Go From Engineering Expert to Project Management Pro With These Simple Tips

William Delaney

There comes a time in every professional’s life when the opportunity for a career change arises. But do you take the plunge into new territory, or stick with what you know? Transitioning from a more hands-on engineering position to a managerial role may be daunting, but it could be the best thing you ever did for your career!

No matter how confident you are, taking on an organisational role will have its challenges. You may see your background in production as a hindrance, but it could just be your secret weapon! Having been in their shoes, your empathy and understanding of your engineering team members will automatically give you an edge over project management professionals who have worked solely in this space. An engineer’s task-oriented focus lends itself well to organising and structuring projects in a managerial role.

So, if you’re an engineer considering the path of project management, here are some top tips to help you transition successfully.

There are many online courses available – enrol in one!

As an engineer, sometimes it can look like project managers have a sweet deal – how hard can planning a project be? In truth, managing people and projects can be a nightmare. Undertaking a course can be a great way to familiarise yourself with project management theory, and equip yourself with the tactics you need to excel.

There are a number of courses and certifications available online, the most popular being PMP or Prince 1-2. These types of courses aim to give you an industry-standard understanding of how project management works. During the course, you’ll learn relevant skills like conducting valuable interviews, planning projects efficiently and sustainably, and, most importantly, utilizing resources and understanding capacity management.

Develop your emotional intelligence.

Being an engineer requires you to have a substantial level of intellect. When it comes to managing or organising projects you need continue to use this intelligence to maintain clarity and structure. However, you’ll now need to bring emotions into the mix! Developing your emotional intelligence will help you to deal with the pressures of being a project manager in a healthy and sustainable way.

Pay attention to your communication skills

Anything associated with the term ‘management’ indicates that a high level of interpersonal skill is required. Building relationships and honing communication techniques will help you to collaborate with colleagues, team-mates, stakeholders and clients with clarity and precision.

Compromise, deal and succeed

Project management leads need to be excellent negotiators. When working on projects that require interdepartmental efforts, negotiating for resources, capacities and availability becomes a crucial skill. This particular area is not something you can develop overnight (unless you’re lucky enough to be naturally gifted). However, with practice and dedication it will get easier over time.

Stay true and persevere

As a project manager, the pressure to deliver can be overwhelming. Your professionalism and patience will be repeatedly tested by issues with team members, unexpected problems and those inevitable last-minute scope additions. You need to continuously work on your resilience and stay focused on your goal, which should always be the successful completion of tasks.

Inspire to motivate

Sometimes, coming from a largely independent role – such as engineering – means you’ve never been responsible for your colleagues’ output. This is about to change! Now the pressure is on you to ensure your team members meet the requirements of each project’s resources and agenda with optimum speed and quality. Developing skills to motivate others will be hugely beneficial in your new role as a project manager.

Don’t hibernate, update

Project management leads need to be in the know at all times. Keeping up to date with company news is a given, but you’ll also need to push your personal agenda to stay on top of the latest project management concepts and technologies. Upskilling is something good project management professionals do regularly.

Learn from experience

When you’re new to a project management role, its vital that you link in with a seasoned professional. Look at them as a mentor, ask them any questions you might have (if they don’t know the answer themselves, they almost certainly know someone who does!). Ask them to review your project plans to identify any areas that might be lacking. Plus, it’s always a great idea to network with professionals in your field. You never know what opportunities it might open up down the line!

Use every tool at your disposal

When you’re new to project management, you’ll have plenty to get used to. To help ease the transition, make sure to take full advantage of project management software. Good software will provide you with seamless planning, risk assessment, reporting and more; taking care of the technicalities so you can focus on managing your projects like a pro!