At one time, managers were managers and tech professionals were tech professionals. If you wanted to move into engineering management, you had to earn a master’s degree. While this is still a solid track to a management role, it’s no longer always necessary. Many companies are willing to take a chance on promoting a strong engineer, but you’ll still need to prove that you’re up to the challenge. Here are some tips.
Broaden Your Scope
Engineering management requires strong knowledge of both the engineering industry and the world of business. Become an expert in your field, and regularly bring new ideas and best practices to your management team. Likewise, learn the structure of your organization, of which engineering is actually just one part. Understand how the marketing department, the sales department, and other professionals fit into the larger business strategy.
Become a Leader
Prove your leadership skills by taking on this role within your existing team. Remember, leadership isn’t about bending others to your will. Instead, it’s about presenting good ideas and motivating others to trust your judgment and follow your plans. You could also look into mentoring one or more newer, less experienced employees.
Be a Problem Solver
Most engineers are naturally curious and eager to solve problems. But can you translate these skills into a wider, big picture format? Look for ways to show your understanding of bigger issues, not just the small pieces that directly involve you, and to turn this understanding into real solutions.
If upper management doesn’t know you’re interested in becoming a manager, you may never be offered the chance. Find ways to network both inside your company and across your industry. Make it known far and wide that you are interested in moving into management, and take advantage of any learning opportunities that come your way.
Moving into an engineering management position isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t follow the traditional path of earning a master’s degree. But an increasing number of companies are willing to take a chance, provided you step up and prove you’re management material.