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By Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA
(Blog #2 EMBOK series)
In this first installment in our series on the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBoK), we answer a fundamental question: what does an engineering manager do?
Management is easy to see but difficult to describe. Given how hard it can be to wrap your arms around what constitutes management, nailing down a definition becomes very important. Understanding what is involved in being an effective engineering manager is critical to executing and improving your work.
The EMBoK says that engineering management is the “art and science of planning, organizing, allocating resources, and directing and controlling activities that have a technological component.” (p. 3). In the rest of this post, I’ll dig into what all this means in a practical sense in order to help you apply it to your day-to-day work.
Planning is the act of determining an end state you wish to see realized and determining which steps need to be taken to get to there. There are three basic levels of planning in an organization: strategic, tactical, and operational. Engineering managers, depending on where they reside in a given organization, can play a critical role in any or all three levels of planning.
At the corporate level, the CEO and executive team craft a mission and vision for the organization. These are the foundational elements of strategic plans. These plans reflect the organization’s big picture and the long-term.
Strategic plans get translated to tactical plans at the business unit level, where the planning gets more concrete and focuses on a shorter time horizon. If a company were to have a strategic plan to differentiate themselves through their advanced technology, for example, a corresponding tactical plan might be for a business unit to increase it’s spending on research and development.
Finally, tactical plans are broken down into operational plans. Operational plans cover the day-to-day work that goes on in an organization. These are the plans that get down into the nitty-gritty of how work actually gets executed.
Organizing is the part of management that has to do with providing a structure and relationships for people in an organization. These structures make it easier for people to contextualize and execute their own work. Structures help people to see where they stand in the grand scheme of things and how they should relate and interact with others.
There are three basic organizational structures that engineering managers are likely to encounter in their organizations: functional, project-based, and matrix.
Functional organizations are the traditional hierarchical organizations that most companies used until recently. Each branch of the organization represented a particular function, like engineering, human resources, or manufacturing. Here, the functional manager is in charge of the work that goes on within their function.
Project-based organizations are grouped around the individual projects that the company is pursuing. Project teams are multi-functional and led by a project manager, who has autonomy over the project and its work. Project teams in an organization like this are a bit like mini-companies within the larger organization. When the project gets wrapped up, the team is disbanded.
In matrix organizations, employees report to both a project manager and to their functional manager, creating a hybrid of the other two organizational types. This allows for everyone to have a “home” in his or her function, and for each project to have a full cross-functional complement in order to execute work.
Allocating resources is exactly what you might expect – assigning people, capital, or equipment to a given task. Strong engineering managers are able to allocate resources in a way that gets the job done as effectively and efficiently as possible. This is often a fairly active part of an engineering manager’s work given the dynamic and uncertain nature of the technical work that many of us do.
Directing is composed of three related activities all geared towards helping staff get work done: motivating, supervising, and influencing. Anyone who has led a team before can tell you that simply asking the team to accomplish its goals won’t get the job done – teams need leadership in order to keep work going in the right direction. This is why leadership is so critical to engineering management. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” This is the essence of directing in an engineering management context.
Controlling is a fairly analytical component to management – one that many engineers, myself included, tend to gravitate towards. Controlling has to do with measuring performance against a pre-established baseline and taking corrective action where necessary. The real art in controlling is to decide which things to measure and when to take corrective action. With so much information available to most engineering managers, being able to cut through the fog of data to pay attention to what’s really important can be the difference between a good manager and a great one.
If you’re already an engineering manager, spend some time this week taking note of the activities I’ve mentioned above. Which ones tend to get emphasized for you? Which ones aren’t emphasized enough? If there is a significant imbalance, is that creating problems in your team or project? Try and make a conscious effort to redistribute your time and energy into the areas that may not be getting enough attention. There’s no doubt that the effort will yield positive results for both you and your team.
Next month, Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, CPEM will tackle Domain 2 in the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge, which covers leadership and organizational management. If you’d like to read the other posts in this series, click here. You can learn more about becoming a Certified Professional Engineering Manager here.
