Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Soft Side of Change Management (20-slide PowerPoint presentation). This document contains 6 frame Change Management frameworks that deal with the "soft" side of managing effective organizational change: 1. Dimensions of Change 2. Emotional Cycle of Change 3. Ingredients of Change 4. Level of Commitment 5. Phases of Team Building 6. Trust Formula
11 Key Skills of Engineering Managers
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When it comes to engineering, there is no one clear pathway. Instead, there are multiple fields you could go into, including civil engineering, computer engineering, and environmental engineering. While they are each vastly different careers, they still require many of the same skills for a thriving career – here are eleven of them.
As a manager, excellent communication skills are a must. When leading a group of people, your voice is extremely important, so you must speak with clarity and confidence to get each point across succinctly. Without that ability, you would struggle to guide and inspire a team of engineers.
Communication involves listening too, which is just as (if not more) important than the ability to articulate yourself clearly. After all, your workers are all there for a reason, and they all contribute something important to the team, so you must listen to every person’s point of view as well as any problems that may arise.
2: The Ability to Learn
Engineering managers have a lot to learn, which means you must be able to take in bundles of information quickly. It is not just the basic management skills you will need to know, either – data analytics for engineers is also essential for understanding big data, business intelligence, data analytics, and performance management. Fortunately, there are online courses like uOttawa’s to help you there.
From the moment you begin your bachelor’s degree to the day you retire, you will be learning something new, whether that is how to be more empathetic as a leader or how to solve a new software problem. You will gain lessons from a variety of sources, too, from the traditional classroom to the engineering mentor that inspires you to work harder.
Engineering is more creative than many people assume. So, as an engineer manager you must bring creativity and innovation to every workday. While your team will have their own ideas to contribute, it is important that you also bring forward solutions to the problems at hand.
4: Technical Abilities
Engineering managers do not only need the skills required to be an excellent manager; they also need the skills necessary to thrive as an engineer. For this reason, the best engineering managers are usually those who have extensive experience in the field before advancing.
No matter how excellent your management skills are, you will not thrive as an engineer manager if you do not know the first thing about engineering. Engineers want and respect a manager who understands the technical details of their day-to-day jobs. It will make problem-solving, delegation, and innovation a lot easier.
5: Problem Solving
Engineers must use their problem solving skills all the time, whether that is figuring out how to code the perfect app or how to build a bridge that does not fall down. As a manager, your problem-skills must be second-to-none in order to direct your workers properly.
It does not end there, though – you also have the task of managing and organizing your employees, which uses problem-solving skills on its own, especially when social problems arise. If there is a conflict of interest, for example, you will need to understand all sides so that you can figure out a solution.
Some careers allow for slack, but management, and especially engineering management, is not one of them. To ensure all deadlines are met and that the entire team meets their goals, you must be diligent. That does not necessarily mean being strict and overbearing; instead, it means to be a strong and focused leader. After all, as an engineering manager, you would be responsible for quality, milestones, and deadlines.
7: Decision Making
Many engineers use their detail-oriented minds to narrow their focus on one problem. As a manager, though, you need to look at each problem from a wider perspective in order to make the right decisions. It is not always easy, especially when the answer is not clear, but that is what it takes to be a leader.
Projects not going to plan is an inherent part of engineering. As a manager, you must see each knock-back as an opportunity to learn and do things better rather than an obstacle that cannot be moved. For this reason, flexibility is a must. If something is not going to plan, you must be open to trying out new methods that you had not previously considered, even if you have never tried them before. Engineering is an always-evolving industry, after all.
9: The Ability to Trust the Team
When someone is an expert in their field, it can be difficult to trust someone else to handle a problem. For engineering managers, though, that is part of the role. Rather than taking control of each section of a project (which would take far too long, anyway), you must trust your team to figure out the right solutions without interference. If someone needs their manager’s input, they are likely to say.
Even if engineering was once free of tech, that is not how things are anymore. New technology is being developed every day, so not only do you need to be comfortable with it; you must also be willing to learn how to use new tech in the workplace. For someone considering engineering, this should come naturally to you, but it is worth mentioning anyway.
11: Interpersonal Skills
The ability to communicate is one thing – the ability to connect with people on a personal level is another, and both are essential for engineering managers to thrive. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to improve your interpersonal skills, which include active listening, practicing empathy, and keeping your cool, even when there is a problem occurring. By being better with people, your team will trust you more, which means you will have a better time leading them to success.
Engineering is one of the best career fields out there. To become an engineering manager is a mighty goal, but with the right skillset alongside hard work and perseverance, you are sure to one day lead an engineering team to great accomplishments.
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About Shane AvronShane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.
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