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Challenges Engineering Managers Face

New managers will face many challenges in their careers. These challenges become easier to handle with experience, but education can also play an important role. For engineering managers, a Master of Engineering Management degree is one way to prepare for the difficulties inherent to leading teams, transitioning from engineering to management, and assuming new managerial responsibilities.

Team Leadership Challenges

For managers who have advanced to leadership roles within the same company, the first difficulty often relates to changes in their relationships with co-workers. If a new manager’s team includes people who worked as equals with them before, confusion or conflict can occur. Establishing new boundaries for the new working relationship can help minimize problems.

Managers are responsible for supporting their teams to optimize team performance. This means a new manager will need to do the following:

  • Get to know each team member.
  • Learn team members’ working styles.
  • Know the details of each project.
  • Meet each team member’s needs.
  • Manage conflicts that arise.
  • Keep the team on task and on time.

Part of the challenge for first-time managers will be learning when to step into a situation. A manager does not need to be directly involved in every part of a team’s project, but knowing when involvement is necessary can be difficult. New managers might also want to make changes to the way their teams function. Making changes — and securing team members’ buy-in — can be tricky.

Engineering and Engineering Management — How Are They Different?

Engineers who become managers face the differing natures of the two jobs. Engineers do the work that produces the end result, while managers have support roles. It can be difficult for managers to let go of direct involvement in technical work. Managers may find themselves tempted to jump in and work directly on a project, but this can cause more problems than it solves. In addition, engineers are constantly learning in order to keep their skills current. Managers, however, have a different focus, and keeping their engineering skills sharp, while still important, may not be a top priority.

Success is different for engineers and managers, which can pose other challenges. An engineer may see more tangible, day-to-day results, but managers can often only measure success at certain project milestones. Because it can be harder to determine that their daily efforts are making a difference, new engineering managers may have to redefine their own ideas of success in order to stay motivated.

Challenges for First-Time Managers

Engineering managers have responsibilities in many different areas. To manage a team, they must have a clear, deadline-driven vision for every project. Learning how to make strategic short- and long-term plans, manage time, deal with stress and set goals can help new managers succeed. Developing a schedule for regular check-ins with team members is important for effective team performance.

An essential skill that can be tricky for new managers to master is how best to motivate their teams. Managers who take the time to learn what motivates each team member — and provide that motivation to the best extent possible — can increase collaboration and overall productivity. For many people, acknowledgement and recognition go a long way, but sometimes other forms of motivation are necessary.

While transitioning to a new career is always a challenge, assuming a new role in engineering management can be easier with proper preparation. Earning a master’s degree in engineering management helps prepare students for success as engineering managers.

Learn more about the A-State online MEM program.


IEDP: Top 3 Challenges for First-time Managers

New Relic: How to Make the Leap from Engineer to Manager

First Round Review: This Is What Impactful Engineering Leadership Looks Like

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