A career roadmap: Don’t be afraid to ask for directions

If you want to be a leader in your firm, you must understand the skills needed to be considered leadership material.

10/29/2012


We come out of college, work for a few years—having taken the engineer in training (EIT) and perhaps the professional engineer (PE) exam—and then we wonder, where do we go from here? Unless we have a mentor already identified and working with us, many of us can’t answer that question. We are so busy trying to get all the credits we need to graduate, find a job to help pay the tuition bills, and get our PE licenses, that we don’t stop and ask ourselves, “Where is the career roadmap and how do I navigate it to reach a leadership position?”

So much has been written on this subject of leadership it almost seems ridiculous to write another word, but I find that so many people don’t really know what it takes to be considered for a leadership roles in their companies. Many of the engineers with whom I work tell me that they just want to concentrate on doing good work, and let the results speak for themselves. Others tell me, “Hey, I went back and got my MBA and now I am just waiting for my big promotion into management.” Doing consistently good work and furthering your education are excellent tactics, but that should not be your entire strategy. It may leave you lost—and frustrated.

So what should your strategy be? You guessed it: Write your own roadmap. Start with the end in mind. Where do you want your career to take you? If you want to be a principal or business leader in your firm, then you must understand the skills you must demonstrate and the contributions you must make to be considered leadership material. Think of these as the navigational checkpoints on your career roadmap that will lead you to that leadership role. Typically, the skills are a combination of your technical capabilities, business management skills, and professional or “soft” skills.

Instead of guessing which skills are most important for your company, interview an executive or principal in your firm and ask him how he rose to a leadership role. Ask him to share a skills checklist and, more importantly, how the skill was demonstrated. Here are a few navigational checkpoints to start that conversation:

Technical skills: These are any special skills or technical knowledge that makes you a stronger engineer for the firm.

  • Certifications, specialties, advanced education
  • Design awards, patents, industry recognition.

Business management skills: These should focus on demonstrating that you have learned the business of your firm and how you can help run the business.

  • Estimating, accounting, and/or budgeting
  • Marketing, sales, or new business development—skills that focus on generating revenue
  • Legal/contract negotiations or dispute resolution
  • Client satisfaction
  • Market development or generating a new practice area
  • Recruiting, employee supervision, and management.

Professional skills: These skills focus on how you present yourself to others, and how well you communicate.

  • Executive presence
  • Collaboration and ability to build strong teams
  • Public speaking, presentation
  • Managerial courage
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Personal interests.

Once you’ve had the discussion, ask the principal or executive to rank the skills in importance and ask for suggestions on how to fill the gaps. Do not ignore the soft skills. So many times, I’ve seen very strong engineers with good project or team management skills get overlooked for leadership roles because they just didn’t know they needed to consciously demonstrate professional skills. Don’t be afraid to ask for direction from people who have travelled a similar career path. They may keep you from getting frustrated and lost and may even show you a few shortcuts.


Jane Sidebottom is the owner of AMK LLC, a management and marketing consulting firm that provides market development and growth expertise to small- and medium-size firms. She has 20 years of management and leadership experience in both consulting engineering and Fortune 100 organizations. Sidebottom is a graduate of the University of Maryland. 



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2016 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
Safety standards and electrical test instruments; Product of the Year winners; Easy and safe electrical design
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Diagnostic functions for system safety; Specifying industrial enclosures; Effective decision support for a crisis
Transformers; Electrical system design; Selecting and sizing transformers; Grounded and ungrounded system design, Paralleling generator systems
Natural gas for tomorrow's fleets; Colleges and universities moving to CHP; Power and steam and frozen foods

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me