About Patrick Sweet
Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA is a recognized expert in engineering management and leadership with expertise in systems engineering, project management and product management. You can read more from Pat at the Engineering & Leadership blog.
By: Alice Squires, Washington State University, email: email@example.com, Alberto Sols, University College of South-East Norway, Erika Palmer, University of Bergen
Early Saturday morning on October 21st, the Empowering Women as Leaders in Systems Engineering (EWLSE) sponsored technical workshop Leading and Managing System and Specialty Engineers was delivered at the American Society of Engineering Management (ASEM) annual conference in sweet Huntsville, Alabama. The workshop, developed by Alberto Sols, Alice Squires, and Erika Palmer, addressed three major topics for technical managers of systems and specialty engineers: Part I) Technical Competency, Part II) Diversity and Team Building, and Part III) Processes and Policy.
Part I results included the identification of two common roles between systems and specialty engineers: systems thinker and effective communicator. Traits associated with the systems engineer role included leadership, adaptive learner, technical breadth, knowledge management, systematic, mindfulness, and patience. Traits associated with the specialty engineer included technical knowledge, analytical skills, teamwork, accuracy, and self confidence. Results for improving traits focused on intention and commitment as well as recognition of ignorance and the desire to improve.
Part II results included the recognition that diversity, discrimination, and expectations differ between countries, and that while age and gender are visible, mindset and values are invisible, and culture is in some ways visible and in other ways invisible. One participant raised the point “Do you want to sacrifice efficiency for effectiveness, when you communalize a model you eliminate diversity.” Pros and cons related to building diverse teams were discussed with pros including new and diversified ideas, varying experience, balance, and innovation and with cons focused on challenges with communication and what type of communication is best depending on individual preference and styles (direct versus subtle). The discussion about leveraging diversity in teams focused on the importance of openness and adaptability, matching people to what they are naturally good at while also giving them a stretch goal and providing higher opportunities for self-development, being knowledgeable of and avoiding micro-aggressions, and getting the best out of everyone, but also raised the question as to whether or not we were coming from a perspective of privilege focused on how we can leverage diversity to provide value to ‘us’. The team decided that positive goodwill, intention, authenticity, empathy, and respect from the heart were what was important and everything else (such as miswordings or potential biased actions) can be overlooked when these positive factors are clearly present. Some things we can do are ask people about needs and expectations, listen to the answers, show we care, be respectful, and, as always, lead by example.
For Part III the group reviewed a case study and developed a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) matrix with recommended actions for the systems and specialty manager for the case presented. These actions, applicable to most organizations, focused on generating awareness and building demand for systems engineering in the organization, filling the gaps and areas of expertise that are missing in both the system and specialties area, and focusing on the link between training, tools, and processes.
Interested in learning more? The outcomes of the ASEM 2017 workshop are included in the attached set of workshop slides. Enjoy!
Being Agile: Eleven Breakthrough Techniques to Keep You from “Waterfalling Backward” by Leslie Ekas and Scott Will. IBM Press: New Jersey (2014). 189 + xxiii pages. US$34.99.
Flexibility. Cooperation. Teamwork. Collaboration. These are all words that describe engineering managers. These are also all words that describe agile project management. Agile project management is an emerging practice to add efficiency and effectiveness to project execution, and many engineers and engineering managers are being asked to make their organizations more “agile”. Moreover, the EMBOK has added a section on agile project management, acknowledging the adoption of these practices in recent years.
“Being Agile” is a great book to help engineering managers and project team members learn tips, tricks, and new techniques in their transition from traditional project management to agile project management. The Agile Manifesto (www.agilemanifesto.org) was first published in 2001 to enhance software development. Since then, many organizations have adopted agile principles, such as stand-up meetings, Kanban boards, collaborative problem-solving, and sprints, to improve project management effectiveness. Unfortunately, many firms also struggle with this new way of doing things and despite a declaration to “be agile,” projects continue following old management styles.
Leslie Ekas and Scott Will offer eleven specific techniques to help teams move from traditional, waterfall project management to effective, agile product development organizations. The authors draw on their experience as practitioners and facilitators of agile transition in the software industry, particularly at IBM. However, many of their examples can be easily adapted for tangible product development and engineering design and construction projects.
