Being manager in an engineering company is not the easiest position one can have. Not only they are responsible for leading and managing a team of engineers,
but also are in charge of overseeing the design, development, and implementation of engineering projects and ensuring they’re completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards. These mangers also have to mentor and develop the people they’re managing. Additionally, collaborate with all departments and stakeholders to ensure the team’s work aligns with the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
Considering these issues, having some key skills and qualifications would help to excel in this role. Managers in this industry should have strong technical skills and be a good project manager at first sight. They should also be able to communicate effectively, have strong hiring skills, and know how to empower the team and keep them engaged by considering team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Also, having good business skills are always a plus.
After years of experience in managing, I believe that there are common challenges that most of engineer managers face in their day-to-day business undertakings which needs their immediate attention. Otherwise, further problems will be taken place. Among them, these ones happen more often: setting clear goals and expectations, taking ownership of their decisions, hiring the right talent, providing an environment that encourages development, improving team performance, motivating team members, and creating a strong culture. If the challenges are not noticed and the solutions implemented in time, managers will have a hard time building a cohesive team. That will in turn affect the team’s performance and productivity.
While there are lots of problems that managers may face in engineering workplaces, overcoming following issues could make the road ahead much smoother:
In my opinion, setting expected goals and milestones stands first. Managers pretty know that it is easy to write down goals, but achieving them is another story. Setting too many goals at a time, setting unrealistic duration approximates for tasks to be done towards a goal, or even lack of confidence in your team, are most challenging aspects of setting your goals. You may also refrain from setting some goals due to fear of failure. This unfortunately leads to omitting specific goals that would have been easy to attain. So, it is strongly advised to set a goal for each task that engineers can attain. Do not overstretch them with lots of goals. Try to set realistic timelines for tasks as well. Besides, note that engineering tasks have different levels of difficulty. Some goals are easy to attain, others are hard.
Another challenging issue which is also too time-consuming for technical managers is talent recruitment phase. Hiring new talent is challenging for an engineering manager, mostly because they focus on hiring the best talent instead of the “right” talent. As an engineering manager, we need to ask ourselves how much a new hire will impact the team and organization at large. To define the “right” talent, an engineering leader must consider team dynamics, or short-term and long-term goals.
Among challenging issues, I believe managing productivity and burnout is placed subsequently. Actually, the amount of workload in a business varies from time to time, especially for startups. There are times when engineers are required to work excessive hours because of the heavy workload assigned, while there are also times with a light workload. Managers tend to assign more tasks to engineers with short datelines when they have to achieve goals quickly. So, you should manage the distribution of the workload across varying periods of activity. Definitely bear in mind that multitasking will also make the situations even tougher to keep a healthy pace for optimal productivity.
When assigning work, managers should be precise about the expected outcome, timelines, and any necessary resources. This clarity will help the team members understand their responsibilities and what is expected from them. Acknowledging the team members’ hard work and accomplishments, both individually and as a team, or celebrating victories will enhance team morale. Also, by encouraging staff to accept challenges and consider failures as a chance for progress, managers will create an environment where team members feel empowered to take risks and learn from their experiences.
The next instance of challenges could be conflict resolution. Conflicts in a team can be something as simple as two engineers arguing over a solution to a problem. It can also be about two engineers who have different personal opinions on non-work-related matters. As a manager, you may not be prepared to resolve these issues with professionalism. So, having skill to resolve conflicts before they get worse, is so significant. If a conflict is not noticed early, it will not go away on its own. Failure to address a conflict will be signaling to your team that you are not aware of what is happening in the company, don’t care, or can’t resolve the conflict effectively.
Sometimes, feeling disconnected is managers’ challenging issue. You may feel that you have lost touch with the actual engineering work and worry that you may lose the respect of your team. Simply, take a step back, and determine whether you need to be in every meeting and every piece of communication or not. If your engineers can do a job well, try to trust them. Obviously, in Engineering companies, the aim is to make team more efficient and effective, and to give them opportunities to use their skills.
It would be much better to avoid micromanaging the engineers, and stop hover over all projects, second-guess their decisions, or reluctantly release responsibility to them! Engineers can lose motivation by being regularly assigned to trivial tasks, staying stuck with a problem for a long time. To keep the team focused on the final goal, managers should show them the impact of their work in the company.
The last point but not the least, being a manager in engineering companies is not a small feat, however, it’s worth overcoming any challenges over. Since it is a job to deliver a project on time and within the budget, so improving managing skills will surely boost your company’s bottom line as well.
Autor: Sejad Silva