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How does an Engineer best serve his company?

How does an Engineer best serve his company?

How does an Engineer best serve his company?

How does an Engineer best serve his company? I ask this in terms of possible career paths an engineer may take in one company. In this particular situation there is only one real engineer and several construction project managers, drafts people, and estimators. The engineer is young with only about 4 yrs exp. The company has been around over 30 yrs. and has had significant growth lately. Being the first engineer (ME) for the company the career path for this person is undefined. This engineer has recently aquired his PE lic. and his MBA. One of the questions that management and this person must consider at some point is how will this engineer best serve his company in the future? He is certainly qualified to take the path into management, but on the other hand he has the potential to stick around as an engineer for decades and hopefully become a guru in his field possibly mentoring a couple other engineers, but no real progress up the chain of command. Are these questions that other companies have? How is this evaluated by management and by the engineer. The engineer seems to be truely love his field while at the same time exhibits interest and talent for organization biz process.

Insight will be much appreciated!

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

So who is "this" engineer and what is "his" field/industry?

- Steve

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

Mechanical Engineer. He works for an industrial construction company in the Gulf South of USA. Their primary work is in the petro chemical industry. The engineering involves vessels, tanks, structures, some thermodynamics and fluids problems.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

From the description that the engineering involves, it sounds like the engineer has a well defined scope of work.  4 years of experience doesn't sound like much, but it's enough so that the engineer is not wet behind the ears.  If the engineer truly  loves his work , then they should consider staying within engineering and not moving to management.  During that time, he should continue to refine and practice in his area of expertise by going to conferences, taking ASME short courses, etc.  If the company utilizes the skills learned in these courses, they should reimburse or fund the engineer for training.

As for chain of command, I feel that an experienced engineer is always respected for their value within the company.  An indispensible engineer is one that doesn't have to follow the chain of command, because if the indispensible engineer is always going to be low man on the totem pole compared to management (in salary and respect), the indispensible engineer would probably take his indispensible skill set somewhere else.       

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

This is what annoys me about engineering at the moment, there is this attitude that in order to advance your career you need to stop being technical and go into management.

What happened to experienced oversight.

Make them a technical manager and put them in charge of all the relevant technical aspects of the products.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?


Blame academia.  While I was in school, several of my professors told me that engineers will come to a fork in the road within 5-10 years into their careers.  One path leads to a technical job (which they said was lower pay), and the other path leads to project management, and then senior management (which they said was higher pay).   

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

Our company has a dual track, technical and management.

The higher technical grades correspond to managment levels.

Being a fellow (highest technical rank) is equivalent to VP (supposedly).

We have 5 VPs in this business segment.  We had one Fellow till he left a few months ago.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions as regard practice V theory.

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

I would not blame academia, your prof was just telling you the way it is.
Academia has no influence in industry promotion practices.  
You can go for the bucks and take the non-technical management path which means added stress, hours, and loss of personal life.  Some people like that.  Those types of people are the ones that bring work in.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

How does an Engineer best serve his company?
I believe that an Engineer offers the most to his company when he best serves himself.  If someone fills a position that they dislike, how can they do their best job.  In contrast, an engineer that follows their passion in work should glow with confidence and success.  My advice is to live lean where no employer owns you, and then follow your passion.  In the end, I think an engineer that follows their passion in the workplace will end up with greater financial returns and happiness in the long terms.  Living lean allows a person to change jobs if/when they find themselves working for the wrong group of people.  I believe that in today‚Äôs business environment an engineer can no longer stay at one office/corporation for their whole working career and best serve himself.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

How does one "live lean"?  I haven't heard of the term.  Please enlighten...  Is that living in a trailer park with a beans and rice diet and driving the same old car for 20 years or until it falls apart, not marrying or having kids so you can pursue your goals with reckless abandon?  Because that's what I'm picturing.  If I am wrong, please correct me.  

I didn't know it was really like that, I just took the prof's word.  I guess there are two sides to the coin.  The management side that makes the deals with clients and brings work in, and the technical side that does the work and produces the product/service, and then there are those unlucky guys that do both because they started their own engineering firms.         

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

As a side note. Does an engineer serve his company by expressing unpopular concerns about technical matters.??
Does he do the company a favor by outing the white elephant projects that are sapping company resources?
I see so much of that stuff I can't believe it. For a long time i assumed that correcting errors was good for the company and i kept wondering why I always got left out of the loop after a time at a new job. I eventually figured it out. Keep mouth shut and let the boss pursue any hair brained idea he has.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

2dye4, has a great point, most bosses dont know how to use engineers.

I saw a survey in this forum somewhere, that showed most engineers quit their jobs because they are not being used to their potential as much as people quit for higher pay.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

I would ask, since he is the only Mechanical in the firm, Does the firm intend to expand the area of expertise in which he is working?  i.e. establish a separate Mechanical Engineering section?  

If so, why not, when the time is right - upon hiring the second engineer or technical support person - put him in charge of the neww Mechanical section to test his skills as a "technical manager" if you want to call it that.  To start, I would suggest a minimum of three peop[le in the section to include him.  Observe his people skills as well as his design skills and see if the shoe fits.  He has the technical and managerial credentials.  Give him a chance to get the experience as a manager.  You already know of his technical expertise.

Good hunting.

