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What Do Engineering Leaders Want?

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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

Engineering Education for Modern Needs Part II: Novel Curriculum Development and Project-based Courses

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1472.1 - 25.1472.12



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Paper Authors


Catherine M. Polito University of Texas, Austin

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Cath Polito has been in leadership positions for more than 30 years in the capacity of Manager, Director, Executive Director, and Owner. As Director of marketing for start-ups Globeset and iBooks, she managed geographically dispersed teams (nationally and internationally). She was the Founder/Owner of Management by Design, an Austin-based advertising, design, and marketing firm. Throughout her career, she has taught courses on leadership, ethics, teamwork, marketing, and streamlining processes while improving quality and cutting costs. In Oct. of 2010, while in Singapore, Polito was elected to the International Association of Continuing Engineering Education (IACEE) board and serves as the SIG liaison. She is currently the Executive Director of the Center for Lifelong Engineering Education at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Polito has a B.S. from the University of North Texas and an M.S. in science and technology commercialization from the University of Texas, Austin.

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Leslie P. Martinich Competitive Focus

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Leslie Martinich, Principal Consultant at Competitive Focus, provides education and consulting services in engineering management. With more than 25 years of experience, she has led teams at IBM, Compaq, Novell, Vignette, and several startup companies. She serves as the lead faculty member at the Engineering Leadership Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, and is the 2012 IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow.

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What do engineering leaders want?Abstract — Engineering and scientific leaders have traditionally moved into supervisorypositions based on their exceptional technical skills, but have received little or no managementtraining. Generally speaking, engineers prefer to approach the administration of projects bydefining fixed parameters and methodically working to a viable solution – it is black and white –take a problem, find a solution, move on. In reality, this practice does not translate well whendealing with the successful supervision of people, as the “grey” area can expand and contractarbitrarily. In addition, the amount of dollars spent on management training has decreased overthe last three years due to the economic downturn in the U.S. and globally. With constrainedbudgets at every level, there is a conundrum for decision-makers as they determine whether it ismore cost effective to dedicate money to projects or to the people who run those projects.After researching the requirements for possible education or training as defined by engineeringleaders across various engineering disciplines, the authors developed a systematic protocol fordefining the scope and content of the education and training program. This process serves toaccurately assess company needs, develop a customized suite of topics, and track the ROI (onboth an individual and corporate-wide basis). The research methodology employed by theauthors and supporting researchers: 1. Primary research 2. Secondary research 3. Individual interviewsThis paper describes their research and follows a case study with a program provided to anenergy company. The authors will share their methodology, lessons learned and subsequent bestpractices. In the end, the answer to what engineering leaders want – is to know that theirinvestment was not in vain. 

Polito, C. M., & Martinich, L. P. (2012, June), What Do Engineering Leaders Want? Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22229

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