Each chapter is built on principles and practices in which the authors share their personal stories and experiences. Then, they suggest some potential metrics to ensure the organization is driving forward in its quest to become more agile. Finally, each chapter concludes with a novel, breakthrough practice to implement agile project management in your own organization and a brief chapter summary.
For example, Chapter 1 describes the concept of “whole teams”. Like the authors, I have found myself leading, participating in, or facilitating project teams in which all participants are not available all the time. In a case where you need testing to verify assumptions in development or accuracy of coding, you may find that testing personnel are only available near the conclusion of your project. When the testing is finally completed, it’s too late – and too expensive – to make changes in the product. Often, the decision is made to launch the product anyway, leading to lower than expected sales or a backlog of bug fixes and endless quality improvement projects.
Instead, recommendations in “Being Agile” include acquiring a “whole team” that represents all necessary functions and for these staff to work together throughout the entire project life cycle. Speed-to-market improves as design, coding, and testing are done simultaneously and customer feedback is timely to development decisions. A simple metric is to track team membership from project initiation through execution and to closing and project launch.
The idea of whole teams overlaps with concepts presented in Chapter 4, No Multitasking and Chapter 10, Agile Leadership. Certainly, senior management must commit to the paradigm shift introduced by an agile approach. Moreover, customers must also understand their commitment to giving time-sensitive and effective feedback on product designs. This is also emphasized in Chapters 7 and 8.
Agile project management is not for every company and “Being Agile” focuses on the software industry. Even if your organization is not attempting to undergo the radical transformation that is introduced by agile management, engineering managers can learn from this book. In traditional staged and gated project management, teams should collaborate more and test ideas with customers frequently. Multitasking is a burden to any technical personnel and eliminating waste (Chapter 5) is a key concept to improve quality across the spectra of industry practitioners.
“Being Agile” is recommended for any engineer or engineering manager working in the software or computer industry. This is also a good book for anyone transitioning to agile principles or working within traditional project management systems but with a desire to improve productivity and efficiency. As a chemical engineer working in new product development, I admit that some of the software language bogged me down a bit; however, the concepts of moving 100% to agile practices far outweigh the few terms that were new to me.
What is your organization’s biggest challenge to becoming agile?
Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, PE, PMP, CPEM, NPDPGlobal NP Solutions, LLC
(This data reflects new and renewing Certifications and Memberships from the fourth quarter of December 2017.)
ASEM is proud to announce our newest CPEM, Ryan Batt - ID (US)!
The following are ASEM's latest re-certified CPEMs: Rolf Jostad - MN (US), Larry Mallak - MI (US), Michael O'Connor - MI (US) and Ed Pohl - AR (US)
Interested in certification? The ASEM website has all the details, here: http://asem.org/EM-Professional-Cert-Program
ASEM welcomes our new and renewing Academic Partners:
Pire Adrien - Belgium
Pieter Baeyens - Belgium
Ryan Leemans - NY (US)
Isaac Manderyck - Belgium
United States Military Academy - NY (US)
Alban Mockel - Belgium
Sam Peeters - Belgium
Bavo Pevernagie - Belgium
Jonathan Pierre - Belgium
Daniel Provaznik - NY (US)
Justin Thomas - NY (US)
Alexander Van Hal - Belgium
Charles Wagner - NY (US)
Brecht Windey - Belgium
