The world of work today values soft skills massively, and these various transferable skills can often be the difference between landing the career that you want and getting left behind. If you are an engineer and want to move up into an engineering management position or other higher-level position, working on building your soft skills can often be the best way to help you meet your career goals. In the world of engineering management, there are several soft skills that will usually be required to succeed in your career. As an engineer you have the required training and have perhaps built up some experience, but are your soft skills preventing you from taking your career in the right direction? If you want to get into engineering management, here are some of the main skills that employers will be looking for.
What Does an Engineering Manager Do?
Engineering management is a career path that is rapidly growing. Today there are several pathways on offer for those who are interested in getting into a management position within any engineering field including programs such as this Masters in Engineering Management online from uOttawa. These programs are comprehensive and dedicated to preparing professional engineers for a management position in order to meet the growing demand. Engineering management is a broad area that applies to every different engineering field. There are also various fields within engineering management that students can decide to specialise in, such as business statistics, engineering statistics, decision engineering, operations management, engineering mathematics, management science and more.
How to Become an Engineering Manager
To work as an engineering manager, you will usually need to have some engineering and management experience along with having completed a degree in your chosen field of engineering. In some cases, employers may also require you to have a management-focused master’s degree, such as master’s in engineering management to work in this role. Many engineers who want to get into management may also consider getting an MBA to prepare for the role as this degree can be combined with engineering management and experience.
Skills You Need to Be an Engineering Manager
Whether you are currently working as an engineer or are considering this career for the future, these are some of the most important soft skills that you will need to develop in order to get into this role:
In this role, engineering managers must be able to clearly get their point across in a way that is easy to understand. The ability to communicate instructions and ideas clearly to a team is important in order to avoid disastrous consequences for a product, so working on your communication skills is one of the most important skills. Along with being able to get a point across clearly, nonverbal communication skills are also important in any management career; understanding things such as how the body language that you use impacts the message that you are conveying. Active listening skills are also a hugely important part of communication that engineering managers will often use and developing your active listening skills further will allow you to improve your communications with your team.
Working on your leadership skills will help you become a better candidate for an engineering management position. In engineering management, professionals will often be leading teams of people daily, and becoming a leader that is able to inspire others to work to the best of their abilities will help you become more valuable to employers. Being a good leader involves more than simply giving instructions; the best leaders know just how important it is to improve several of their soft skills including verbal and nonverbal communication skills, empathy, flexibility, and many more.
Flexibility is highly sought after in the world of engineering management, and the ability to quickly adapt to changes in the workplace is a desirable skill in all industries. However, it is particularly important in engineering, where projects may be changed at the last moment during the process. Engineers are often used to working with exact information, and in this job, there isn’t a lot of room for gray areas. On the other hand, engineers who move into an engineering management role will usually find themselves working with people on a regular basis, which often comes with more uncertainty. Engineering managers are responsible for managing a range of situations such as covering team members when they are sick or on vacation, which often requires more flexibility and adaptability compared to working as an engineer.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Good engineering managers are not only effective team leaders, but also effective team players. They know that there is much more involved in their position than simply telling team members what needs to be done. The best engineering management professionals spend time improving their teamwork and collaboration abilities and getting stuck into working on projects with others. They understand that in order to become a more effective and respected leader, they need to work alongside their team as well as providing guidance and inspiration to get the best results. If you want to succeed in the future as an engineering manager, it’s important to spend time becoming a better collaborator and to understand the importance of teamwork in this role.
This skill may not be something that many engineers will have had to focus on a lot so far in their careers, as emotions and feelings are unlikely something that you will need to worry about when you spend your time working with machinery, tools, and technology. However, engineers who decide to move up the ranks into an engineering management position will often find themselves working alongside people, and emotional intelligence is required in order for them to do this effectively. Engineering management can be a huge change from engineering since you will be required to manage and lead people. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise and understand both your own emotions and those of other people. Somebody with a high level of emotional intelligence can use this awareness to not only manage their own behavior, reactions, and relationships, but also empathise with and better understand the people that they work with. As a result, you can enjoy better relationships with people in the workplace and earn more respect from the teams that you work with. Emotional intelligence will not only help you improve relationships at work, but also in your personal life.
