Distinguished Lecturer Meeting
By Gerard Hillenbrand, P.E.
That meeting was held on Thursday, April 14th, 2005 in the Peter Cooper Union Foundation Building. This meeting was co-sponsored by the Met Section and the ASME Student Section at Cooper Union. The student section initiated the choice of distinguished lecturer for this meeting. The lecturer, John T. Bozewicz, immediate past chairman of ASME’s management division, spoke at length, and in detail, about “From Engineer to Manager – A Roadmap For a Successful Transition.” Jill Anderson, an active and enthusiastic member of Met Section’s Executive Committee, introduced Mr. Bozewicz to the attendees.
Mr Bozewicz began his talk by recalling his educational background specialized in Internal Combustion Engines in general and Diesel Engines in particular. In his 24-year career at the U.S. Naval surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Philadelphia, he specialized as a software engineer in the Ship Control Systems Division and has progressed from various design and management positions to division heat at the NSWC Facility. He spoke from the lessons of his experience and he has proposed a road map of recommendations to assist in the transition into management. We should not necessarily exalt the position of manager. For example, in the normal course of engineering efforts even two person design teams will evolve into one managing member and one member with technical expertise, and this technical aspect must never be denigrated since the success of the project is directly dependent on its technical fundamentals. Hence, the proposed road map may be summarized as a progression of engineering assignments consisting of staff design efforts, junior supervisory and management positions, middle management posts and finally, senior management leadership in which the engineering manager has earned the opportunity to direct the team efforts and to be compensated accordingly.
In all cases, the manager must be able to direct the efforts of the team, which is really analogous to directing an Orchestra. The manager must be something of a visionary, outlining the goals of the program; he or she should be responsive to change; should respond as a fireman to emergencies; act as a referee in conflicts; serve as a captain when maintaining direction is called for; and exhibiting leadership when the goals of the project confront difficulties. However, the manager must always recognize that he or she has to report the team’s progress to a higher-positioned leader who will decide the manager’s future assignments. Thus, management and leadership are not necessarily the same. The manager should possess a mixture of the following skills: Technical expertise, a knack for interpersonal relations, administrative proficiency, and deftness at projecting conceptual concepts. The higher the management position, the greater is the need to show political skills.
The following cornerstones are necessary to succeed in management positions: Access to information, Preparation and study, opportunity for advancement, and the help of a sponsor who monitors and critiques the manager’s performance. To prepare for transition to supervisory positions, the aspirant must develop communication skills, technical expertise, and people handling dexterity. Written skills are particularly important. Always use correct grammar and spelling. Talk directly to people as often as possible. Use the telephone if direct contact is not available. Use email as a last resort and follow the 24-hour rule: answer all inquiries within one day’s time. Practice public speaking as often as possible. When scheduling meetings, organize the subject matter, prepare a tight agenda with precise time lines, and always follow the meeting with accurate and detailed reports including expectations for program progress. The manager’s presentation should be brief, clear, and strictly limited to the matters at hand. Always provide time for a thorough question and answer period, and the best manager is the one who listens as talks. The best manager is the one who gets out of the office walks around to visit all subordinates and is sensitive to their worries, emotions, and difficulties, while generating motivation to achieve the goals of the project.
One of the manager’s most important functions is conducting performance appraisals, which should include awards for good performance, promotions when earned, and public recognition with thanks for outstanding work. Increased opportunity for travel is also a sought-after reward. The generation of the employee is very important when conducting appraisals. For example, members of the pre-boomer generation (prior to 1960) show great respect for authority, while the boomer themselves (1960 – 1980) object to excessive discipline and control. Generation X employees (1980 – 2000) while very well educated, are frequently pessimistic and dissatisfied with career development Generation “Y” subordinates (2000 -) are mostly self centered concerning advancement and careers, without the team loyalties typifying previous generations. Performance evaluations themselves should honestly discuss the employee’s weaknesses, discuss behavior and performance rather than people characteristics, outline the manager’s expectations for the the employee’s performance and development, and request a response from the employee concerning the manager’s evaluation. Most employees, including managers, have inflated estimates of their own performance and react emotionally when confronted with surprises. A strict adherence to frequent evaluations is very important in avoiding negative feedback from subordinates. The manager must always conduct these evaluations in a professional manner, treat the subordinate with respect, remain physically and mentally alert, be trust worthy and responsive to criticism, and always deliver on promised inducements and rewards.
The supervisor, with ambitions to be a manager, must have a development plan defining career advancement and goals. The supervisor should seriously consider enrolling in a Master’s Degree program in Engineering management or Business Administration, should be involved in professional societies, and should volunteer his time in worthwhile causes. The successful manager must master negotiation sills, improve communication ability, become adept at financial management and budget development, learn to effectively delegate responsibility, and learn from the inevitable mistakes which occur in complex technical and engineering projects.
Mr. Bozewicz concluded his presentation by reminding attendees that the management division is the second largest in ASME. The young management committee needs increased participation from student members. The management divisions itself is now developing a certified engineering management program which will greatly benefit aspiring managers. The program will emphasize skills development, decision-making, leadership growth, “Take Charge” attitudes, and the promotion of a strong desire for success. The program will also feature techniques for dealing with diversity, effective team building, and enhancing the manger’s ability to innovate, on a local as well as international level.
The subject matter of ASME’s distinguished lecturer series is typical of the content presented in Met Section’s monthly meeting. We urge all section members to become more involved in our activities and we look forward to greeting each of you in the future.