It happens to almost every engineer at some point in their career: they come to a crossroads and they have a decision to make. Which direction should they go in professionally?
Having mastered technical components, be it the coding of the software engineer or the machinery of the mechanical engineer, mapping out the problems and providing the structure of the solution is what an engineer is trained to do. However, after a period of time meeting technical challenges, the ambitions of highly motivated and high-achieving professionals often start to expand.
The possibility for engineers to branch out beyond their technical skill-set into management roles, especially in large corporations is an exciting prospect that can add a whole new dimension to your career path. Testing yourself and your ability to lead others can provide greater fulfillment beyond meeting the individual challenges of an engineer’s role, along with further developing the scope of your resume.
So if you have been thinking about the possibility of transitioning from an engineering position into a leadership one, you will know that hitting that career crossroads, whilst exciting, can also be confusing, as the road ahead marked “management” is not always an easy one to navigate.
So as a result, for those of you currently in technical positions thinking of undertaking a shift in your career, we have produced this report to provide a framework that maps out the potential choices you will need to consider when making a successful leap into management.
As an engineer, you studied a complex discipline for a number of years, creating a deep knowledge of “hard” technical skills to prepare you for the very structured problem solving required in the field. In the academic arena you more than likely stood out from the crowd as high achieving, performing at the head of the class. Then the excitement of getting to apply your theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios carried you through the initial stages of your first job.
That excitement can carry you for a few years, but then it slowly starts to nag at you that perhaps you have ceased to stand out. Everyone else at work is a high achiever with a deep well of technical know-how too. Are you really still growing? The skills you possess are not unique in your professional field, so perhaps you struggle with how to set yourself apart from the pack.
In addition, engineering fields tend to be anchored in tradition, making the road to career progression a slow and winding one. There are often queues of established tenured candidates to be considered for senior roles before you. Will a company take a risk on someone whose leadership record is as yet unproven?
As an IT engineer for example, you may start to realise that taking on management duties is the only real way to progress your career (as opposed to traversing sideways or diagonally into unrelated fields).
So after successfully steering the course of your initial career phase, your expectations has perhaps been adjusted and now you are left with the problem – how do I stand apart form the pack and keep expanding my career horizons into new and exciting territory?
So, you have committed yourself to rising to a new challenge in your working life, but do you really know what it will look like when you get there?
It is important to remember that moving into a leadership is not simply a promotion, but more akin to a career change. There are very transferrable skills that make engineers great candidates to flourish in management roles, but there are crucial differences that you need to take into account when plotting your transition, as the execution of those skills is very different:
An engineering education emphasises and privileges technical knowledge, which is great if you only ever want to work on technical projects in your professional capacity. But if you want to add variety to your value proposition as a modern employee, you need to learn the “soft” skills of management, how to guide others. This is something that a technical background tends to lack any real depth in.
So, if you wish to be a leader, to manage others, you need to learn how to lead, a complex skill that stands apart from technical abilities. But how can you do this and make a clear path towards your next career signpost?
The answer to that question could lay in business school, or more specifically an MBA. Maybe you are currently considering the possibility of an MBA, or maybe it is an idea you have not previously entertained – after all, you are a highly qualified professional, do you really need another qualification?
Well, if you wish to be a successful leader, the answer is emphatically “yes”. An MBA is not simply about providing a knowledge base of management and business principles.
A modern MBA is about the whole experienced providing you with very practical skills to apply in real-world business settings, especially within the global economy, where multinationals conduct projects on a global scale.
A modern MBA is a highly valued entry on any CV, with employment rates of some top business schools in America and Europe peaking at over 95% three months after graduation.
The MBA Career Service and Employer Alliance (CSEA) is the global umbrella for MBA affiliated programs all over the world and they highlight the benefits of an MBA beyond the education you acquire – MBA participants have access to, and “benefit from: ideas and solutions, targeted networking and dialogue, best practises, innovative strategy exchange and research trends”.
There are over 500 business schools in the US and over 700 in Europe with participants from all over the world. This means an MBA will expose you to a broad selection of cultural perspectives and approaches to everyday business challenges.
Whether wish to work in India upon completing a course or stay international, choosing to study abroad is an excellent way to build up you CV, as most engineering roles and their related leadership positions function at a multinational level, with corporations operating across national and cultural boundaries.
An international MBA exposes you to other ambitious professionals striving to find the best answers, fostering a culture of open exchange and co-operation – brilliant traits to develop in modern leadership.
The practical case-study approach of MBAs focus your skills on practical applications, as you become instantly pugged into an international network of business professionals, with unique access to internships and work placements at top companies. This will give your resume an extra element in comparison to others from a technical background.
Ultimately, in the modern economy, to thrive requires combining a range of skills and abilities in a multi discipline approach. An MBA is the perfect way to demonstrate your capabilities beyond technical rigor, and that you understand projects and how to execute them from both technical and human perspectives.
If you think the option of an MBA course will help you take your professional performance to the next level then it is time to start researching!
As mentioned before, there are numerous options to consider, but there is no need to be overwhelmed. There is an MBA program at a business school that is right for you.
The GMAT is the standard entrance exams for business schools around the world, testing a candidate’s aptitude in the areas of quantative and integrated reasoning, verbal reasoning, as well as analytical written skills. The skills demonstrate your suitability to school admissions and employers. But do not worry, there is help at hand to fully understand and prepare for the exams, and give you the best possible opportunity to succeed.
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