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Engineering Leadership: Transitioning from “Soft Skill” to Hard Data

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ASEE 2021 Gulf-Southwest Annual Conference


Waco, Texas

Publication Date

March 24, 2021

Start Date

March 24, 2021

End Date

March 26, 2021

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Paper Authors


B. Michael Aucoin P.E. Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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B. Michael Aucoin is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Technology & Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University, an Adjunct Instructor in the School of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, and President of Electrical Expert, Inc. His education includes a BS in Engineering from the University of New Orleans, an M.Engr. in Electrical Engineering and a D.Engr. from Texas A&M University, and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. Dr. Aucoin has performed research and teaching in academia and has worked in large and small organizations, including General Electric. He served on a Mishap Investigation Board with the NASA Johnson Space Center, and projects he has led have received the Outstanding Engineering Achievement and R&D 100 Awards. He is a Registered Professional Engineer and has earned the Project Management Professional Certification.

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Brandon Bowen Texas A&M University

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I am currently a Masters student in Engineering Technology, concurrently researching machine learning with applications in cyber security. I completed my Bachelors at Texas A&M in Electronic Systems Engineering Technology with a minor in Mathematics. Outside of academia I can be found riding bikes in any terrain.

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This paper explores the growing use of data to guide leadership decisions and direction and the implications for engineering leadership development. While engineers (and others) have conventionally considered leadership as an imprecise “soft skill,” a review of relevant leadership literature reveals that myriad sources of (hard) data are already in use to inform functions of leadership. The trend to do so is increasing dramatically. Accordingly, it is appropriate to reconsider how best to prepare engineers to exercise leadership in organizations as they evolve into the future. Indeed, organizations increasingly need engineers to practice effective leadership, a workplace trend that is now embodied in ABET criteria for competencies among engineering graduates. An important benefit of exploring data-driven leadership is to mitigate the common reluctance of engineers to embrace leadership opportunities. Specifically, this paper is oriented to the development of a module on data-driven leadership for an existing undergraduate course in engineering leadership. The to-be-developed module will complement the existing course in two primary ways: 1) taking advantage of the course theme that there is much in common between the engineering and leadership skill sets, and 2) a significant laboratory project on present and future data innovations. The paper reports on an extensive literature review that leads to adaptation to an engineering audience and the subsequent design of the course module.

Aucoin, B. M., & Bowen, B. (2021, March), Engineering Leadership: Transitioning from “Soft Skill” to Hard Data Paper presented at ASEE 2021 Gulf-Southwest Annual Conference, Waco, Texas.

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