Perception is if you’ve got an engineering degree, you’re an engineer, so you know everything. Well….you’ve got excellent technical skills, but do you really know everything? Of course not.
The fact is, to be a truly successful engineer, in addition to technical skills, you also need project management, communications and leadership skills. In today’s market, engineers who lack these skills could be regarded as having only half the training and knowledge they need to offer full value to their company.
Project management courses are important for any engineer because projects can be extremely complex, risky, and high stake. It is essential for engineers to be able to design and execute a project in an environment where requirements are constantly changing. If an engineer wishes to move up the ladder, they need to have a full command of the management of projects.
Why are project managers essential in engineering? Because if you want the project to be successful and deliver value to the customer, you must understand this fundamental: Project Management is not an education that is independent of technology. The two go arm in arm. Neither one succeeds without the other.
To illustrate, let’s look at five reasons why a project manager’s expertise in both technology and execution can vastly increase the benefits for the organization as well as the clients.
- Build important skills. A focused study in the management of projects hones skills that you can apply to ensure that a project is executed within scope, kept on schedule, and completed within budget and delivers value to the customer. You could certainly acquire skills through on-the-job training. However, you’d almost certainly miss some essential pieces of knowledge that you can only gain from a concentrated effort to build your skills through guidance from knowledgeable instructors who can share real-world experience. Developing these skills requires both on-the-job experience plus a thorough project management education.
- A high paying career path. The effectiveness of a Project Manager is measured by his or her ability to manage the day-to-day operations that involve excellent communication skills, managing the expectations of stakeholders, handling sudden personnel issues, etc. That is why trained project managers draw higher salaries—they’re able to take on the challenges of complex scenarios. All businesses need project managers to keep growing, and they are willing to offer higher salaries to professionals with these skills.
- Learn to replicate success. Knowing how to continually learn from experience is essential. Creating flexible standard operating procedures (SOPs) can help you replicate success. You will be more effective because when an SOPs contributes to the success of a project, you can replicate that success on the next project. With experience and guidance, you will learn to develop SOPs that will last, as well as what needs to be modified for the next project. If you can standardize 60% of needed tasks from one project to the next, you will have more time to monitor the project’s key performance indicators plus communicate more with the client and fulfill their expectations.
- Never be stuck in a job you don’t enjoy. Project management is not about technology awareness. If you are developing project management skills, you’ll learn what engineers don’t learn in their usual courses—leadership, diplomacy, conflict resolution, communication and strategic assessment—skills that are relevant and applicable in all industries. This means you can move from project to project, company to company or even change industries. You’ll never be stranded in a career you don’t enjoy. Professionals with technical and “people” skills will always be in high demand.
- Learn a common operating language. Studying project management will teach you a common operating language and vision for how project management is properly conducted. If you follow the structure outlined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) or the International Project Management Association (IPMA), you will have the foundation to make informed decisions that apply to your own industry or particular situation. You can also review past projects and see where the application of the project management body of knowledge might have resulted in a better outcome.
Maryam Dadabhoy, a 2017 graduate of our Master of Engineering in Project Management (MEng) Program, is a civil engineer working for HDR, Inc. She had a BS in Civil Engineering but realized that having a project management background would be just as important as her technical degree if she wanted to advance her career. She told us that, “Technical skills are important, but in order for me to move up at any company, project management skills are a must. My Master of Engineering in Project Management (MEng) degree has opened up many opportunities for me.”
Maryam Dadabhoy, Master of Engineering Graduate (MEng) May 2017
Keith Thompson, a 2011 graduate of our Master of Engineering in Project Management (MEng) Program, is a Director of Launch at Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a Terran Orbital Company. He has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering but realized very early in his career how necessary project management skills were in order to execute projects on time, on budget, and within scope. He said, “Communication is one of the most important skills required to successfully execute projects and programs in today’s environment. Project Managers are responsible for coordinating many different tasks every day with multiple organizations and all different types of people. Without the communication skills and stakeholder management skills I learned in the MEng program at UMD, I would not be where I am today in my career.”
Keith Thompson, Master of Engineering (MEng) Graduate, May 2011
Being a project manager is definitely not for everyone and that’s ok. People with technical expertise will always be needed. Engineering projects always need engineers. However, if you are one of those people who wants to move into a leadership position within your organization and provide benefits for both your firm and clients, learning project management skills are a must.
Earn your competitive advantage and enroll in Maryland’s Master of Engineering in Project Management.
Posted by Kathy Frankle on September 8, 2021