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What Is An Engineering Manager?

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.494.1 - 2.494.14



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W.M. Spurgeon

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2542

WHAT IS AN ENGINEERING MANAGER? W.M. Spurgeon The Toltec Company 24799 Edgemont Road Southfield, MI 48034

The purpose of this paper is to provide some ideas useful for curricula in engineering management at the master's degree level. These ideas will also be useful to engineering managers in industry and government laboratories.

There are two kinds of engineers in industry: individual contributors and managers. The managers must be competent engineers first on the ground that you can't manage what you don't understand. Ideally these people should be educated in two professions: engineering and management. There are many ways of attaining the knowledge, skills and attributes needed, based as in all professions on some combination of formal instruction and practical experiences.

We start with some definitions. The Engineers' Council for Professional Development say that "Engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical, physical, [social and policy] sciences gained by study, experience and practice is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically [and ecologically], the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind."(1) Words in brackets were added in a proposed revision of the definition.(2) Note that the revision reflects the increasing complexity of engineers' work.

A manager is defined as a person who has more to do than he can do by himself, and who therefore gets things done through other people. This is the classical definition. A more up-to- date version is that a manager is a person who gets the right things done, efficiently and timely, through other people who may or may not report to him.

Managers have devised many ways of organizing work in manufacturing companies. A common way of organizing a medium-sized company or an operating division of a large company is outlined below, in terms of functions: • Engineering* • Research* Current • Legal* Advance • Finance • Manufacturing* • Information Handling* • Marketing* • Employee and Public Relations

Engineers are to be found in those functions (departments) marked with asterisks. In this paper we will be discussing engineers and managers in the engineering department. These people may be employed on three kinds of engineering work (as viewed by engineering managers):

• Projects • Programs (groups of related projects) • Functions (work that supports the projects, e.g., materials engineering, testing, failure analysis, etc.)

Spurgeon, W. (1997, June), What Is An Engineering Manager? Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6899

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