From Engineer to Manager
High-technology businesses have long recognized the importance of developing new engineering talent. But despite enormous advances in evaluating, educating, and training technical professionals for managerial responsibilities, new engineering managers often find themselves ill-prepared for their new assignments.
Even if they wanted managerial duties in the first place, many first-time supervisors are surprised at the scope and content of their new jobs. They may feel unsure about their career development.
In a survey I conducted recently (and reported on in "Managing Technology: The People Factor," in Technical & Skills Training, August/ September 1990), 85 percent of engineering managers considered the development of new engineering-management talent crucial to the survival and growth of their businesses.
Many studies have defined the type and extent of skills and training an effective manager needs. But most have focused on the continuing development of managers, not on the development of professionals in technology-oriented environments who have moved from being individual contributors to managing.
In addition, the leaders I surveyed considered engineering management more complex and multifunctional than other types of management.
Engineering managers must operate in multidisciplinary environments within their companies. They work with many support groups over whom they have little or no formal authority. Outside their companies, they have to cope with constant changes in technology, markets, regulations, and socioeconomic factors. To achieve productivity, they have to motivate and lead their workforces toward innovative results in work environments that are often unstructured.
Yet the formal education system that creates engineers does little to prepare them for advancement into management.
There is strong interest among managers and engineers in tools to help asses technical-management potential. Responding to that interest, I organized a study to investigate …