughout your career, read on to learn how to build a firm foundation for career success.
Elaborating onWhat Engineering Management Is
In short, a management-focused engineer is a professional who can speak effectively to multiple parties. When working with engineers, you can speak their language to clearly communicate the needs of complementary departments. When working with managers, you can translate the technical language of the engineersinto layman’s terms and thus facilitate productive dialogue, collaboration and innovation. As a professional working in engineering management, your goal is to serve as a bridge of communication to apply engineering principles to business processes.
Selecting the Right Degree Plan for You
If a management-focused engineering career appeals to you and you are just beginning to research your higher education options, you are perfectly positioned to create an advanced degree plan to support your career goals. Here are some questions to consider as you select your educational path.
- Pick your engineering focus. You can select from industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, design engineering, manufacturing engineering, construction engineering, electrical engineering and other disciplines. You can also choose to become an engineering generalist (this is best if you have a greater interest in the business/management side).
- Choose your undergraduate degree accordingly. Specialized degrees like “engineering route to business” can support you in applying your business skills in an engineering context. An engineering-focused undergraduate degree with a business minor or strong set of business electives can help you build an engineering-focused career in a business management setting.
- Plan for an appropriate master’s degree. A Masters Degree in Engineering Management equips you for an executive-level career and six-figure salary potential over the long term.
One topic every graduating professional always is interested in is salary outlook. As an engineering management professional, your salary outlook is excellent. The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that you can expect the potential to earn $120,000 or more over your career. With an entrepreneurial focus, your salary potential is unlimited since you can chart your own career course.
Critical Skills for Career Success
Forbes recently reported that only 37 percent of entrepreneurial companies today have leaders with an engineering background. This is why the climate has never been better for entrepreneurial-minded engineering management professionals to launch new ventures. Bill Gates is one example of a talented engineer who built a company that changed the face of technology; Larry Page of Google is another example, and you could be next. Krishna Uppuluri, author of “Entrepreneur to Engineer: The First Flight,” states that the Internet’s growth is a great aid for entrepreneurial engineers to grow a startup business. Uppuluri cites certain career skills that can pave the way to a successful engineering-focused new business right from the startup phase.
- The ability to accurately evaluate the business (commercial) viability of a new idea.
- The skillset to work effectively in a diverse group of entrepreneurial-minded professionals toward a common goal.
- An understanding of the critical importance of marketing and sales to product success.
- The focus on mitigating rather than eliminating risk to capitalize on a fast-changing market.
- Customers will ultimately decide on how much functionality a new product requires.
- Profitability is always the priority question — right from its inception.
- Investors can provide a new idea and sound business model with the potential for success.
Now more than ever, the climate is perfect for talented engineers to innovate and succeed in a global marketplace. You can be well on your way to becoming the next great engineering-management entrepreneur.
Larry Page photo credit: Joi / Foter / CC BY
Bill Gates photo credit: jurvetson / Foter / CC BY
About the Author: Harold Daily earned his master’s in Engineering Management. He graduated three years ago and launched a technology startup.