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Engineering Management Career

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

#ENGINEERINGMANAGEMENT Formula for a successful career!!

With the technological challenges facing us on a global level on all fronts, there is a critical need for companies and organizations to integrate tech skills with business acumen to solve these difficult problems. Engineering experience with Management skills can fill this gap.

Through the natural career-path progression of engineering graduates, engineers pass through the phases of apprentice, professional, mentor, and finally the sponsor phase. During these phases, engineers face many difficulties when they assume management responsibilities within their organizations. Their undergraduate education seldom prepares them to deal with the challenges inherited in managing people. Due the intensive technical training they receive, they become accustomed to making decisions with much information under great certainty, while in the real-world; many decisions are often made with inadequate information and greater uncertainty. In addition, promotion to a management position removes the engineer from the close contact with the details he/she is accustomed to in their technical comfort-zone. In these management positions, engineers soon find out that the management function requires skills and personality traits that are much different from those which are learned in their undergraduate studies.

Engineering managers are best suited to manage either a technical function such as production and design or in a general management function such as marketing management in a technical organization. Performing both jobs requires the engineering manager to develop necessary core competencies which includes a balance of the technical skills with interpersonal and conceptual skills; mastering technical knowledge by itself is not enough to assure the engineering manager’s success. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, engineering managers need to manage the inside of the company as well as the outside, to lead from present to future, and to act locally and think globally.

Core competencies for engineering managers may be divided into four broad categories i.e. technical competencies, financial competencies, managerial competencies, and leadership competencies. Since the engineers are most qualified to work in and manage technical organizations at different levels, technical competencies are a must for engineering managers in order to properly communicate technical issues with customers inside and outside the organization. They must be able to develop organization systems that are efficient and effective as well as robust. Their function requires ability to assess risk and to use state-of-the-art decision making tools and system optimization techniques to efficiently utilize organization resources including information technology.

Being technically competent must be accompanied by competencies in the management function of planning which includes strategic, operational, as well as tactical planning. Competencies in other management functions such as organizing, staffing, and controlling are necessary in order for the engineering managers to be able to direct organizational resources, in a focused manner, to serve the mission and vision of the organization.

Developing financial competencies is no longer an option for engineering managers; they must not be concerned only if their designs “will work”, they must assure that designs will exceed the needs and expectations of their customers and also “make money” for the organization. This requires understanding of the fundamentals of financial accounting and financial management. Performing economic analysis for projects and choosing between alternatives based on their economic variability and return on investments is a routine part of an engineering manager’s job.

By developing leadership competencies, engineering managers learn to do the “right things” rather than “doing things right”. Aspiring employees to act willingly and exert high levels of effort toward achieving organizational goals becomes a reality only as a result of effective motivation by their leaders. Engineering graduates must learn how to self develop other leadership traits such as integrity, self-discipline, commitment, and persistence and cultivate natural tendencies towards respecting and valuing others. When developing a well rounded knowledge in the all four categories of the core competencies, engineering managers will be at a better position to succeed at various levels of managerial positions in technical organizations.

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