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“What Counts Factors”: Preparing Engineering Students to Innovate Through Leadership of Multi-functional Teams

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Capstone Design II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1506.1 - 25.1506.10



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Paper Authors


Mark Schar Stanford University

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Mark Schar works in the Center for Design Research at Stanford University, he is a member of the Symbiotic Project of Affective Neuroscience Lab at Stanford University, and he is a lecturer in the School of Engineering. Schar's area of research is the intersection of design thinking and the neuroscience of choice where he has several research projects underway. He has a 30-year career in industry as a Vice President with the Procter & Gamble Company and Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer with Intuit in Silicon Valley. Schar has a B.S.S. from Northwestern University, a M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management, and his Ph.D. is from Stanford University.

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Micah Lande Arizona State University

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Micah Lande is an Assistant Professor of engineering in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University. Lande researches how engineers learn and apply a design process to their work. Lande received his B.S. in engineering from the Stanford School of Engineering Product Design program and a M.A. in education from the Stanford School of Education Learning, Design, and Technology program. Lande is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University. Lande has also been a Co-Editor-in-Chief of AMBIDEXTROUS, Stanford University's Journal of Design, capturing dozens of stories of the people and processes of design.

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Understanding the Role of Product Manager and Implications for Teaching Design Engineering StudentsAbstractThe role of the Product Manager within industry is a driving force for innovation. ProductManagers are trained as individual contributing engineers, yet evolve into multi-functionalmanagers who lead the business, often through on-the-job training. Drawing on a collection of“what counts factors” that emerged from interviews with Product Management practitioners andrecruiters across a range of businesses in previous work, a course was designed to better prepareengineering design graduate students to face the challenges of the Product Manager role andsucceed.A Product Manager is described as a classically trained engineer who works at the nexus oftechnology development and business management. They deliver the product offering by leadingactivity that interprets customer needs, shapes technology development and generates bottom-line business results. Product Managers often work in tandem with design engineers and translatecustomer requirements into product and service offerings. Previous work identified eight skillareas that defined the role of Product Manager (Understands the Business, Knows the Customer,Passion for Technology, Clearly Communicates, Inspires Collaboration, Leadership, ProjectManagement Skills and Experience).Building on this taxonomy for the role of Product Manager, a series of class sessions (offered asa 1-unit Product Management seminar) were held for a cohort of engineering design master’sstudents at [institution] to help them explore, define and succeed in a product management roleas a career path. Six 3-hour evening sessions were scheduled.The topics for workshops were designed to accommodate the students’ engagement in a paralleldesign and innovation course and to match their schedule for looking for gainful employmentafter graduating their master’s program. The first session served as an introduction to ProductManagement and a case study concerning a toy company business decision about choosing aproduct to bring to market. For each class, a manager from the workplace was invited to discussthe session topic with the students. The topic of Session 2 focused on leadership and teammanagement skills. The main activity was a computer simulation team experience climbingMount Everest, followed by a debriefing and discussion with a guest speaker who had actuallydone the climb. Session 3’s topic was on networking, interviewing and finding a productmanagement job. Students engaged in a resume critique and active learning interview practice.Session 4’s topic was about project finance and business models that drive the majorcorporations and aligns with the top-rated criteria required for a successful product manager.Session 5’s topic was on marketing and the customer experience, featuring two Harvard BusinessSchool case studies and a discussion with a senior vice president of marketing with a majorcomputer hardware company. Session 6’s topic dealt with business strategy, again referencingtop-rated “what’s counts” criteria and includes both a case study and a discussion with anindustry professional.

Schar, M., & Lande, M. (2012, June), “What Counts Factors”: Preparing Engineering Students to Innovate Through Leadership of Multi-functional Teams Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20777

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