You might be surprised to hear that more than thirty percent of CEOs didn’t get their undergraduate degree in business. In fact, they have an educational background in engineering. At first, engineering and business might seem to be worlds apart, but when you look at the two in closer detail, the various ways that these two fields actually overlap becomes clearer.
Engineers and business leaders have a lot more in common than you might initially realize. Both these professionals need to be creative with a keen eye for detail, both are working towards creating something that is efficient and useful, and they are both often concerned with finding new solutions and making the impossible happen. Although the day-to-day jobs of engineers and business leaders look very different to one another, the skills and knowledge that engineers gain from their training and getting on-the-job experience can translate very easily to a career in business. Some of the main reasons why engineers often make excellent managers and business leaders include:
Problem Solving, Planning, and Time Management
Students of engineering will often be required to complete different projects throughout the program to prepare them for an engineering career in the real world. These projects are designed to help them develop skills for finding efficient, effective, and innovative solutions to problems. Throughout college, engineering students must adhere to deadlines and take an organized, well-structured approach to their work in order to find a solution. Students who do well in these projects can often take their skills over to the business world, where they can be applied in many different situations and roles.
Attention to Detail
Engineers often become good managers and business leaders since, after all, it is their job to notice the finer details that others might not pick up on – something that can help you get far in a business career. Since there are often large sums of money at stake in the business world, employers are always looking to hire candidates with the type of attention to detail that engineers have since they can keep track of and notice the smaller details without losing sight of the bigger picture. If you are currently working as an engineer and are considering pivoting your career into business or management, you can further develop your transferable skills and pick up managerial skills with a masters in engineering management from uOttawa University online.
Data Processing and Numeracy Skills
Math is a subject that is very closely linked to engineering, and most engineers are required to have strong mathematical and technical skills. While working in business doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be a math genius, the strong math and numeracy skills that most engineers possess will put them at an advantage in the world of business. In business, there are many areas where managers and leaders can benefit from having strong numeracy skills including coming up with financial forecasts, negotiating deals, writing business plans, and more.
Computer and Technical Skills
To work as a modern engineer, it’s impossible to not have IT and computer skills. Along with the high levels of technical knowledge that engineers possess, this can help you get further in a business career since all businesses today need to be sure that they keep up with modern technological advancements in order to succeed. For an engineer who is also working in a quickly evolving industry and is tasked with keeping their knowledge and skills up to date, a transition to a business career and keeping the business technology current should be a smooth one. Engineers are also often on the cutting edge of the latest technologies that impact businesses today, which can give them a further advantage when working in a business management or leadership role.
Communication and Teamwork
To be successful as a business leader, it’s important to first be a team player and have excellent communication skills – something that engineers will also often have to develop. Some engineering sectors such as mechanical engineering, for example, will often overlap with other engineering fields including aeronautical and civil engineering, meaning that engineers need to be able to work together as part of a varied team and be able to clearly communicate instructions and ideas to others who may not have the same knowledge, training, or experience as them. In the business world, these are skills that can be applied in many different situations, particularly in engineering management positions where the manager will often be tasked with explaining complex ideas in layman’s terms.
Why Engineers Get Into Business
The fact that engineers have so many important transferable skills often means that moving into a business career is a smooth transition for them, and is a key reason why more engineers are shifting their career focus to management and leadership instead. Many engineers are also interested in running their own business or moving up the ranks in the engineering firm that they work for, stepping away from technical roles and into roles that involve more of the business aspects. In comparison with an engineering role, business leadership roles also tend to be more appealing in terms of salaries, working conditions, working hours, and more.
Getting into Business Management for Engineers
If you have been working in an engineering role for some time and are interested in changing your career to focus more on running the business rather than technical work, there are several ways that you can do this. Most of the time, engineers will need to build on their current qualifications, knowledge, and skills in order to be a suitable candidate for these types of roles. Engineers may want to consider engineering management programs or general management programs, including MBA degree options to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in a business leadership position.
Making the Transition from Engineer to Manager
In most cases, engineers find that the most natural step up in their career is to work as a project manager on various engineering projects. All engineering projects will usually require somebody to oversee and manage the project and the team, communicate with key stakeholders and make sure that the project is running smoothly, within budget, and completed on time.
