How to Succeed as an Engineering Manager – The Essential Steps and Tips

For many people, figuring out what career they want to pursue in life can be rather overwhelming, stressful, tedious, and just plain confusing. There are so many factors to consider, not to mention you’ll need to give thought to what will actually make you happy and feel fulfilled.

So, what about the people who are clear on what they want to be, and what career they wish to pursue – life should be a breeze, right? Well, that’s not exactly true, as narrowing down your options to one perfect career is truly only the first step. Saying you want a specific job and then getting that job and being successful in it are totally different beasts.

If you’ve thought long and hard about it and you’ve come to the conclusion that you want to be an engineering manager, there are a number of essential steps and tips you can use that will help you make that goal a reality. These effectively help to set you up for success in what can be a very competitive industry. So, let’s take a closer look at what you can be doing right now to ensure you have a successful career as an engineering manager.

Start with an Education

Just like with so many other high-level careers out there, in order to set yourself up to be an engineering manager, it is wise to start with the proper schooling. This is how you learn the foundations and fundamentals that will be required in the job. Simply knowing how to manage people isn’t going to be enough.

So, what programs should you look into? A Master of Engineering Management degree will provide you with everything you need to be able to step into the job and hit the ground running. Not only that, but it will be something that potential employers take notice of on your resume and could help you to stand out from other applicants.

Spend Time Working on the Key Skills Employers Are Looking For

Education is really step one in the process; there are also key skills that employers are looking for that don’t necessarily come from education. Although they can be learned while pursuing a degree, they are also skills you can be mastering on your own time and really perfecting. Again, it’s all about standing out from other applicants and making sure you can deliver what employers want and need from an engineering manager.

In terms of the key skills to have, there are actually a handful that you can focus on – the first being leadership skills. As a manager, it makes sense that you need to have strong leadership skills; after all, you will be leading a team of employees. Depending on the size of the company you work for, that could be a couple dozen or a couple hundred employees. A few things to remember about being a good leader are: you need to be self-aware at all times; you are setting the example to your employees; and you need to be able to motivate, inspire, and really prompt employees to give it their best. This means building strong working relationships with your employees. A good leader is one that is respected by all.

Then there is the need to have strong communication skills – which includes listening, speaking, and writing. You need to communicate clearly to your employees at all times, and yet also be able to understand what it is they are telling you. Communication skills are something you can start to work on well before you enter into the field as an engineering manager, as this is a skill that helps not just in your work life, but also your personal life.

Then we have critical thinking skills, which come more naturally for some. You need to be able to look at a problem or challenge and then apply solid critical thinking so you can come up with an effective solution. The faster and more effective your critical thinking skills are, the more success you can tend to have.

You can click here to read more specifics about the key skills that are needed by engineering managers. Being aware of the most sought-after skills gives you something to work towards outside of just schooling.

Get Out There and Start Networking

It has been said time and time again that finding a job isn’t about what you know, but who you know. While that rule isn’t written in stone, it certainly does hold some merit. Even with a formal degree and education, training, and key skills, that may not be enough to get you in the door. This is exactly why networking with industry contacts is so important. The earlier you can start networking, the better it will be for you.

Networking may not feel comfortable or natural for some, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll feel more relaxed. In terms of where and how to network, experts suggest you build a LinkedIn profile as a starting point. This is a fabulous digital tool for those who want to network and expand their list of contacts. You’ll be able to connect with people you may not otherwise come in contact with in your everyday life.

A good thing to keep in mind is that there are two types of networking – informal and formal. Informal networking means you’re not looking for a job at the moment specifically, but you are open to offers and prospects if they pop up. Formal networking takes it to the next level, it means you’re more serious, and you’re actively looking for a job. Both have a purpose, and ideally you can use informal networking to land a job before it becomes a more formal approach.

Some of the ways in which you can network include attending industry events such as seminars and conferences; attending virtual events (which have become big in the past year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic); branching out online and trying to build your contact list; exchanging business cards, joining associations; and even attending job fairs and using job forums.

Understand the Company’s Vision and Goals

Once you do get a job as an engineering manager, your work isn’t done; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Landing the job is great, but now you need to make a difference in the company and truly be the engineering manager that is needed. The best way to do this is to make sure you understand the company’s goals and direction from day one. You need to know what you are working towards so that you can implement the right plan and steps. This also means understanding what the company’s long-term goals are so that you can work to make them happen in the future.

You Need to Have a Strong Work Ethic

Here’s a tip that is true in a number of jobs, regardless of the industry. A strong work ethic means you’re willing to put in the work and that you expect nothing but the best from yourself. A strong work ethic also means that you understand the values of the company and its goals, and you work towards achieving them at all times. 

The Goal and Desire to See Your Employees Succeed

As an engineering manager, it’s also beneficial to take the approach that seeing your employees succeed and reach their own goals doesn’t just speak well of them, but also of you. Leading a team of employees that understand their job, are able to carry out their tasks with success, and ensure efficiency means the company is able to meet its goals and milestones. This is a direct reflection of you and the job you are doing as a manager.

Make sure that you are in-tune with what your employees need to advance their own careers. This means training when necessary, updating methods and processes, making sure they have the equipment and tools they need to do their job, inspiring them, and really motivating them.

Commit to Continued Learning

Part of being successful in your job is also realizing that you need to commit to continued learning. That doesn’t mean you have to go back to school; it means you are open to learning lessons every step of the way. Industries change, trends change, practices and processes change, and that means you need to adapt along the way.

In your job as an engineering manager, you will have plenty of opportunities along the way to learn and grow, which will only make you stronger and more effective. The trick is that you need to be open to these situations and be willing to change and make those adjustments.

While you may be excited now that you’ve picked that ideal job to pursue, keep in mind that it’s a process to land that perfect job. These steps and tips will not only help you to get a job as an engineering manager, but they will also help to ensure that you’re successful in your position.

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