The Business Savvy Engineer

27 Jan 2018 12:00 PM | Tricia Simo Kush (Administrator)

by TA Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, CPEM

Not so long ago, an engineer graduated from university and went to work for a company.  He would work on various projects and programs, learning a few new skills as he advanced from junior engineer to senior engineer, and eventually to department and section manager.  As his career closed at age 55, the company rewarded the engineering manager with a gold watch and he moved onto his retirement, satisfied with his many contributions to the company he served for life.

Today, an engineer is expected to change jobs as many as ten or twelve times in their careers.  She will need to continually update her skills to remain relevant and competitive in the workforce.  Engineers will swap between technical and managerial roles at various firms and in entrepreneurial roles before working part-time well past an average retirement age of 62.  No longer can she depend on one company and one technical track to succeed.  In today’s world, an engineer must be business savvy.

The Business of Engineering

Engineering managers are successful when they speak the language of business.  Engineering managers bridge the growing gap between technology specialists and financial decision-makers. Moreover, engineering managers are in growing demand as global competition heats up and technology advances at an ever-rapid rate.  In some regions of the world, like the United States, there is a growing skills gap between practicing engineers and managers just entering the workforce from university.

So, just what is the business of engineering and how does an engineering manager differentiate herself from many qualified competitors?  Over the next several months, we will be sharing a series of posts based on A Guide to the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) published by the American Society of Engineering Managers (ASEM).  The EMBOK guide condenses the skills required for a practicing technical engineer to successfully transition into an engineering management role.  Further, the EMBOK forms the basis for the Certified Professional Engineering Manager (CPEM) exam, a credential that demonstrates education, experience, and knowledge in the field of engineering management.

Engineering Management Domains

There are eleven (11) domains in the EMBOK; an understanding of each is necessary for an engineering manager to be business savvy in his or her career endeavors.  These domains are as follows:

  •          Domain 1 – Introduction to Engineering Management
  •          Domain 2 – Leadership and Organizational Management
  •          Domain 3 – Strategic Planning
  •          Domain 4 – Financial Resource Management
  •          Domain 5 – Project Management
  •          Domain 6 – Operations and Supply Management
  •          Domain 7 – Marketing and Sales Management in Engineering Organizations
  •          Domain 8 – Management of Technology, Research, and Development
  •          Domain 9 – Systems Engineering
  •          Domain 10 – Legal Issues in Engineering Management
  •          Domain 11 – Professional Codes of Conduct and Ethics

Domain 1, the Introduction to Engineering Management, lays out the overarching organizational structure and roles of a manager.  Strategic issues of engineering managers are addressed in Domains 2 through 4, while tactical engineering management is discussed in Domains 5 through 10.  Ethics (Domain 11) support all the activities of engineers and engineering managers.

Candidates for the CPEM exam should expect 200 questions covering these 11 domains.  These domains are also the focus of the International Conference.  More information about the CPEM exam can be found here and information on the conference can be found here.

Becoming a Business Savvy Engineer

Successful engineering managers master skills in leading people, organizing resources, and directing work.  Limited financial resources must be managed within the constraints of the organization to actively support strategic goals and objectives.  Tools and techniques that broaden technology development, enhance market segments, and improve logistics are necessary to build a sustainable operation or product portfolio.  All these business skills supplement and complement the basic engineering education we review so that we can become effective and productive managers, grow a business, and drive intriguing careers.

Next month, look for the next post in this series as we begin an in-depth discussion of Domain 1 from the EMBOK – What is an Engineering Manager?  In the meantime, if you aren’t already registered with ASEM, you can learn more here.

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