Successful engineers often make excellent managers. The best of them are both detail-oriented and capable of seeing the big picture. But management is more than just a promotion; it’s also a career switch. There are new skills to learn, approaches to take and competencies to gain. It’s essential choose engineers with the right qualities to become managers and give them the tools they need to succeed in their new role.
Ability to lead teams
Chances are most senior level engineers have led projects. Leading teams requires a similar skill set. Look for management candidates who have demonstrated success in bringing diverse people together to achieve a common goal. The key is to delegate tasks to match abilities and keep people on track without micromanaging.
Engineers often interface mostly with other engineers. As managers, they will be expected to engage with people in a variety of different departments, some of whom won’t be technical. Managers must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing in a manner that is understandable to engineers and non-engineers alike.
Managers must be capable of identifying and hiring talent. This is not a skill that comes naturally. Spend some time with your newly promoted manager to teach them what to look for in new hires and interviewing techniques that will produce the best results.
Engineers are accustomed to putting their heads down and getting work done. But as managers, they are expected to do more. They must engage regularly with subordinates, department heads and superiors. They must network within and outside the organization. They will be expected to provide their team with regular feedback.
Willingness to learn
The toughest challenge for a manager from an engineering background will be to ask questions. As an engineer, he had a high level of competency. Managing is a whole new skill set. It’s humbling to go from being an expert to needing to learn. A bright, receptive person can ramp up quickly as long as they are willing to admit what they don’t know.