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Engineers Are Happy in Role as Non-Managers

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I like being an engineer!
warren@fourward.com   5/24/2012 6:01:11 AM
I know we need management.  Someone has to absorb the profits I create.  But I was born to be an engineer and I love it!  I don't mind managing technical people to help me do the work.  Heck, I don't even mind having a nontechnical person on the team fetching things, issuing POs, selling stuff, cleaning the building, dealing with UPS, creating advertising, and so on.  We need to offer livelihood to others.  It's the Christian thing to do.  But I don't want to run the company.  I want to be an engineer.  Just tell me what you have in mind to offer to the marketplace, give me to tools I need and a budget to break, and I'm in heaven.

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Re: I like being an engineer!
naperlou   5/24/2012 9:23:46 AM
Alex, many years ago, at GE, there was an issue with manager vs engineer.  We were promoting people to management so that we could pay them what they were worth, but they really didn't (and in some cases couldn't) manage.  So, a parallel set of titles was created to parallel all management levels up to Director (just below VP).  This worked really well.  And at the top level, Engineering Fellow, the pay was quite high.  I was in both types of roles at various times.  I preferred the Staff Engineer role.

As for the comment from an manager that engineers were interchangable, that is obviously not correct (I was thinking about saying something else).  The performance of a design or piece of software or firmware can varry by a factor of over 10,000, depending on how it is designed.  I would want the guy who could figure out how to come out on the high end of that curve.  Of course, every once in a while I saw engineers who could not design a subsystem correctly.  They were alwasy failing the "smoke test".  They generally got fired.

Finally, I do see, fairly often, people who own or run a business and are very creative.  Becuase they spend too much time on the design part their business suffers.  This is the other side of the coin.

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It's a rare combination
NadineJ   5/24/2012 11:45:38 AM
Engineers or creatives who can manage effectively have a special combination of talents that most people just don't have.

Most designers and engineers are doers.  They like to be in the trenches.  And, frankly, some have too much ego to manage others and allow someone who may even be more talented/created to grow.  A good manager may not know exactly how it works but does know who the right people are to get it done.  The quote in the article from Chuck Blevinssays it best from my experience.

To naperlou's point, it's not one vs the other.  Both are needed for success.

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Love the smell of solder
tekochip   5/24/2012 5:18:39 PM
I've done both, but as a manager I did remain close to the design. If all I did was stare at MS Project, I would have been bored to tears.

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Re: Love the smell of solder
BergmanHarold   5/25/2012 1:43:33 AM
I would say both the job is tough, since Engineer's job is to planing, designing and implementing whereas Manager's job it to arrange all the thing according to particular engineer. So both carry eual importance.

beauty box

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A good manager
ChasChas   5/25/2012 11:54:38 AM

A good manger:

1-Gives proper and honest credit as due. 2-Manages people by asking them the right questions. 3-Foresees problems before they become problems. 4-Divides the workload fairly to promote individual growth.

A rare breed. 

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Different Skill Set
kf2qd   5/25/2012 1:01:12 PM
Technical people tend to have a different skill set than do good managers. We do well with things, and we are less adept at the "people" things. Its not a bad thing, its just what makes us good at what we do. We can work with the specs of a bunch of different components and jury rig a fix until the right parts come in, we can listen to some obscure and intermittant sound and tell someone which wire to wiggle, or bolt to tighten. But people can drive us nuts!

The problem with most managers is that they don't have much knowledge of what we do, or why. But a good manager can handle the peole side of things and enjoy it and be fulfilled. Just like an engineer can when the project  it finally works perfectly and teh customer is delighted with the end result.

If you can get a manager that has the great people skills, but has been trained in some of the field which he is managing, it is a wonderful experience.

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Re: Different Skill Set
robatnorcross   5/25/2012 4:31:05 PM
A few years ago...

While sitting in my cube one day at a local govt (military) contractor who shall remain nameless I was on the phone with a hardware (screw) supplier. In the mean time the director of R&D walked up and was waiting for me to finish the call. I mentioned to the person on the phone "six thirty two screw". When I finished the call the first thing the "director" asked me was "what does six thirty two mean?"

He was about 3 pay grades above me.

Obviously he was smarter than me because he was MY boss and not vise versa. I've never been able to figure out what I've been doing wrong all these years.

On top of that "engineers" aways do all the work and the "directors" generally get the credit when the thing works and transfer the blame when the thing doesn't.

On the other hand in China I guess you just kill yourself when things go wrong so may be things are not so bad after all.

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Re: I like being an engineer!
bobjengr   5/25/2012 5:41:10 PM

Being an engineering manager can be a difficult road and take you away from what you are really trained to do.  At one time in my professional career, I was the engineering manager of productivity which, for that company, was the cost-reduction arm or our design group.    Good job but one in which my major function was attending meetings—endless meetings.  As the manager, I was on committees for quality, production, reliability, design, field service, etc etc.  You get the picture.  All of these committees were worthwhile in their own rite but consumed my day and took me away from our real objective—redesigning, or having redesigned, subassemblies that saved money or facillited assembly on the factory floor.    My supervisor was not an engineer.  He was an accountant by training and only looked at the numbers.  We had a quarterly target we were measured against and heads did roll when we fell short of our goals.  It was not always fun and the work load was truly burdensome.   I now own my on company and work as an engineering consultant which allows me to pick and chose the projects I wish to work on.  Much better arrangement.

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Its SO easy to be tempted by the DARK side
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   5/26/2012 12:36:19 PM

24 years in a major US corporation – Starting out doing what I loved—designing new products -- right out of college;  but quickly saw that promotion opportunities meant more money, more recognition, and better cubicles, eventually leading to offices with doors!  Oh, the euphoria! 

What one failed to realize during the monotonous trek up the ladder was that you did less and less of what you were originally hired to do – engineer new product concepts – and more and more of what stressed you out – managing people, markets, budgets, vendors, materials, and so on. 

24 years later, the company has massive layoffs due to gross mismanagement in a fledging economy, and everything you worked for was been reduced to ashes.  Your job has been eliminated. 

By the grace of God, I started over as an independent design consultant and now am back to doing what I absolutely love – designing new products -- but had forgotten the passion while stuck trudging on the treadmill corporate ladder.  I no longer desire to have a mahogany door to my office, because I happily work from my home.

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