Engineering project managers play a very important role in any engineering project. They are responsible for the planning, oversight, and completion of the project along with overseeing and delegating team members. They need to have good time management and organizational skills to work out and stick to the schedule, and good financial literacy to ensure that the project stays on budget. Project managers who have previous engineering experience tend to be well-suited for this role since they need to have good problem-solving skills and are responsible for process development. Other responsibilities include carrying out risk assessments and developing contingency plans to make sure that any potential problems can be solved quickly without interrupting the project schedule, causing delays, or unnecessary expenses.
Skills Needed to Succeed as an Engineering Project Manager
One of the main reasons why engineers will often take their career to the next level by working as a project manager is that they have already developed many of the skills that are needed to succeed in this role. Project management is not an easy task, and it requires excellent leadership skills, analytical skills, attention to detail, communication skills, and many more in order to be done successfully. If you are considering working as an engineering project manager in the future, some of the main skills that you will need to focus on developing include:
To ensure that projects are completed successfully and to schedule, it’s important for engineering project managers to have strong leadership skills. Employers are looking for engineering managers who have a demonstrable ability to work collaboratively with a range of different professionals. Good leadership skills involve being open-minded and willing to get to know the members of your team as individuals, not only to build relationships with them but also for the benefit of the project since this will help you determine which team members are best tasked with different parts of the project. Good leaders motivate their team to succeed by inspiring them and setting the best example.
Resource and Time Management
An engineering project manager will be mainly responsible for overseeing the project and making sure that it is successfully completed within the agreed-upon timeframe. Because of this, it is important for engineering project managers to develop excellent resource and time management skills that they can put to use when overseeing projects and effectively planning them from start to finish.
As an engineering project manager, you will be spending your working day communicating with a wide range of different people. Along with communicating with your team that might involve a wide range of engineers who are trained in different disciplines along with other non-engineering professionals, you will need to be able to communicate effectively with different departments and teams within the business who may not have any engineering experience or knowledge, along with stakeholders, clients, and more. Clear communication is a vital skill for engineering project managers to have as they will often find themselves in a situation where they are required to simplify very complex ideas and concepts in order to ensure that they are understood by everybody. Active listening skills are also a key aspect of good communication in an engineering management role, which the manager will use when communicating with clients, stakeholders, their team, different departments, and more.
The ability to be flexible is a key skill for engineering project managers, who must understand that things are not always going to go as planned. An engineering project manager who is able to quickly adapt to change when necessary will usually be successful at keeping his or her projects on track and getting the desired results in the set timeframe. Project managers in engineering need to be professionals who see change as an opportunity, as being resistant to change is only going to hold them back in situations where unexpected changes might need to be made quickly.
Why Switch Your Engineering Career to Project Management?
Most of the time, engineers will work closely with project managers, so it’s not surprising that engineers who are interested in a business career will often start by becoming an engineering project manager. The increased salary might not be the only reason to switch from engineering to management, with project managers earning a much higher average salary compared to engineers. Along with this, getting the education, skills, and experience as an engineering project manager will also lead to a wider range of career opportunities with more choices, which is ideal for engineers who want something new. When you have the required management skills and experience as a project manager, along with your engineering background, this not only positions you for high-level engineering career, but it also opens up opportunities in many different business industries for management roles.
Who is a Good Fit for Engineering Project Management?
Some engineers are always going to be a better fit for working as a project manager than others. Bear in mind that even if you have excellent technical skills as an engineer, this doesn’t always translate to being suited for a management role, or that a management role will be suitable for you. If you’re not interested in a leadership role and prefer the technical side of your work over working with other people, then you may be a better fit for senior technical roles instead. On the other hand, if you thrive when working as part of a team, enjoy overseeing projects and taking on more responsibility, are interested in the business side of engineering and want to focus on that more than technical work, switching your career from engineering to project management could be a wise move.
While engineering and business might not be that similar at first glance, lots of engineers end up working in business due to the excellent transferable skills that they develop.