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Path to an Executive Position

Path to an Executive Position

Path to an Executive Position

Lately I've been wondering about becoming an executive.

Maybe it's being in the trenches that doesn't feel like a good fit any more.

I seen all those people listed in Who's Who listed in AWS&T for years. I've never known any of them

Whats the best way to transition?  How does someone wind up director or VP of a larger company?

We all compete for engineering lead spots when they open, but that doesn't even seem like much of a step up.  Very few of the even more Sr. management I've ever met didn't seemed to have any special gift or perception at all.

Is changing companies a better time to try the transition?

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Don't know your schooling background - but MGMT seems to like MBAs.

And yes - you might have to change companies if you want to fast track - unless someone quits or dies at yours.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

If you can't climb the ladder, build your own tower.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

most executives can figure this out on their own. You need to start with management. Have you managed a project or any other staff yet? Start with that, see how it goes and move on from there.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

You're on the right track, playing around on the Internet and forums.

SolidWorks 10 SP4.0
ctopher's home
SolidWorks Legion

RE: Path to an Executive Position

One of my older colleagues thought he was on the executive track until he was told he lacked the right pedigree, educational institution, family situation, etc.

I've been around plenty of upper managers.  They are human.  But they are there for some reason.  Maybe they're a test for the rest of us.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

As for the requirements, there are always Ads for executives. Try some of them and see what they look for in the candidate and work to get that.

Personally, I like Tick's advice though.

Rafiq Bulsara

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Get your MBA, or a law degree. Or better yet, BOTH.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Be careful what you ask for!

Increasingly, in engineering, the managers are non-technical and are not as often grown from within as in past times.  If that's the path you truly want, then pursue an MBA and take the ladder steps into management, perhaps starting at team or department levels, then moving up.

It can be volatile and the positions won't win you any friends.  You'll think and say that you'll be different....you won't because you won't be allowed to be.  Engineering businesses are just that..they are businesses, with much more bottom line focus than before.

There were times in engineering businesses where the technical product took precedent over a focus on profit only...and surprisingly the profit was usually there.  Now the focus is on profit first, figure out how to make everyone more productive and how to keep costs down...often on the backs of the employees.  Employee longevity, loyalty and technical competence are rarely valued as before.

This is not an outside observation.  I've been a VP at a large international engineering firm and a Senior VP for a regional engineering firm.  I stayed involved in the technical side in each, but there were those who sought to be only in management....not for me.

I didn't particularly endear myself to the corporate types.  I once asked my boss (the Prez) if I had a client problem to solve or a corporate hoop to jump through, which one would I do? He guessed right and soon thereafter I was replaced as the office manager and put into a purely technical position.  I couldn't have been happier!!

I have run two businesses otherwise, so management is not a big deal...corporate weenydom is.

Good luck.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Well the cynic might say something like:

1.  Arrange to be born into the right family, in the right social circles etc.

2.  Attend the right school(s), quite likely private or at least in select school districts etc.

3.  Attend the right college for your undergraduate degree (and join the right fraternity/sorority etc. while there).

3.  Attend the right school for you MBA (or similar post grad studies)

4.  Keep in touch with all your high placed contacts.

5.  Marry the right girl/guy.

6.  Run a couple of companies into the ground, the important thing isn't that the company does well, it's that you get promoted to executive position.  So making short term decisions that help you meet this quarters numbers is more important than long term stability, because by the time negative consequences catch up with you you plan to be in another position, quite possibly in a different company.

7.  Once you reach the VP type level, you're golden.  It doesn't matter if you suck and get fired at every company you work for.  It seems that once you've been an executive some company somewhere will hire you because you have experience.  It doesn't seem to matter if that experience was running the company into the ground.

8.  If it reaches a point that you're so bad that even 'having experience' doesn't get you the job, don't worry, just enter politics.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Path to an Executive Position

KENAT the realist, always bringing our heads down out of the clouds and placing our feet firmly on the ground.  Most accurate summary of corporate America I have seen in years!

I just had to paste a star on his post!

RE: Path to an Executive Position

From personal observation, it's all about self-positioning and in-house networking.

