I had an interesting conversation with a pair of engineering managers a few days ago. It was our task to come up with ideas for future group meetings and other ways to bring people together. We were chatting over coffee and brainstorming about what topics would appeal and engage other engineering managers. The discussion went on for nearly an hour and we came back to two notions (among the many we postulated) over and over.
We felt strongly, based on our own observations and feedback, that there is a need for newer engineering managers to find mentors or guides to assist in making a successful transition to management. While it's true that some of us have the benefit of educational or training tools to help us get the work done, that isn't always enough when you're wondering how well you're doing. Or when you encounter a challenge that isn't so "textbook" in nature. Or when you're considering if engineering management is even the best path for you.
Someone with experience in the field can lend ideas, validate our feelings and help us consider alternative methods. As the proverb states, there is no substitute for experience. The people that we talked to in earlier sessions repeatedly expressed a desire to meet experienced engineering managers. Admittedly, while it is fortunate to have a clear interest expressed, we were at a loss when we tried to identify these individuals. Our list of names was pretty thin; what to do?
As for the second concept, we each agreed that networking was a high priority as well. Here in the Twin Cities, the job market is big enough to move around, but not so big that you won't bump into familiar faces. Many opportunities are announced via word of mouth, so having a good network is vital to keep on top of the changes. Of course, LinkedIn and other social media outlets are great tools to use, but you still have to find these people in order to network with them.
You can see where our ideas were not mutually exclusive. In fact, we were excited to think that we could effectively tackle the second item by working on the first. And while that may seem effective and efficient, it is by no means a small or easy task ahead of us. We each agreed to turn to our own networks and try to find the people to help us address both needs. For me specifically, that means reaching out to some of my fellow cohort students and maybe even some of my professors in an effort to identify experienced engineering managers in our area. I’m happy to keep in touch with these people and see what suggestions they have to offer.
Ask yourself, as someone active or interested in engineering management, what do you want? Do your needs align with what our conversation uncovered? If so, how would you propose to locate and tap into these experienced resources? If not, what would you add to the list of needs? I look forward to seeing your comments and feedback here or at any of the ASEM social media sites. After all, would you be reading this if you weren't looking for something?
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Tricia Simo Kush is a certified Professional Engineering Manager with a background in Information Technology and a goal to take her career to a higher level through Engineering Management. She graduated from the MEM program at St. Cloud State University in 2010. To her, Engineering Management is a fascinating mix of technology and business, people and process. She is constantly seeing the ways that Engineering Management spans many industries and helps everyone to become effective leaders. Follow her on Twitter (@TSimoKush) or check out her profile on LinkedIn.