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 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

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.