There is more information about becoming an Academic Partner at the ASEM website, here: http://asem.org/AcademicPartnership
ASEM welcomes our new and renewing Student Members:
Rabia Almamlook - MI (US)
Jerry Almos - WA (US)
Carina Barbosa - Brazil
Flamarion Batista - Brazil
Raphael Bento - Brazil
Andrew Biller - NM (US)
Spencer Brom - TN (US)
Derrick Buck - AZ (US)
Ryan Call - ID (US)
Sergio Campo Periago - TN (US)
Kyle Carpenter - MD (US)
Mario Chaita - IS (US)
Ananya Chandra - FL (US)
Francis Chua - CA (US)
Chad Clawson - ID (US)
Leonardo Coelho - Brazil
Bobbie Cooney - TX (US)
Wesley Croom - NV (US)
Axel de Góes - Brazil
Jonathan Elder - TX (US)
Leigh Emerson - ID (US)
Nicholas Fecteau - IN (US)
Nathan Fletcher - WA (US)
Javier B Franco - OK (US)
Roberto Garcia - SD (US)
Ahmad Khalid Haddad - MI (US)
Alexandre Hagihara - Brazil
Amir Hedayati - IL (US)
Mark Hill - ID (US)
Rabie Jaifer - Canada
Brian Jarrell - TX (US)
Abhishek Jiandani - CA (US)
Kelsea Jones - (US)
Phiwat Klomkaew - AL (US)
Jordan Lanning - ID (US)
Alicia Lomas - ID (US
Dennis Miller - ID (US)
Arun Nair - CO (US)
Rafael Navizaga - ID (US)
Yidan Nie IN (US)
Sangjin Park - IN (US)
Mayank Prajapati - MA (US)
Natiele Rodrigues Carvalho - Brazil
Sarang Sambharia - MN (US)
Veronica Schrimpsher - AL (US)
Rebecca Seidl - MD (US)
Erick Senga - (US)
Fumbah A. Sheriff - MN (US)
Abdulgader Shuaib - MO (US)
Joshi Siddesh - OR (US)
Natasha Smith - VA (US)
Chadd Smith - ID (US)
Misael Soczek - Brazil
Ethan Stanley - NJ (US)
Ryan Stevenson - (US)
Letrisha Taylor - OR (US)
Matthew Tompkins - VA (US)
Miguel Toro - VA (US)
Kgotso Tsoai - South Africa
Sean Wainwright - MI (US)
Zachary Walker - ID (US)
James Williams - TN (US)
Jun Zhao - ID (US)
Fabio Zilli - Brazil
H. Zondi - South Africa
Are you a student and seeking ASEM membership? There is more information at the website, here: http://asem.org/Student-Membership
ASEM welcomes our new and renewing Professional Members:
Wolday Abrha - TN (US)
Roger Allman - IL (US)
Ronald Barca - OR (US)
Roderick Boyer - GA (US)
Collin Broglie - TX (US)
Dale Callahan - AL (US)
Sorin Cohn - Canada
Demian Cooper - MI (US)
Carlos Roberto Cordova Morales - Peru
Lawrence Curtis, Jr. - WA (US)
Paul DaRosa - MA (US)
Thomas Edwards - PA (US)
Paul Gergets - IL (US)
Amr Ibrahim - Egypt
Nikolaj Tinggaard Jørgensen - (US)
Gamze Karayaz - (US)
Yiorgos Kostoulas - TN (US)
Mary Malast - MO (US)
Yosef Manik - Indonesia
Debashis Mishra - India
Belinda Misiego - Spain
Johnny Morales - NC (US)
Abumenre Odigie - Nigeria
Alejandro Salado - VA (US)
Jeff Salem - (US)
Devis Saputra - Indonesia
Jena Shafai Asgarpoor - NE (US)
Robert Simons - IL (US)
Valerie Stephens - PA (US)
Anthony Streletz - CA (US)
Scott Turnbow - TN (US)
Richard Wakeland - TX (US)
Want to become a Professional Member? You guessed it, there is more information at the ASEM website, here: http://asem.org/Professional-Membership
Early planning is underway to ensure you have an enjoyable and informative Conference this year. The conference promises to have something for everyone. So don’t be left out, respond to the call for papers and share your knowledge and research.
The board will meet in Idaho in March to engage in the annual strategic planning session to discuss ways to continue to move the society forward. If you have any suggestions you would like us to explore, feel free to contact me; I am at your disposal.
ASEM is proud to partner with other groups to sponsor events such as:
A new year means new opportunities. The Southwest Regional Director position is available and represents a good opportunity to get involved. Possibly a new adventure awaits.
by TA Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, CPEM
(Blog #1 EMBOK series)
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
Successful completers of the program will then be highly encouraged to obtain the internationally-recognized Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM) credential of the ASEM. In order to facilitate the ASEM examination process, the UP-NEC may soon seek to become an ASEM-accredited online examination proctor.
