Are you interested in pursuing a management role in engineering? While there are numerous technical skills you will need to master, other fundamental skills will set you apart from the competition.
Such skills include communication, attention to detail, and managing multiple priorities simultaneously. Anyone who has experienced the career shift from employee to the manager will tell you that it is not as easy as it sounds.
However, it’s important to remember that managing people, regardless of the field, is not too different from managing processes or organizing materials. When you know what to expect, these skills will better equip you to transition into management and make you more likely to succeed.
Read on to learn more about some of the most common fundamental skills you can use when exploring a management role in engineering. These skills can help you thrive and serve as the foundation for building your management style and career path.
In this article
What is engineering management?
Engineering management is the application of engineering principles to the planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of resources to achieve specific objectives. It is a relatively new field that emerged due to the increasing complexity of engineering projects.
This field combines mathematics and science with organizational and managerial skills. To succeed in this role, you need an understanding of scientific concepts and business practices.
Most entry-level positions in this field require a bachelor’s degree in either engineering or related fields such as economics, industrial management, and mechanical engineering.
There are some exceptions to this rule, but most companies prefer candidates who have at least completed college and have experience managing people.
Once you are established in your new job, you can enrol in a master’s in engineering management online course. This way, you can further your education without taking time away from work.
Online courses offer flexibility to stay on top of your work and study on your schedule. Some topics you may study include:
- Applied decision-making
- Project management
- Financial risk analysis
- Computer software applications in engineering management
- Statistical process control
Why should I study engineering management?
A career in engineering management combines the technical knowledge of engineering with the managerial skills necessary to lead a team. As an engineer with management training, you can apply your skillset to various industries, including construction, manufacturing, and information technology.
Additionally, you will gain valuable experience working with other engineers and project managers to complete complex projects on time and within budget.
In today’s competitive job market, it’s crucial to differentiate yourself from the competition with practical skills and relevant credentials. By studying engineering management, you can develop the skills you need to be successful in this field.
Six steps to becoming a great engineering manager
Being an engineering manager is a wonderful way to take your technical background and make it relevant in the business world.
To become a great engineering manager, you should always focus on helping other employees grow professionally by developing their skills and improving their performance. Here are six steps that you should take to become a great engineering manager and help make your team more efficient and successful.
Set reasonable deadlines
One of the most important things you can do as an engineering manager is to set reasonable deadlines. Consider the time it will take to complete the project and predict any unforeseen delays.
By setting realistic deadlines, you can avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your team and help ensure that employees complete projects on time.
Learn from your mistakes
In a work environment, mistakes are inevitable. The employee or the manager can make mistakes; therefore, learning from your mistakes is so important.
As an engineering manager, you should always ask yourself what you could have done differently. If you make a mistake with one of your team members, talk about it openly and tell them how you will fix it in the future.
See the bigger picture
As an engineering manager, you need to be able to see the big picture and make decisions that will help the whole company, not just your team.
To do this, you need to understand the company’s business goals and align your team’s work with those goals.
Micromanagement refers to any situation where the manager tells employees what to do and how to do it, rather than setting goals and providing feedback. When you micromanage, you stifle creativity and innovation, and your team will start to resent you.
Instead, trust your team to do their jobs and give them the freedom to be creative. They will have more ownership over their work which means they will be more invested in it.
Prioritize and delegate tasks efficiently
As an engineering manager, it’s crucial to prioritize and delegate tasks efficiently. Doing so means identifying tasks and then assigning them accordingly.
It can be helpful to create a system or process to ensure that all tasks receive the appropriate attention. If possible, try to avoid multitasking and focus on one task at a time to complete it effectively.
Take ownership and accountability
Taking ownership and accountability means you will be responsible for your team’s performance. You should ensure you utilize your employees efficiently to achieve their potential.
Encourage them by providing honest feedback, praising them when they do well, and encouraging them when they are not meeting expectations.
Top eight engineering management skills to succeed
When pursuing a career in engineering management, it can be easy to lose track of the most critical skills to succeed in this field. While these roles entail involvement in engineering and testing new products, there’s far more that goes into being a successful engineering manager.
Learn about the crucial skills that make up good management experience in engineering.
When you are a manager, people need to be able to understand your vision. It means articulating your vision and goals clearly, as well as giving instructions and feedback in a way that is easily understood.
