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Sage Advice from Executive Chris Weiss for Aspiring Engineering Managers

Ready for the next step in your career? Well, at least you’re not alone. Many engineers, feeling like the best opportunity for a better income lies in a managerial track, frequently ask themselves what they need to do to take that next step. And those that have been promoted into a managerial position often wonder what they need to be successful and stay in that position. Who should you listen to for some answers to those questions?

Almost two months ago, I talked with Chris Weiss, the VP of Engineering at Knapheide Manufacturing, about a number of issues including his perspective on talent management and Knapheide’s selection of Solidworks as their CAD software application. But we also set aside some time to talk about what advice he would give to aspiring engineering managers. Have a listen to what he said.

For those that are short on time or want to skip ahead, here are the quick highlights.

  • 00:35 – It’s critical to be able manage talent. Many times, the best engineer becomes the manager because they were the best engineer. That doesn’t necessarily make them a good manager.
  • 01:15 – It was my most uncomfortable moments where I learned the most. Its very difficult the first time you hire someone or the first time you lay someone off in a bad economy.
  • 01:30 – You need to step back and assess and create your own strategy or fundamentals.
  • 02:15 – You have to observe the things that work for you and the things that don’t work because you find yourself in difficult scenarios.

What I find most interesting to me is that the most critical skills to being a good engineering manager is people skills. And its definitely ironic that its often the most technically skilled engineers that take on the managerial positions. That issue is the biggest facing first time engineering managers. The fundamental question is this: how do you gain those people management skills while learning on the job?

What’s your take? What’s the best scenario you’ve seen where an engineering manager adapts most quickly to the role? What skills and knowledge do you think are most critical to being a good engineering manager? Sound off and let us know what you think.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.

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