The program is designed and will be facilitated by Engr. Jesus N. Matias, ME, CPEM, PMP, who has more than thirty years in experience in the business of construction contracting, as well as close to twenty years in lecturing experience at the UP-NEC for various training programs related to construction project management. He is a Certified Professional in Engineering Management (ASEM), a Project Management Professional (PMI) and a practicing mechanical engineer with technical specializations in steel construction and cost engineering. He is also a faculty member of the Institute of Civil Engineering in UP, a co-author of a textbook in Engineering Economy and an award-winning author of books on spirituality.
The University of the Philippines has long been considered the country’s premier educational institution and its College of Engineering is among the most renowned schools of engineering excellence, with unparalleled international credibility, producing many of the Philippines’ most respected names in academe, government and industry.
I am going to relate an example where over design had been taken to an extreme. I had to champion a project to handle steam condensate in a process plant. This was basically distilled water that came off the system and was collected in a tank. There were nine such tanks at the plant. The company was paying $4 million dollars a year to have the water trucked off site. The filling of the tanks was not uniform nor predicable and a truck and driver were paid to be on hand 24 hours a day 7 days a week to empty any tank that was full. However, the proposed project to automate the pumping of the water back into the process was $8 Million, making it difficult to raise the capital to eliminate the need for the truck to be on standby.
When I became the champion of the pump project, I was told that each tank held 380 barrels. Although the tanks filled at unpredictable rates, I was told that the tanks were sometimes emptied twice a day. To assure the tanks would not overflow, the proposed pumps were sized at 80 gallons per minute (gpm) in the $8 million dollar project. The water needed to be injected at a high pressure on the discharge side of a pump.
First off, I realized that a 380 barrel tank is 16,000 gallons. It would take 200 minutes to completely empty this tank at 80 gallons a minute. That is a little over 3 hours. When I talked to the process engineer, he said that he was given 40 gpm as the needed rate. There was a common pump that could do that, but he was nervous that he might need a little more, so to be safe he went to the next larger common size. When I went to the operations person that provided the 40 gpm rate he said he calculated that 22 gpm was needed but the common pump that could easily handle it was the 40 gpm size. Each person had built in a buffer.
By this time, I figured I better confirm how the 22 gpm rate was derived. This was based on the assumption that the 380 barrel tank was emptied twice a day. When I went to the truck driver, he stated his truck held 60 barrels. Because the fill rate was unpredictable, operations would notify him to empty a tank whenever it was half full to assure it would not overflow. So the maximum volume emptied was 120 barrels in a day, not 760. That is 3.5 gpm (and I will not round up to 4 to be safe) compared to the 80 gpm being designed for. I also discovered by checking the process data, that only half of the tanks had to be emptied more than once a week. I also checked with the environmental group and they confirmed that if the condensed steam overflowed out of a tank, it was basically just distilled water and no negative environmental impact would result, nor would any regulatory reporting be necessary to account for water being on the ground. By selecting pumps 1/20th the size and only installing them on half the tanks, the $8 Million project shrank to $2 Million. That is now a 6 month payback and much easier to raise the capital for. If any tank was filling up, a truck could be ordered to empty it and if the truck was late some water would be released onto the ground.
By Heather Nachtmann, Ph.D., ASEM Past President
It was a pleasure to lead the 2017 ASEM award process. It is humbling and exciting to see the contributions our members are making to the engineering management community. Through my ASEM executive committee service, I get the opportunity to work with members of our leadership team as they dedicate their time to ASEM. What I do not get to see is their careers and their investments in the broad EM community outside of ASEM. Each year I am impressed with our nominees and winners of our Engineering Management of the Year award, and this year’s recipient NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Director Todd May clearly exemplified the great work one can accomplish when one brings engineering management skills to a leadership position. I am always so proud when I review the nomination packets of our ASEM Fellows and get to see the contributions our new Fellows are making and have made to their employers and communities. Also of particular note is the accomplishments of our students. Each year the best student paper and best dissertation competitions become increasingly competitive and it is impressed to see the quality of student our EM programs are producing. We are very proud of all the 2017 ASEM award winners and are pleased to have this opportunity to recognize their efforts.
