How to avoid the business skills gap as an engineer

engineer business skillsEngineering is a solid field of study and work, especially for people who want to implement valuable real-world solutions and come up with previously unimaginable innovations. What’s more, studying engineering allows you to gain concrete technical skills that can be used in a variety of industries and careers.

However, there are other necessary skills that can complement an engineer’s expertise and round-out their complete skill set. But it has been found (see the articles by Fast Company and Time) that many university students and graduates are not being taught wider skill sets. In the world of engineering, this is leading to a business skills gap among young engineering professionals.

These are just a few of the ways business skills can benefit today’s engineers:

Understand your client’s needs

One of the first things engineers need to realize is that they will likely be working with clients that have little to no engineering knowledge. It is critical that engineers are therefore able to communicate in a non-technical way. This may involve explaining jargon, simplifying complex processes, and organizing information into easier to read formats like charts and graphs. Even the way in which you write emails can mean the difference between a client picking you versus a competitor. Effective communication is key!

Prepare for management or leadership roles

follow the leader ducksEvery engineer’s career will reach its apex at some point. Unless you want to be working with your hands for your entire career, (which can be fun, but difficult as you grow older), this usually means taking a management position. In order to speed up the process of career advancement into a leadership role, an engineer will need to be well-versed in project management, inspiring and motivating a team, negotiation and conflict resolution, among other things.

Learn a different way of thinking

As noted in the first point, the majority of an engineer’s clients will come from a non-technical background. Business training usually takes a more theoretical, case-based approach, rather than a technical, hands-on approach like engineering education. This will aid engineers in conceptualizing issues from a different viewpoint and may even help them unleash their creativity (which leads to innovation).

As clients need engineers to address real world problems, overly-technical solutions may not always be the right approach. Engineers need to step into the shoes of clients and customers, making sure that their solution will actually work for the average user (and not just an engineer).

Understand how a company works

company hierarchyAn engineer might waste time with a project if he doesn’t know how his company functions. You must understand organizational structure; who is the authority in your organization, which department does what, who collaborates with who, etc. In understanding this, you can more effectively use your time and resources. Moreover, it is recommended to gain an understanding of finance and accounting, which are crucial to budgets and can impose project limitations.

Launch your own business

Many engineers dream of turning their ideas into fully-functioning products or services. Having undergone business training, an engineer can better identify and evaluate their ideas, and begin a new venture that has a greater chance for success. Besides building a great product/service, an entrepreneur needs to create a business plan, perform market research and different types of analyses, navigate legal and ethics issues, and liaise with customers, employees, and investors.


MyLeanMBA offers an affordable & flexible program called The Lean MBA. At just 299 total, this 1-year, 100% online program provides business administration training in 12 functional areas of business.

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