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Career Spotlight: The Engineering Manager

Posted by: Elena Craigie

As far as managerial roles go, the Engineering Manager (EM) could probably throw her or his hat in the ring for holding one of the busiest occupations in 21st century industry. Given that engineering can operate as a blanket term for the fields of product development, manufacturing, construction, design engineering, industrial engineering, technology; and that the clientele of an Engineering Manager’s phonebook will operate in industries such as automotive, aerospace, oil & gas, renewables, food, and pharmaceuticals… well, it’s fair to say that Engineering Manager doesn’t really unpack itself as a job title. 

So, how about we do a little unpacking for you? 

Depending on the industry and the field, an Engineering Manager’s ‘office’ could be on a construction site, in a factory, or in a laboratory.

An Engineering Manager will be responsible, chiefly, at the beginning of any project, for engaging in long, intense, and often technical, jargon-heavy conversations with management, production, and marketing staff during the conception phase of said project. These principles apply across the board of engineering management, whether the EM is overseeing the development of healthy food additives or the manufacturing of the next supercar. Being responsible for conferring with these three groups should immediately earmark the role of an EM as one that will require extremely high levels of concentration, long-term organisation, and, insofar as marketing goes, a thorough knowledge of competitors in the industry and the industry’s consumers. Why does the product an EM is overseeing the engineering management of…matter to society? This is a key question to be able to answer as an EM. 

What other responsibilities does this EM role entail? Well, here: 

  • Co-ordinating and directing the project from conception to completion in accordance with detailed plans and outlined goals, often created with or based on the client’s requirements.
  • Overseeing the analysis of the technology and equipment required to complete the project at all phases; analysis of said apparatuses will include preparing and implementing plans to install, test, operate, maintain, and repair. These analyses will be conducted frequently throughout the project in order to ensure that all tech and equipment is operating at maximum capacity and safety.
  • Directing and reviewing the design of the product. Again, whether this is a new concept supercar or a pharmaceutical, the due diligence required will be substantial. Most projects—of any kind—end up being at least partly different from the original design specification, and these changes, or developments, reflect growth through analyses.
  • Sourcing and managing the workforce. An EM will play a critical role in deciding whether somebody is brought into the team during a recruitment process. The EM will play a senior role in reviewing if not also writing evaluations of each staff member; these evaluations will be based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • Budgets, bids, and contracts. The EM might not compose these documents, but they will be responsible for approving and signing-off.
  • Developing and implementing policies and standards within the work environment.
  • Liaising with senior staff, advisors, and clients regarding reports of the project’s critical topics such as budget and expenditure, progress, design ethics, and any design changes.
  • Preparing and operating a commitment within the workplace to designing the product in as environmentally-friendly a practice as possible, with regard to such considerations as waste and pollution.
  • Communicating with the press and general public where necessary.

Evidently, an Engineering Manager is a busy person, with plenty to think about. The standard working hours of an engineering manager can fluctuate and vary, and these are dependent on factors such as the progress of the project, the overall operating success of the workforce and the apparatuses, and, perhaps most importantly, the competency of those assistant managers to whom an EM might delegate some of the afore-mentioned tasks. 

Fortunately for an Engineering Manager, a good correlation exists between the work expected of you and the salary you can expect to command. In the U.K. during the last few years, the average salary for an EM has been £50,353. Around 65% of Engineering Managers—across all of the hitherto-mentioned fields—are earning £40,000—£60,000. 

With the role unpacked, it only seems fair that we also now unpack the ideal skills and traits of a successful Engineering Manager.

  • Pragmatism: a rather weighty blanket term often used to describe somebody who can adapt to unforeseen challenges. Having a flexible rationality as an EM will help in the crucial moments when the project encounters a problem. Design changes of any kind are best implemented when a pragmatic and flexible EM makes a completely non-stubborn decision based on new evidence reported by advisors and line managers, and when the EM ultimately has the success of the project in mind.
  • Leadership: There’s no harm in an EM ‘getting their hands dirty’ and taking time to be downstairs in the laboratory or factory with their workforce. A personable EM who can motivate their staff through empathising with their hard work during the course of a project will develop lasting working relationships and develop professionally.
  • Mentoring: A time will come when you have overseen more projects as an EM than you can remember, and if you have been willing to impart your knowledge and expertise of managing reports, analysing equipment, and motivating your workforce to a fledgling assistant… you, them, and your industry will only benefit.

Problem solving, self-motivation, and an ability to remain calm under pressure (think about, for example, if the project becomes interesting to the media and you are required to give an interview) are all of course important traits of an Engineering Manager, too. 

Education and Rewards

In the U.K., a Higher National Diploma (HND) or HNC Certificate in Engineering or a relevant area will stand you in good stead to beginning your career path as an EM. If you have a Bachelor’s, MBA, or Master’s Degree, you will arguably have your foot even more firmly through the door. Relevant degree schemes include: Computer Engineering; Manufacturing Engineering; Engineering Technology; Business Administration; and other engineering-related subjects. Your degree will include modules various to the different industries and fields. 

Some pertinent associations for engineers include, the Engineering Council UK, the ICE, and the IMechE. Their websites are great resources to learn more about the various roles and responsibilities required in the engineering world. 

Take a look at our current Engineering Manager roles and see if one is right for you!


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