Congratulations to the ASEM 2017 Award Winners!
Bernard R. Sarchet Award
Frank Woodbury Special Service Award
Meritorious Service Awards
Best Dissertation Award
Merritt Williamson Best IAC Paper
Merl Baker for Best IAC Student Paper sponsored by MS&T
Echenbach Award for Best EMJ Paper
William Daughton World Headquarters Service Award
ASEM Undergraduate Student Scholarship in honor of Ronald Cox
ASEM Graduate Student Scholarship in honor of Joette Sonnenberg
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Knopf: New York (2016). 238 + xxxi pages. US$24.95 (hardcover).
A recent trend in product development projects has recognized the value of designers in meeting customer expectations. We heard a great talk by Amy Hawkins on design thinking at the 2017 IAC, for example. Engineering managers, of course, are also aware of the enhanced development capabilities for a project team that includes cross-functional representation. Design thinking formalizes the roles of designers in problem-solving and project execution.
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans have recently released a new book called “Designing Your Life” that applies the principles of design thinking to career planning. Many of the tools that we use in design thinking for determining product or system requirements are discusses as examples for life planning. The authors share real-life stories from their students and colleagues at Stanford to support the design thinking methodology.
First, in the “Introduction,” Burnett and Evans pave the way with five design thinking mindsets (pg. xxvi-xxviii).
Each of these mindsets is supported by design thinking tools. For example, in being curious, we can investigate different pathways to reach goals. An important element of setting goals, however, needs to include a balance of work, love, play, and health (Chapter 1). Everyone’s ideal balance will be different, but we must each understand the role that work plays in our overall life view.
In Chapter 2, the authors recommend a deep evaluation of how we view work and to align that perspective with our values system. The outcome of this exercise helps us to refine our perception of jobs we love as well as jobs that are not a good fit. The authors advise trying stuff to prototype various carious. Rather than jumping in to own and operate a restaurant, try running a food truck instead. The investment is smaller and you will be able to assess your level of commitment and enjoyment in this new career.
“Designing Your Life” includes a lot of useful design thinking tools applied to our careers and lives. Of course, journaling is a strong design thinking tool that allows us to investigate qualitative aspects of a problem as well as the emotional pull that any given alternative reflects. Mind mapping is another design thinking tool the authors utilize in “Designing Your Life”. Mind mapping is a quick ideation exercise to explore different linkages among ideas, thoughts, and themes.
Storyboarding is another design thinking tool, used to capture a potential single solution from initiation to execution. This technique is often used in film-making but is also used in market research for new product development customer interactions. Thus, we can apply storyboarding to a personal question or to an engineering design challenge.
Chapters 9 and 10 follow a theme that is also familiar to engineers and developers. We must choose to learn from failure in order to grow. Some of our best life lessons will come from mistakes or mis-directions. However, if we also choose happiness (Chapter 9), we can move forward with new knowledge and insights.
Finally, Chapter 11 discusses building a team. In life design, as in engineering or product design, we need a collaborative and committed team. Our life design team can help us frame the right questions and offer new perspectives. The team aids us in investigating alternate solutions and to debrief the lessons learned after we try something that doesn’t work as planned.
“Designing Your Life” is a great book and easy to read. If you are going through a career transition at any stage of life or seeking to plan the next stage in your life, “Designing Your Life” is a great resource. To get the most out of the book, though, you need to practice the design thinking exercises, be curious and try stuff. I highly recommend this book to engineers and engineering managers.
I’d love to hear from you as you move through your career and design your life. I have personally completed many of the exercises from the book and am beginning to assemble a team of appropriate collaborators (mentors). If you want to share your story, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Which design thinking tool do you find most useful for career planning?
Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, PE, PMP, PEM, NPDP
Global NP Solutions, LLC
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