1.  Dress for the part you want; ties, jackets, suits if necessary
2.  Make yourself known to the executives; don't be shy to talk them up in the hall, elevator, coffee line, wherever you see them.
3.  Make sure they know your name, introduce yourself if you have too.
4.  Let your plans be known, planting the seed can never be done too early.
5.  Attend company social functions, stay sober, be seen.
6.  If that doesn't work...do like Kenat said and run some other company into the ground.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Forget to say, finding common activities with senior folks won't hurt either, traditionally golf or the like but round here the VP likes to go running on the beach at lunch and there's a little group that like to go with him.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Path to an Executive Position

the fastest way to become an exec is to start your own company - no brown-nosing required, although nothing wrong with playing golf, especially if you can get the boss to buy a couple drinks.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

As Ron states, engineering managers are becoming more and more non-technical.  Why is that?  i.e. Does anyone know accounting managers that are non-accounting backgrounds?  

RE: Path to an Executive Position

I don't know of any engineering managers in our company that are not registered engineers. Our chief operating officer is registered engineer and an attorney plus former business owner. not sure why this is not the case in other industries.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

HorntootingEE - it depends what you (and the organisation) need from managers. Personally I'm quite happy working for a non- engineer. I'd much rather have a good manager that had no technical interest than a bad manager who knows /my/ job.



Greg Locock

New here? Try reading these, they might help FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies  http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm?

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Greg...good point!


RE: Path to an Executive Position

Yes, some people who are excellent engineers make lousy managers and vice versa.

I agree with KENATS point 7, I have seen a few incompetent directors get 6 figure 'golden handshakes'.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

The trouble is, there is no market value for technical knowledge or skill.  There is, however, great market value in being able to boost sales, raise stock value, and cut costs, all of which can be done artificially and with complete disregard for science, ethics or morals.

You need to ask yourself if making "money" is more important than making "things".

Engineers - at least good ones - tend to keep executives out of prison.  Executives, conversely, reciprocate by keeping engineers out of work.



RE: Path to an Executive Position

What about a higher degree in Engineering Management or Systems Engineering? I have seen many high level officials especially in govt with degrees in one of these. With the same amount of experience they are placed higher than the guys who have PhDs in "regular" engineering (Mechanical, Electrical etc)


RE: Path to an Executive Position

Golf, network, hang out where the execs do.  It's not about skills when you get to that level. It's who you know and how convincing you are in letting people know that you do NOT need a job! Really.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

"engineering managers are becoming more and more non-technical"

Old news; Zenger Miller management courses pushed non-technical managers nearly 3 decades ago.  I've had good managers, both tecnical and not.  

The salient feature of a good manager is to know what NOT to do, i.e., you paid a salary to someone to do something, so you should get out of their way.  The worst managers are those that attempt to do engineering or attempt to out-engineer their subordinates, while neglecting to mind the store.


FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Play golf well, get advanced degrees, join the right country club, relentlesly brown nose, dress for success, selling yourself with an incredible gift for gab, pure luck of being in the right place at the right time.  May of us have seen these work for associates who chose this path.  However, all are totally self serving and in general, do not create a long lasting management career.  They alienate your co-workers whos help you need to be successful in your new position.

To get into Management, here is a sure fire way:

1.  Ensure you are in a growing company.  Companies downsizing or stuggling to make a small profit are not good areas to get ahead.  Companies with a big age gap between the experienced employees and new hires is an exception to this rule.

2. Instead of looking up the management chain looking for opportunities to exploit one of the techniques above, focus downward.  Ensure all the tasks you are given are done completely and thoroughly.  Never be arrogant or bully your co-workers.  Treat everyone equally as they are all important for the company to operate.  Continue this practice once you are awarded your first supervisory position.  Take care of your team and fight to ensure they have the tools and environment they need to be successful.  Keep the focus downward and ensure the work gets done and you are building a sustainable team.  Be the person whos team can relied upon to get something done correctly.

This works.  It can and usually does take longer.  But ultimately, you will have the full responsibility of Management and shape the future direction of the company.  Taking the short cuts listed above causes you to become an empty suit.  Nice title, good salary, but a head that is going to be deemed unnecessary in a financial crises.  When times get tough, you will be surprised how fast top levels of management will turn on each other to survive.  Best golfing buddies would cut each others throats in order to keep their jobs.

RE: Path to an Executive Position

Play golf, kiss lots of ass, but most importnatly you must adopt the mantra: "The companys goals are my personal goals."   

RE: Path to an Executive Position

I am trying to become the first executive in our company who has been promoted within.  It is tough.  All the other execs knew each other from previous jobs and such.  It is tough looking at an opening above me every day for the last two years.

Back in January, the VP told me we need to start talking about how to move me up, but i haven't heard anything since then.

Come Monday he and I are having a heart or heart.  It has been a fight for the last two years.

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