Engineering Management: Where Business and Engineering Meet

Posted Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 11:24 AM

"Using engineering skills in business is just part of the job."

Engineering Management: Where Business and Engineering Meet

PostedTuesday, November 4, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Sophia Luo
Sophia Luo
Engineering Management: Where Business and Engineering Meet

Author: Sophia Luo

Let’s face it. Sometimes, it seems as though being an engineer is boring and unexciting. There is that image of sitting in front of the same screen in the same cubicle during the same eight hour work day for the same five days every week. Thankfully, that is only the stereotype – a perfect misrepresentation of what being an engineer actually entails. In the world that we live in today, there are not many fields of study that lie alone and are unrelated to other subjects. More often than not, engineering careers prove to be interdisciplinary, overlapping with other seemingly random areas. A good example of this lies at the crossroads between business and technology: engineering management.

Engineering management involves the utilization of engineering principles in business management. It mixes the critical thinking and problem solving abilities required in engineering with the administrative capabilities and people skills involved in management. In essence, engineering managers oversee the process of innovation, production, and transaction. They are motivated by both technical and entrepreneurial thinking.

Priya Tamhankar, a Senior Project Manager at Infinera, currently works in the field of engineering management. She says, “I enjoy problem-solving, interacting with people, and enjoy being able to mesh multiple resources (people, equipment, tools) from different areas to make something great happen. I get to do that every day to create something new for our customers, for people.”

In essence, as an engineering manager, Ms. Tamhankar not only applies her computer skills to develop products but also exercises leadership to ensure that the required materials and people perform the correct task to create a marketable product. However, she did not first enter the professional world as an engineering manager. Growing up, she loved learning about physics and math, which are two subjects related to computer science and engineering. She liked physics “because it helped fulfill [her] curiosity of how things worked a certain way in nature,” and she enjoyed math due to “the challenge of a problem…and finding intuitive/natural ways to get to the answer.” At the intersection of these two interests is electronics engineering, which she chose as her undergraduate study.

When Tamhankar initially entered the engineering industry, she was an individual contributor. Later, she wanted to broaden her experiences: “I realized that I could contribute in a much bigger way as an engineering manager – by creating a vision of what the product should be, leveraging strengths of different individuals, and motivating them towards a common goal of building a great product.”

Of course, such a cool job comes with many responsibilities. Tamhankar states, “A typical day involves looking through Product Requirements Documents, figuring out the work required by the teams I’m working with, [and] challenging them to find the best solution possible.” In addition, she spends time “figuring out the resources required for the project…[and] estimating realistic timelines and creating a project plan that is acceptable to all.” That is, she helps her team efficiently make a high-quality product.

For those who would love to try on engineering management as a career, Tamhankar has a few tips that will help down the road. First, she believes in “articulation” and the “projection of self-confidence.” She says, “When you have self-confidence, others also have confidence in you.” She also states that “being in the know” with both your field and friends is important. In addition to reading up on the recent news about technology, networking and staying connected to those around you will benefit your career. Moreover, in the process of managing a group of people as a leader, it is not surprising when there are one or two members who resent or challenge your authority. Of course, these occurrences are normal in teamwork and Tamhankar says it’s best to “just continue to be professional and focus on the subject matter, and things work their way out.”

Her last piece of advice is this: “No matter what line you pick, continue to study and keep yourself up-to-date in your field. It keeps you fresh and on the go!”



Filed Under Special fields and Interdisciplinary