Mike McCann
McCann Engineering

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

IAAWVU05, living lean means not buying stuff you don't really want just for the status. It means settling for "good enough" instead of "best" much of the time. It means saving for things instead of buying everything now on credit. It means taking a litte bit longer view. It means, mostly, about thinking about the difference between "wants" and "needs", and not reacting instantly to every "want". If you still want it a week or a month from now, then buy it. It means, maybe, spending some of your disposable income making extra principle payments on your house, and saving interest. It means put some money in the bank most, if not every, pay day. It means not living paycheck to paycheck. Been doing it most of my life. I live pretty good, fairly "inexpensively", and don't truly "want"for anything. Peace of mind.



RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?


Thanks for the clarification.  Living lean is more like being conservative with your budget, knowing when and how to spend involving critical decisions, and not getting everything now on credit cards and paying for it with interest later.  In other words, being financially responsible without being a cheapskate.  

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

I was in one of those 'dual career path' companies a while ago.  

I made more money than my boss... for a grand total of three weeks.

It took him two weeks after becoming my boss to discover the 'discrepancy', and a week to get a raise.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

IAAWVU05, well that's my definition anyway. Obviously there's more to life than just being thrifty.

To address the original topic, whithout taking a position on whether one should seek to go into management: An engineer can best serve his company by aquiring as much relevant, and some not relevant, technical skills as possible, by learning the major facts of the business side of the industry, by developing a network of technical people outside the company, by finding out about the design and product "history" whenever possible, and by putting a premium on careful, accurate, detailed work. It also would be useful to keep his eyes and ears open for design practices that are maybe not well formalized and develop a sound basis for them, even though its not an "assignment". These things also serve the ENGINEER well.



RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

Wow- this is a strange question.  Are there so many people at this place that a person can decide what they want to do and the business will simply be forced to adapt?

Clearly the business and its management will dictate what it needs each employee to do.  If the roles required don't match the skills and interests of the people avaiable, then the people need to change:  either by building new skills, or by finding another job.

As far as what a person should be interested in doing, that's a totally individual and personal decision.  Similarly, differnt people define "career advancement" differently.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

Said engineer should spend a bit of time contemplating where they might want to be say in 3-5, 7-10, 10+ years.  It would be the first step in creating a career development "plan".  As moltenmetal indicates, business, management, and life in general will introduce changes that impact your plan.  Review, modify, or adjust accordingly.  I spent several years racing as a hobby and started every race with a plan.  It might be as simple as where I wanted to put the car on the track at the start to simply surviving through turn one.  When the green flag dropped, any plan I had might have to change in a hurry.  In short, be adaptable.


RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

I assume the question is what's good for the company, not the individual.  

And yes, this includes company consiederation that the individual needs factor into it since an unhappy employee is an unproductive employee as mentioned above.   But since the hypothetical engineer has not expressed any preference in this thread, one thinks we need to assume his preference are neutral and therefore don't affect the decision.

So from the company standpoint, you need good people and you need them matched to their roles.  We know for certain this guy can fill the engineer role well.  We think he can fill the manager role well, although that is certain.  (based on this, we already have one factor pointing towards a preference for keeping him an engineer).  Part of the question is what kind of other people are available or potentially available to fill the manager and engineer roles... and how do they stack up in terms of capability (and to a lesser extent cost).  Chances are you may have a hard time finding an engineer as good to replace this guy.  I'm guessing chances are better you could find a manager to fill a spot and come up to speed quickly.  I have the general impression that detailed engineering relies heavily on specific relevant experience while management skills are more easily transferrable from job to job.   Above also seems to point toward company motivations to keep this guy shackled to his engineering desk.

One final consideration:   how important are these respective roles to company success.  If the quality of the engineering has a huge impact on profitability, you may want your absolute best people there.    If engineering is somewhat of a routine task whose quality doesn't affect the bottom line very much, and the business environment is dynamic, driving the importance of management skills, it may be better to see if this performer can help lead the company to greater heights with his managment skills.

Eng-tips forums: The best place on the web for engineering discussions.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

Wow, I appreciate all the input. And agree with most of it. And the answer to one of the obvious questions is 'No' this is not about me. This is about guy who I am a mentor to through a local eng. society. And to answer another question: the guy isn't being faced with this decision yet. It was actually asked of him by his superior in a non-formal discussion as something to think about in the future, which I thought was very odd/suspicious.

Our companies are similar but heavier in the engineering side. Our career paths are similar to what KENAT explained about a dual track where the higher up Engineers are sit beside some of the Mngrs on the org chart.

I really like what you said IAAWVUO5 about "truely loving his work" and "taking his indispensible skills somewhere else".

2dye4, Gymmeh - I understand your pain when you comment on being underutilized and steering people off the crazy idea path. Only in my situation the construction side of our company all up and down the organization seem to think that real complicated engineering only needs to be done if the client asks for it, otherwise taking it upon themselves to cut the hole as big as they want (so to speak). And no it doesn't happen all the time, we have installed preventative measures to mitigate this, its just a petpeeve.

Thanks, for all the input.

RE: How does an Engineer best serve his company?

Make yourself the best engineer you can be. Learn all you can and make yourself marketable.  That is, be the person everyone in the industry wants to hire. If you are good your company will want and reward you, if not someone else will.  
Don't find out in five years you have one years experience five times.

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