If you’ve enjoyed a successful career as an engineer so far, and want to take on more responsibility, you may have considered moving up the ranks into engineering management. Engineering managers are essential for overseeing projects, managing teams, and ensuring that the project runs smoothly. In order to succeed as an engineering manager, you must develop a range of skills that involves not only working on your technical skills and abilities but also developing a range of important soft skills that will work in your favor to help you do the job well. A good engineering manager is not only a good engineer but also somebody who is adept at working with, managing, and inspiring people to work to the best of their abilities. If you’d like to enjoy a successful career in engineering management, these are some of the main skills to work on developing to improve your chances of being promoted or hired.
The ability to lead and inspire a team to accomplish their goals is one of the most important skills for an engineering manager to possess. Managers need to have a clear vision of what the end results of their projects should look like. This clear sense of purpose and direction allows the best engineering managers to evoke strong confidence in their team and motivate them to keep moving forward in the right direction toward success. Engineering managers should not just be the boss who spends all their time in the office telling people what to do, but they should rather be the type of manager who takes a hands-on approach to their duties and gets stuck in to lead their team by example. When teams are led by a manager who is hard-working, disciplined, and dedicated with a positive, can-do attitude, they will be motivated to follow suit.
Critical Thinking and Decision Making
The need to make the right decisions and judgment calls are likely something that you are not completely unfamiliar with as an engineer. The job of an engineer is often filled with the need to make the right decision and choose the ethical path towards any work that you are completing. As you move up the ranks into an engineering management position, the need to make the right decisions at the right time becomes even stronger. Engineering managers tend to be the individuals that teams look to for guidance, answers, and quick decisions. A good manager approaches any decision from a number of perspectives using not only their instincts but also their past experience, logic, and data where available. A key quality of a good engineering manager is the ability to remain flexible and adaptable when making decisions, with a strong understanding of the fact that different situations tend to require different and unique choices. Managers who are able to confidently and quickly choose the right route to take tend to be the ones who inspire the most commitment from their teams.
A Sense of Responsibility
Since engineering managers are the ones tasked with making the decisions, they are also held responsible for the results. And when the results are successful, it’s often a pleasure to take on this responsibility and celebrate in a positive outcome with your team. On the other hand, there may be situations that you encounter in this career position where mistakes have been made and it becomes clear that certain decisions were not the right ones to make. As an engineering manager, you need to be prepared to take responsibility for your decisions and actions, not only when things go well but also when things don’t quite turn out as expected. The best engineering managers are ready and willing to hold their hands up when things go wrong, be honest about their mistakes, and use them as learning curves that help them make better and more informed decisions for the future. This type of personal responsibility and humility is something that goes a long way in management but particularly in engineering management where professionals are often held to higher standards of honesty and integrity due to the impact that engineering work has on the wider world around them.
Strong Communication Skills
As is the case with most management positions, engineering managers need to be skilled communicators in order to succeed. An engineering manager not only leads a team of people that they should be able to effectively listen to and get their ideas across to clearly, but they will also interact with a variety of individuals with various levels of knowledge and expertise at any point in their career. Engineers tend to deal with complex problems and concepts, which is why it’s so crucial that engineering managers are able to come up with clear, concise ways of communicating with clients, technicians, and others from various backgrounds who may not have the technical skills of the engineering manager.
Being able to put complex ideas and concepts into simple terms so that they are easy for a layman to understand is something that an engineering manager needs to become very skilled at. And, an engineering manager should have good social skills. They should be knowledgeable about and skilled with, both verbal and nonverbal communication, along with active listening skills which will allow them to better communicate and build better relationships with their team. Overall, good communication skills allow the engineering manager to conduct better interviews and hire the right people, build stronger working relationships with team members and other management colleagues, and keep morale and satisfaction high in the workplace.
Another key aspect of engineering management and leadership is the ability to delegate various responsibilities and duties throughout the team. While all good engineering managers know that it’s important for them to get involved and stuck into the project with their team, they should also be able to take a step back so that they can view the bigger picture. Attempting to take on too much of the work by themselves can often be counterintuitive to this and it runs the risk of the manager becoming overwhelmed and burned out, which can lead a project to failure.
As a manager in engineering, your good teamwork and collaboration skills will help you go far when it comes to successful delegation. This task involves not only assigning duties to various team members but also being aware of the best employees for any given job. In some cases, it might be important to select a team member with the strongest knowledge of the task at hand to ensure that it’s done correctly, while at other times, delegation may come in the form of a learning experience for the employee and a task is assigned to them to help them gain more experience in a certain aspect of the project. Either way, while you are required to assign duties to employees, you will be in charge of overseeing the results and should be ready to answer questions and provide support wherever needed throughout the process. Click here to find out more about what you can expect from a career in engineering management.
Strong Attention to Detail
As you are probably well aware of after working for some time as an engineer, this is a very complex field that deals with a wide range of technical, analytical, scientific, and mathematical problems. It is important for the engineering manager to be somebody who is very detail-oriented and doesn’t miss a beat in all the various aspects of work. In engineering projects, even the smallest mistakes could lead to huge and disruptive problems, and part of the job of the engineering manager involves understanding all aspects of the projects right down to the finer details, allowing them to effectively check the accuracy and quality of their team’s work as the project runs, spotting any potential mistakes quickly, and dealing with them promptly. If an engineering manager fails to do this, they will struggle to lead the project and make the right decisions at the right time. To lead with consistency and strength while getting the best results, an engineering manager should have a keen understanding of both the big picture and all the little details that go into it.
Honesty and Integrity
Ethical codes are quite strict in engineering as, after all, the work that engineers do has a great impact on the wider world around them. As an engineering manager, you need to be prepared to hold both yourself and others to high ethical standards, even if that looks like going against or calling out your employer themselves. It’s all too common for decisions from the top to involve cost-cutting measures that put ethics aside, and while all engineers are responsible for spotting anything that could potentially cause a risk to the public, it is often the engineering manager that this will first be reported to, and they are often responsible for taking it to their superiors. Engineering managers should always work with honesty, integrity, and ethics at the forefront of their minds; even if that leads to whistleblowing.
If you want to enjoy a successful career as an engineering manager, these are just some of the qualities that employers look for is somebody who is good at what they do.