I totally agree with Doug that there is a huge difference between what makes a great engineering leader or visionary with what makes a great engineering manager. Given that product development is far more of a collaborative, interdisciplinary practice today, the need for people who can effectively communicate, problem solve, promote cross-discipline sharing and knowledge transfer, and motivate staffers is what's needed (and oftentimes lacking) in engineering organizations. It's a set of skills that often takes a back seat to technical skills. Yet given the high stakes of today's competitive climate and the overall lack of budgets and resources, managers that can effectively do more with less and still deliver great products are an invaluable asset.
Certainly, there is a big difference between what makes a great leader and what makes a great manager. In my mind, a great manager is someone who takes a group of individual people and makes them better, often much better, than the sum of the parts. In a good working environment, people learn from each other and start feeding off each other in a very positive way. That's a particular challenge in an engineering environment where traditionally much work was done individually or in very small cells. It's also a particular challenge in engineering because engineers can at times be perfectionists and have trouble sharing projects or letting them go. A person who can overcome these hurdles, even in small groups, is a great manager.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
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