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How to Be a Good Engineering Manager

by Auston Matta, studioD

Working as an engineer is a challenging job. A manager in engineering, however, faces not only technical challenges, but must learn to deal with the added pressure of requests from various departments and all of the personnel issues that come with running a business. Effective management skills are not something that you develop overnight, and it takes training and experience to really master effective management skills in engineering. You’ll need to rely on your team to take on the technical work while you represent them to the rest of your business. If you can handle the added responsibility in engineering management, you should expect a salary between $79,000 and $186,000 per year.

Skills Required

Good decision making skills are needed because managers face difficult decisions everyday and they must decide how to prioritize projects and balance their employee’s needs and schedules . You must assign projects to your engineers and decide how to prioritize their work. You must meet with your team to discuss technical issues and make recommendations on testing methods or troubleshooting based on your experience. You must evaluate and decide on business purchases including CAD software, testing equipment or technical services.

Interpersonal skills are important for a manager because you must balance relationships with different groups of people. Interpersonal skills are more than just communication skills. You must learn how to actively listen and resolve conflicts. Your employees will need constant support and you must learn to deal with varying personalities. In engineering management, you’ll work closely with managers from other departments, such as sales, marketing and operations. You’ll often have to persuade others to understand your point of view. You must also learn how to effectively communicate technical topics to a non-technical audience since most of your colleagues in other departments will not have this background.

Negotiation skills will help you maintain a good work balance. In a engineering management role, you’ll be pulled from many directions and will be overloaded with work. Your best approach to balancing the load is to negotiate timing and work approach. You may be asked to work on a certain project or provide results in a specific way or specific time. If you feel the request can be completed more efficiently, you can negotiate and persuade your boss or colleagues to accept an alternative approach. You are the expert in engineering, so it’s good to listen to recommendations, but it is best if you can propose a more effective approach that makes the most sense from a technical perspective.

Items you will need
  •  Management training is useful for both new and existing managers. As a new manager, you’ll learn skills and strategies that you never needed to use in the past. In a management role, you’re responsible for an entire team and must meet the demands of your own employees, your colleagues and your boss. Even if you already are a manager, a training course can refresh your skills and challenge you to try new things. Your company may even pay for you to take a training course. Harvard Business Publishing offers an online management course called “Stepping Up to Management” that can be completed within just two months.

About the Author

Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."

Photo Credits

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