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Arkansas State University

Earn An Engineering Degree With Business Management Concentration

The stereotype of an engineer is a solitary worker hunched over a computer and a set of blueprints, more comfortable with machines than people. However, the truth is that engineering is a very social discipline, one that relies on collaboration and strong leadership. Even though antisocial characterizations of engineers are inaccurate, the types of social interactions necessary in engineering leadership do not come naturally. Fortunately, these are the kinds of skills you can learn. Most programs that offer a Master of Engineering Management degree also offer training in engineering leadership.

A Focus on People

Successful engineering entrepreneur Jessica Keller believes management comes down to three aspects: “You’re directly supporting the people on your team; you’re managing execution and coordination across teams; and you’re stepping back to observe and evolve the broader organization and its processes as it grows” (First Round Review). Engineering leadership focuses on people and how to motivate them, and a Master of Engineering Management degree prepares managers to lead teams of diverse, intelligent people toward a common goal.

Bert Maes, CNC manufacturing expert and engineer, believes that managing engineers requires a special touch. All ten of his Golden Rules for Managing Engineers focus on people skills rather than technical know-how. People skilled in engineering leadership understand their particular fields, to be sure, but they also understand that engineers are people as well; as Maes puts it, you must be ready to let them contribute, protect them from office bullies, and even “be a control freak when you need to be.” He is quick to point out, though, that knowing when to be a control freak is key. A Master of Engineering Management degree can teach you when you need to exert control and when you should let your subordinates choose their own paths.

Different Leadership Skills

Maes is a proponent of varied management styles. As he points out, “Different situations call for different kinds of leadership.” Recognizing those situations and determining the appropriate responses is what a Master of Engineering Management degree can give you. Keller boils engineering leadership down to two aspects: “half of it is raising people’s awareness about what they want to do, and the other half is working that into everyday routines, planning and projects.” Understanding engineers and what drives them is the hallmark of effective engineering management.

Leaders in Heels, a website devoted to women in management, outlines six different management styles. Among them are Directive, Pacesetting and Coaching, and all are appropriate in their respective situations. For example, the Directive management style “has the primary objective of immediate compliance from employees,” and it is one of the most common styles. However, it is inappropriate in some situations, such as employee skill development. Coaching is much more effective in that situation. Graduates of a Master of Engineering Management degree program can identify those situations and adapt to the changing circumstances in the office.

Working With Engineers

Working with engineers, obviously, requires working with engineers. This goes beyond just occupying the same office. Instead, engineers need to intertwine their personal development with the company’s. Keller recommends quarterly performance reviews; in her case, she works one-on-one with engineers to determine the direction of their careers. She focuses on the technical skills they want to learn and what role they want to fill for the company. This way, her employees are invested in the company’s direction, and they are motivated to work hard every day.

Leading the Future

Engineering leadership is a set of specific skills geared toward today’s global marketplace. Adaptable leaders survive in the business world — engineering is no different. Pursuing a Master of Engineering Management degree is one way to learn the diverse leadership skills necessary to an engineering career. Engineers seeking additional education and expanded market opportunities would do well to explore this relatively new degree.

Learn more about the A-State online MEM program.


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