If you are currently an engineer and enjoy wearing many hats including managing people and projects, but you lack the know-how, consider expanding your knowledge through a guided system of online learning. Engineering is a diverse field and to become proficient at managing a technical organization, one is expected to acquire a breadth of skills aimed towards this goal.
One of the roles of an engineer is to solve problems. A team of engineers can produce a variety of brilliant solutions to a particular problem. It takes a skilled project manager familiar with engineering minds and processes to manage these solutions. Understanding the problem at hand, a project manager skillfully balances time management with the available resources, ensuring deadlines are met.
Managing people is an acquired skill, and unless one has an affinity toward this, a successful technical manager will need to undergo adequate training in this field. An ideal project manager is well-liked, respected and adored by his flock while displaying strong leadership skills. But there is more to project management, and one can acquire this and many other related skills via an online systems engineering degree program.
To be successful in managing a wide variety of engineering programs, a technical project manager, also known as a systems engineer needs to understand the nature of these programs. For example, a biomedical engineering project manager is expected to manage and interface with scientists, engineers, technicians and health professionals. A civil engineering project supervisor is anticipated to manage and interact with construction crews, vendors, engineers, architects and building inspectors. A software engineering overseer on the other hand interfaces with software developers and the specific clientele of the software. Due to the possibility of nationwide or globally distributed human resources, a system engineer needs to oversee a viable and smooth collaboration among these scattered employees.
Managing a software project is different than managing a building construction project, for example. A software project is more flexible and can adapt to revisions more easily than a physical development project whose mistakes may endanger the security and lives of countless people. Hence, to ensure public safety, a project manager of a civil engineering project shoulders more responsibility than a software engineering manager.
Although an MBA is not required of a project manager, knowing how to implement financial planning and evaluate costs for engineering projects of various complexities is expected. Having knowledge of accounting, integrating economic theories with engineering practice, experimenting on various engineering markets, predicting economic outcomes are all part and parcel of the skills expected of a technical project manager.
A proficient technical manager is expected to communicate well in writing and speech addressing both technical and non-technical audiences. Knowing how to successfully convey complex technical ideas to the general public may require training unless it comes naturally. Interviewing and reviewing potential candidates to recruit as part of the team is another responsibility. Sometimes a project manager is called upon to lead a presentation to a multi-faceted audience or to pitch an idea to potential financial backers. It is essential that an engineering manager understands and is able to interpret technical documentation and is capable of drafting one if needed.
A project does not end when milestones are met and the final product ships out the door. Maintaining the project lifecycle often takes several iterations until it reaches a stable state. A technical project manager oversees the troubleshooting and maintenance of an engineering project from start to finish. Understanding the lifecycle of a project is essential so that a manager can take over a project at any stage within the cycle.
An ideal technical project manager is expected to have previously worked in various engineering fields and is looking to advance his or her career in managing successful technical programs ranging in size and complexity. Proficient with the business aspects of a technical project, a desirable engineering manager exhibits strong leadership skills moving his or her team toward success.