Engineering Manager Skills for MEM Graduates

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An engineering manager in glasses and a suit.

Engineering managers use their organizational and analytical skills to lead their teams in a variety of complex tasks. Their education and experience provide a foundation for problem-solving, and by developing the needed skills, they’re better equipped to manage projects successfully and add value to their organizations.

Managers must be aware of their teams’ strengths and weaknesses, know when to delegate and when to step in, communicate clearly to produce positive outcomes, and work to improve morale. Engineering manager skills are about helping the engineers in their charge work at the peak of their performance. A master’s degree in engineering management can help aspiring leaders acquire and polish these crucial skills.

What Makes a Good Engineering Manager?

In 2021, 48% of employees were actively seeking new jobs or watching for new opportunities, according to Gallup. Interestingly, pay was not the main driver of this “Great Resignation”— worker disengagement was. High-quality managers who inspire their workers can retain key employees, and being able to unify a team is one sign of a good manager.

Good engineering managers support and mentor their employees while tracking outcomes, communicating with stakeholders, and establishing a clear vision. High-quality engineering managers can improve morale and avoid costly mistakes — and ultimately affect their company’s bottom line.

6 Engineering Skills

Here are a few examples of skills engineering managers should have and why they matter.

1. Leadership

One of the most important skills of successful engineering managers is the ability to lead a team to accomplish their goals. Managers should have a vision of what the end results and success of their projects should look like. Having a strong sense of purpose enables managers to evoke confidence and motivate their teams, providing direction while inspiring, empowering, and trusting people to do their jobs.

Leading by example is also a key component of capable leadership. If the staff sees a disciplined, hard-working manager who has a positive attitude and is dedicated to positive outcomes, they’ll be inspired to act in the same way.

2. Decision-Making

Engineering managers are the ones others look to for answers, guidance, and on-the-job decision-making. There are different ways to approach decision-making, such as by using experience, logic, or instincts. Whichever tactic or combination of tactics a manager chooses, they should remain flexible when making decisions, since different situations may require unique approaches. Managers who can choose confidently between different courses of action inspire faith and commitment from the members of their teams.

3. Responsibility

Since managers are making the decisions, they’re responsible for the results. When the results are good and the project is a success, this responsibility is a pleasure that can be shared with the entire team. However, when mistakes are made and it becomes apparent that the decisions turned out to be the wrong ones, it’s up to the engineering manager to shoulder the responsibility for the team. Managers should be honest about their mistakes and take them as opportunities for learning and changing course.

4. Communication

As with most management positions, communication skills are a must for engineering managers. They not only lead teams of people but they also interact with individuals with varying levels of technical expertise. Engineers often deal with complex concepts, so it can be challenging to find clear and concise ways to communicate with clients, technicians, and other stakeholders from various backgrounds. Social skills are also important for conducting interviews, building business relationships, and keeping up the team’s morale.

5. Attention to Detail

Engineering is a complex field that deals with mathematical, analytical, and technical problems, and it’s crucial that managers be detail oriented in their approach to all aspects of their work. Even small mistakes in a complex system can cause major problems. Engineering managers must understand all aspects of a project, including being able to check the accuracy and effectiveness of their team’s work. To make the right decisions and lead with strength and consistency, managers need to have an understanding of the details and the bigger picture.

6. Delegation

Another aspect of leadership deals with the ability to delegate duties and responsibilities to others on the team. While it’s important for managers to be involved with the details, they must also be able to take a step back and see a project in its entirety. When managers attempt to do all the work themselves, they eventually burn out and their project will fail. Teamwork and collaboration are essential.

Delegating involves not only assigning tasks and duties to members of the team but knowing which task will be best accomplished by which employee. Even though managers assign duties to employees, they’ll still be overseeing the results and should be prepared to answer questions throughout the process.

There’s always room for growth and improvement, even for people in management positions. Enhancing their essential leadership skills aids engineering managers in accomplishing their goals and the objectives of their companies.

Advanced Your Skills with an MEM Degree

As an advanced degree program for engineers who want to become leaders without losing their foundation in engineering, the online Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program from Ohio University focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.

The program helps students understand modern protocols and project standards and how to apply their leadership skills to communicate effectively with teams. With courses such as Statistics for Engineering Management, Project Management, and Engineering Leadership, students can gain a solid foundation in the principles of engineering management.

Discover the engineering management skills that can accelerate your career with an MEM degree from Ohio University. 

Recommended Reading

Engineering Leadership: More Than Management

Engineering Trends for Managers

Project Management Skills for Engineer Managers

Sources:

Advice Manufacturing, Decision Making for Leaders

Apollo Technical, “Top 10 Engineering Management Skills to Succeed (2022)”

Gallup, “7 Gallup Workplace Insights: What We Learned in 2021”

Gallup, “State of the American Manager”

N26, “What Makes a Good Engineering Manager?”

Pluralsight, “Engineering Leader’s Guide to Upgrading 1:1s”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Architectural and Engineering Managers