At one stage, an engineering career centred solely around technical problem-solving, but now it’s a much more diverse vocation. Contemporary engineers looking to reach top-tier managerial roles need a varied skillset that includes business and leadership expertise alongside technical capabilities.
An MBA programme can be the key to securing the commercial acumen that engineers need to get ahead, something businesses looking to hire engineers also recognise. In 2017, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 75% of international manufacturing businesses were actively planning to hire MBA graduates over the coming year.
According to The Manufacturer, “the MBA is seen as the degree of choice for engineers who want the possibility of moving into senior management or standing out from other engineers.”
Our own Online MBA has attracted more participants from the engineering industry than any other – 31% of all participants currently work in engineering roles. Here we explore exactly why this dynamic programme is ideal for engineers aiming for the top.
The ability to navigate a changing sector
Like virtually every area of business in the digital age, modern industry is moving at a much quicker pace than in previous years. Technological automation and global connectivity have created a sector that demands more of engineers, at an earlier stage in their careers, in the form of well-rounded and directly-applicable business knowledge.
“Due to the pivotal role of technology in increasing the rate of change, it’s natural for scientists and engineers to be well placed to profit from commercial skills and, of course, engineers sit on the boundary of science and commerce anyway, so it makes them one of the most natural recipients of these skills,” agrees David Falzani, president of the Engineers in Business Fellowship (EIBF).
So, what are the specific business skills an MBA can help engineers acquire?
A holistic approach to commercial management
Successful people in business need a solid understanding of every aspect of its running, and engineers are no exception. Core business skills covered by our Online MBA, such as Marketing, Operations and Supply Chain Management, and Strategy, give engineers a broader context for their work, allowing them to see how engineering solutions fit into and contribute to organisation-wide performance. No sphere of business activity can afford to act as a silo, and while specialisation is crucial in engineering, no senior manager can excel without an awareness of what makes commercial sense.
These key business skills enable engineers to grasp how their solutions can be best-applied in the real world, or commercialised for new business opportunities. Unlike the engineering industry, the business world does not often deal in absolutes, so an appreciation of how to negotiate complex strategic issues to find the best business outcome can help set engineers apart.
An understanding of actionable business intelligence
Engineers are expert number-crunchers by trade, but the ability to interpret various forms of business data for commercial insight is likely to be a new skill.
While working with empirical and incomplete data may be unfamiliar to engineers, an MBA can demonstrate how business decisions are made without conclusive information. It can shed light on how organisational data, such as financial statements and figures, is able to inform conversations with partners and stakeholders. On a wider scale, big data, intelligent technologies and all things digital also play a vital role in business strategy, so engineers need to learn how to extract the key data findings that make the difference.
An effective approach to people management and leadership
As a business leader, managing projects is about more than making sure the numbers add up; it takes a different approach and set of skills to get the best from people. Engineers aiming to climb the career ladder need to be able to effectively collaborate with a range of stakeholders, colleagues and suppliers.
Soft skills like these can seem innate, but our Online MBA uses experiential learning techniques to help engineers identify their own areas for improvement and build up a level of communication dexterity. Covering essential themes including Negotiation and Doing Business in a Global World, the programme allows participants to develop agile consultative skills that enable them to adapt to the cultural and social diversity of international commerce.
Learning how to use these abilities in a working context can also help engineers mark themselves out as potential business leaders. Supported by our programme-long Leadership Development course, during which participants can devise a personal leadership development action plan, engineers can work towards becoming intuitive and innovative leaders.
Give your engineering career a commercial edge
Engineers with purely technical capabilities can find that their careers reach a certain point and then plateau, but a directly-applicable programme like our Online MBA can be the means to adding invaluable business skills that start a new phase of professional progression.
Join the engineers already accessing career-enhancing commercial skills with a programme that enables you to study without taking time away from your working life. Get started byto request further information.