You may be surprised to learn that as of 2014, over thirty percent of S&P’s (Standard & Poor) five hundred CEOs have an undergraduate degree in engineering. From an outside perspective, the two subjects of engineering and business may not seem like they would naturally overlap, but upon a closer look, it can easily become obvious as to why the two are not always as distinct as they may seem.
Both engineers and business leaders are working towards similar goals – they both want to create something that works efficiently, and most of the time will both be people who have a keen eye for innovative and creative solutions, while both being firmly rooted in what’s possible. While their day-to-day work tasks may differ significantly, the skills and knowledge obtained from studying an engineering program or degree can transfer remarkably well to a successful career in business. Some of the key skills include:
Project Management, Problem Solving and Time Management:
While pursuing their education, engineers in training will tackle a variety of projects. Each will come with a strict deadline to adhere to, while encouraging the engineer to come up with a solution that is both innovative and efficient, in a well-structured fashion. While the work itself may be different, the same can be true for business professionals, so it’s no surprise that the skills learned when studying engineering can be put to good use in a business environment.
Attention to Detail:
Some say that engineering is ‘applied mathematics’ and when it comes to successful projects, engineers can’t afford not to sweat the small stuff. And, in the business world, the large amounts of money that are often at stake mean that business professionals are in a similar situation; a keen attention to and eye for detail is absolutely crucial. Firms look for employees who are able to see not only the big picture, but also all the smaller and often very important details that make it up, appreciating the finer detail of their operations.
Teamwork and Communication Skills:
Although it’s a given that people are different, and some will naturally be more charismatic than others, aspiring engineers will need to learn how to work effectively with others on a range of different group projects. And even if the student is not interested in becoming a public speaker, they will certainly need to learn to communicate effectively in a team, being able to get their point across along with building strong listening skills – a skill that’s also hugely important for business.
Strong Numeracy and Data Processing Abilities:
Engineering and mathematics are very closely linked – and while you may not need to be a mathematical genius in order to be successful in business, having strong math skills can certainly help. Whether you’re writing a business plan, trying to figure out market data, projecting your business’s finances for the next year or in negotiations, understanding and knowing your way around numbers can be extremely useful.
Computer Skills and Technical Knowledge:
Today, all businesses must be able to keep up with modern technological advancements in order to thrive – with technology changing and evolving every day, business owners and managers need to be able to stay up to date and have the skills required to learn new technologies that can help their business grow. Similarly, engineers also need to stay current when it comes to tech – many engineers have a working or even skilled knowledge of programming, and it’s vital that they are able to develop a strong understanding of current technology’s uses and limitations.
Why Do Many Engineers Become Business Professionals?
Developing all these skills is one of the main reasons for the increasing dominance of engineers amongst business leaders in the world today. But you may be wondering – even when the transferable skills are certainly there and have several benefits, what’s in it for an engineer when it comes to moving to an often completely different career path than the one that they have trained and studied for?
There are many reasons – most engineers are paid well, but there’s no denying that business leaders tend to have more opportunities when it comes to earning more money and growing their wealth. In addition, many engineers decide that they prefer the working conditions of a business career compared to those in the engineering sector. And, some may move into business in a bid to start their own company that is closely intertwined with engineering. Today it is even possible to train for both at the same time, thanks to tailored programs such as this MS engineering management online – allowing you to prepare for both engineering and business leadership at the same time, and put the transferable skills you will learn to use in both sectors.
Are Any Additional Skills Needed?
Very few business leaders who were once engineers will describe their move between sectors as natural career progression. And, it’s important to note that certain soft skills and operational knowledge needed for successful management are not nurtured sufficiently in an engineering role, so extra training and study is often required for an engineer looking to make a move into the business world. The skills that are learned during engineering training are very welcomed within most business careers, but in order to truly advance, some extra effort will usually be necessary. One of the best ways for engineers to do this is to invest their time into studying a business-related higher education program and enhance their resume by adding solid knowledge to the plethora of transferable skills that they already possess.
Are you an engineer who is considering starting your own business, or looking to move into a career in the business world? Do you believe that the skills you have learned while training to become an engineer would serve you well in a business leadership or management position? Which skills do you believe would need to be improved on, or learned from scratch in order for you to succeed in this career change? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.