The engineers’ dilemma

The dilemma about the mixed role of engineers as they assume higher positions in the entrepreneurial world is weighing heavy on them, creating an even greater pressure to perform. The key issue is they leave school with good technical training and great logical thinking, but when they dive into the life of the entrepreneur, they face new and unexpected demands.

These engineers may dominate Structure Calculation, but also have to manage Time Schedules; they might have knowledge of Material Resistance, but see themselves surrounded by questions of Team Motivation; they might understand Fluid Mechanics, but find out that it is not applicable to Cash flow.

Okay, it is not a catastrophe, because engineers can be good administrators (Taylor was an engineer, after all), but it is good to bear in mind that the administrative science has its particularities, and these cannot depend only on logic. Technical mastery and specific knowledge are also required, particularly with regard to people management and leadership.

This gap has to be filled, and luckily today there are great business and administration schools, offering well-structured specialization and extension courses. Each one of these leaders is responsible for their own complementary training – this is the first rule, but the companies have to do their part, as they are also facing a lack of leadership. Recently I heard the director of a big construction company speaking about his recruitment challenges:

–    “In earlier day, an engineer would become a manager after 15 years in the company. Nowadays, we have to promote people with five years or less. We are seriously worried about the lack of leaders to run the projects.”

At that time I remembered another Brazilian multinational that had to reduce their desired expansion exactly for the same reason: lack of new leaders. Indeed, young people with technical training and with a leadership profile, capable of assuming responsibilities for projects and teams, are rare diamonds indeed. When I asked the executive what was the solution he told me:

–    “Plan A is to internally develop leaders. Plan B is to search for them in the market, and I’m sure we will, because the number of projects for the following year keeps rocketing.”
What the director did not consider – or simply omitted – is that other companies are also entering the talent hunting season, and, in this case, the supply and demand model will prevail. This will be a promising year for engineers…

For the more attentive amongst them, this is a moment of great possibilities – simply connect the dots. Any good engineer knows that the armoured concrete revolutionized construction in the 20th century, allowing the dreams of many architects to come true. It is worth remembering that Management also made its revolution, and likewise permitted the dreams of the entrepreneurs to come true. After all, to administrate is to transform something abstract into something concrete, armoured or not.

Translation: Melissa Mussak ([email protected])