An important development over the last month has been the decision to move the 2020 ASEM International Annual Conference (IAC) to a virtual format. This action has been taken in response to the current and anticipated conditions prevalent in Denver and across the globe related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our plan is to have a comprehensive technical conference and we hope that the virtual event will still provide an excellent opportunity for sharing knowledge and learning on engineering management as well as staying updated on developments with ASEM. Further details on the conference will be released in due course.
I would also like to discuss how engineering management has the potential to help technical specialists to broaden their skills and knowledge base, thereby supporting career development in engineering and technology- based industries. In this regard, the term ‘T-shaped skills’ has its origins in the article by David Guest called “The Hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of Computing”, which appeared in The Independent (London) back in 1991. The term has been adopted by different organizations and it is basically a metaphor for the depth and breadth of a person’s skills. The vertical part of the T signifies the depth of skills along with the corresponding knowledge and proficiency in a single disciplinary area – including analytical thinking and problem solving associated with being deep in a given technical area. Whereas the horizontal bar of the T relates to a broader set of skills and knowledge and a corresponding ability to engage and work with people across different disciplines. We can further consider these skills as so called boundary crossing competencies, including teamwork, communication, decision-making, project working, managing complex situations and sense making. But how does this relate to engineering management? In order to answer this question, it is useful to apply the T-shaped skills model to an industrial sector and we can do this by considering the oil and gas industry and the case for a geological engineer.
In this illustrative example, the engineer benefits from having a deep specialism in geological engineering, including areas such as engineering mathematics, strength of materials, rock mechanics and geochemistry. Competence in these and related areas provides the engineer with an ability to solve technical problems as well as analytical thinking in geological engineering. However, to be effective in the oil and gas industry, there is also a need to work in project teams with other technical specialists (such as materials and mechanical engineers) as well as with colleagues from other functional areas (such as finance and commercial managers).
Consequently, it is important to have a good grasp of a wider set of skills and knowledge related to management but with a clear technological relevance. For example, the engineer may need to understand various areas, such as project management, team leadership, organizational management, technology management, economic development and planning, and systems modelling and analysis. Here the discipline of engineering management can support the geological engineer to be effective in multifunctional project teams as part of working in the oil and gas industry.
This simple case highlights the benefits of building on a solid technical education in a core engineering or scientific discipline, which is further enhanced with an education and understanding of engineering management – helping to prepare for a career in not just the oil and gas sector but in many other knowledge- based industries. The new 5th Edition of the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge Guide (EMBOK Guide) is an excellent source for such underpinning knowledge across the discipline of engineering management and should serve as the ideal resource to help us all maintain our T-shaped skills.
Dr. Simon Philbin