The ability to solve problems in a quick and efficient way is a major part of an engineer’s role and often even more important when engineers move up into a management role. The ability to effectively solve problems will usually involve a lot of critical thinking skills. Many engineering managers are also highly creative people who have the ability to effectively prioritise their tasks and make the right decisions at the right times. While you work in an engineering management role, you will need to solve both engineering and management-related problems which require a wide range of skills.
Big Picture Thinking
For professionals who have a background in engineering, they are often trained to focus heavily on the project at hand. However, this will often have to change when an engineer moves into a management position since they will need to adapt their way of thinking in order to be able to see the bigger picture at any given time. This means looking further than the issues that you are dealing with or the project that you are working on at the moment and being able to see how the solutions you come up with and the decisions that you make are going to impact the company overall both in the short-term and long-term. Typically, engineering managers who have mastered the ability of big picture thinking tend to be the most valuable to the business.
Engineering managers will have to quickly adapt to working with more people compared to what they were used to in an engineering role, which means mastering the art of good delegation. While there are going to be times where you can solve problems more effectively by doing it on your own, there are also going to be lots of situations where you will be required to delegate tasks to the right people. Nobody in engineering is going to be able to successfully do everything on their own, which is why it’s so important for managers to develop a strong ability to not only delegate the right responsibilities and tasks to other team members, but also find the right people to delegate to.
This can often involve more work than you might expect, including getting to know each of your team members on a more individual level and familiarising yourself with their strengths and weaknesses to make it easier to choose who you will delegate certain tasks to in future. It’s also crucial for engineering managers to get to know how knowledgeable and skilled certain team members are when it comes to certain tasks as this allows you to get a better idea of how much support or supervision they may need when working on a delegated task.
Desire to Learn
When working as an engineering manager, it’s important to be ready to learn new things and be open to feedback from anybody that you work with. Chances are that you are going to get both positive and negative feedback either from your team or from other members of the management and being open to any feedback that you get will help you get further in your career. A strong leader will often stand out for their ability to be able to receive constructive criticism, take it on board and make the necessary changes in a positive way.
To improve your career as an engineering manager, it’s a good idea to work on being more receptive to getting feedback from anybody who works with you, whether they are at a higher or lower level to yourself in the workforce. Professionals who struggle with getting feedback are often holding themselves back from professional development and growth. The more feedback you get from others when it comes to your job, the more information you will have available to you to use for improving your performance and becoming better at what you do, even if the feedback is not always what you wanted to hear.
Attention to Detail
If you are already working as an engineer, you will know that this is a very complex field that can deal with a wide range of analytical, technical, scientific, and mathematical issues. It’s important for engineering managers to be very detail oriented. Employers will often look for somebody who picks up on the smaller details that others will usually overlook, as well as someone who does not miss a beat when it comes to the various aspects of their role. This trait is hugely important for engineering managers since in engineering projects, the smallest of mistakes could cause huge problems.
Finally, decision making skills are key to the success of any engineering manager. This skill will be useful at any time when you are putting all the other soft and transferable skills required of engineering managers into action. Unlike many other roles within engineering where you may be provided with clear instructions for the work that needs to be done, management positions within this industry will often require you to make more decisions and judgement calls. Along with being able to make the right decisions quickly and confidently, it is important for engineering managers to be able to see the impact that the decisions they make has on their team and the organisation as a whole. In this role you will be responsible for assessing situations that may not always have clear answers to them, such as when to extend deadlines, when to make budget cuts and which tasks to delegate and to whom.
Engineering management is a rapidly growing career field with lots of opportunities. Whether you are already working as an engineer or hope to get into this field in the future, working on improving these soft skills will help you boost your chance of landing a management position.