New to Engineering Management? Me too!

23 Sep 2022 7:54 PM | Patrick Sweet (Administrator)

By: James Brino, EIT

Are you a young professional newly promoted to an engineering management role or recently started a new job, and you are now responsible for a team of engineers? Do you have any idea how to manage a team of young and experienced technical minds? Are you struggling? Is Imposter Syndrome setting in? 

I was in this exact situation just a few months ago. I started at a manufacturer of precision gearing and mechanical components as an Applications Engineer in August 2021, with no direct reports, working independently with new customer and applications. I was really enjoying my workload and responsibilities. I was in business school at the time, with about a year left in my MBA studies, knowing I wanted to manage a team one day. Fast-forward to May 2022, I was asked to take over applications, new product development and process development for PIC Design, with three engineers reporting directly to me, all three weeks before I graduated with my MBA, and less than eight months with the organization!

You may have found yourself in a similar situation, trying desperately to stay afloat and not drown in the new role. I have spoken to many new engineering managers who have described the exact or similar situation, from all walks of life, industries, with and without an MBA. The three areas of weakness for new engineering managers that have been consistently brought up in conversation after conversation are: 1. People Management, 2. Conflict Resolution, 3. Establishing Credibility.

Challenges for New Managers

Of the three, conflict resolution may be the easiest to learn how to handle as there are many resources available, through ASEM (EMBoK 5th Edition is a great place to start!) as well as other sources, that teach techniques, tips and tools to manage conflicts, and how to mediate conflicts to a positive resolution.

Establishing credibility with your team is not as easily achieved, especially as a young engineering professional with no other management experience, or as a new member of an organization. One trick I have used to establish credibility with my team is to communicate my expectations at the start of every project making sure to present examples of work I have done previously in order to show the quality I expect out of the deliverables.  

People management is in a category all on its own. You can speak to seasoned engineering managers who say they still struggle with people management. Every company, department and team will have its own unique set of personalities and interpersonal conflicts. Try using a different leadership style with each member of your team. Unique people require unique approaches to leadership; there is no one size fits all leadership approach, as I learned the hard way!

As I always tell my team every morning, “It’s a great day to have a great day, let’s crush it”. Every day strive to bring a new and exciting possibility into your journey as an engineering manager. Many others are in the situation, so know that you are not alone in your struggles of transitioning into an engineering management role.

I would love to hear your stories on how you handled your transition into engineering management or would like a friendly face who is in the exact same situation you are in,

About James Brino

James Brino is currently the Engineering Supervisor – Applications, Product & Process Development at PIC Design, a division of RBC Bearings, located in Middlebury, CT. Before assuming responsibility of new product and process development, James was a Senior Applications Engineer at PIC Design/RBC Bearings. He graduated from the University of Hartford Barney School of Business (West Hartford, Connecticut USA) with his MBA in May 2022. James has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (May 2020) from the University of Hartford.


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