Effective communication skills will help you gain buy-in from your team and build trust. It also involves active listening so that you can understand the needs and concerns of your team.
You need to be patient and encouraging rather than defensive or aggressive when there are disagreements.
Creativity and innovation
In engineering, it is vital to take a creative approach to problem-solving. Whether tackling product design issues or process improvements, you must use your creativity to find solutions.
The best engineers are also innovative thinkers who can develop new ideas for engineering projects and improve old ones. For instance, some of the most successful engineering teams have a Design Thinking philosophy that encourages experimentation and creativity.
Engineering managers often work on complex problems that require the invention of novel approaches and solutions. Skilled engineers usually excel at this skill, so if you want to succeed as an engineer manager, cultivate these skills.
Building trust with teams
Building a trusting relationship with your team in an organization is essential. There are two ways to do this: create a shared purpose that can bind the team together and earn trust by being open and honest about yourself and your role in the company.
You can do each by encouraging team feedback, not fearing tough conversations, and understanding their thoughts.
As an engineering manager, you may work closely with teams on technical and business project aspects. It is essential to build relationships that foster teamwork and effective collaboration.
You can develop these skills and more by leveraging your network. Consider different management styles and figure out which works best for you.
Strategic thinking is critical to the success of any engineer. If you cannot formulate a sound plan and execute it, you will find yourself lost in a sea of projects with no end.
There are plenty of skills that contribute to this type of thinking. Some of the most important include identifying an opportunity and developing an action plan to capitalize on it. Additionally, determining when your company is at risk, what steps your team should take to address the problem, and being able to see things from multiple perspectives.
These abilities will come in handy if you want to climb the corporate ladder or take on new challenges within engineering.
Attention to detail
As an engineering manager, you will ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. This means paying attention to the details to catch potential problems early on.
For example, a team leader might notice a few workers completing tasks slowly when they are supposed to be moving quickly. If left unchecked, this issue could lead to production delays down the line, so it is vital to address this immediately.
Another common way detail-oriented managers handle issues is by looking at a project’s schedule ahead of time. Consequently, they figure out which parts can be accelerated or decelerated so you can still meet deadlines.
It is also essential to ensure that all communications with outside parties about your business are accurate and timely. Correspondent errors can often ripple effect, causing costly consequences down the road.
In the modern world, data is becoming increasingly voluminous. It is crucial to analyze this data and find functional patterns in it.
Data modelling is essential for anyone in engineering management who wants to succeed in this field. Using models from data will help you make better decisions about your business.
It will allow you to spot trends before they happen so that you can plan and take advantage of them. By analyzing the available data, you will develop a complete picture of what is going on in your company. You will also learn how to use this data strategically to make better decisions. Additionally, you may be qualified for a higher leadership position if you have good data modelling skills.
Data modelling is one of the most sought-after skills in engineering management because it lets people see the big picture and figure out how their department fits into that big picture.
A management position in engineering will always have a lot of pressure. For example, an engineer might need to ensure deadlines are met or find a solution for a new problem as soon as possible.
In these situations, the engineer must stay focused and work through the issue with care and precision. These skills can influence the quality of work done by their team.
However, when there is too much pressure, this can lead to less efficient work due to higher stress levels. It is crucial for engineers in leadership positions to recognize when there is too much on their plate and take steps toward lightening the load.
One way they can do this is by delegating tasks to members of their team who they trust will get the job done well. Finding ways to balance hard and soft skill sets, such as analyzing your environment and making difficult decisions, helps provide a stable base in high-pressure moments.
Structural analysis refers to analyzing structures, like buildings or bridges, to determine their strengths and weaknesses. The ability to do this is one of the most critical skills that engineering managers should possess.
It helps them understand which aspects of their design are more likely to fail during construction or operation. To be a practical engineer manager, you also need experience building prototypes and performing experiments.
These prototypes evaluate various design elements before going into production or construction. As an engineering manager, you will ensure the structural integrity of your team’s projects. Structural integrity includes being able to identify potential problems and developing solutions to mitigate those risks. A strong understanding of structural analysis will help you in this role.
To be a successful engineering manager, you need a combination of soft skills, people skills, and technical knowledge. If you lack in any of these areas, it may be best to start at the bottom and work your way up. Understanding all three components will give you the foundations for success in this position.