I recently received a question from a young civil engineer who considered management as the next step in his career progression, but said he was not sure what being a manager means besides having to show strong leadership.
He also asked if he should be knowledgeable about finance, business and marketing. Could I recommend some good book that addresses the process of assuming a managerial role?
First, while I agree that big managers tend to be strong leaders, it does not always have to be that way. You can be put in charge of managing a project or a group of people and do it effectively without being a great leader.
Let's focus on the specific question: Do you need to be knowledgeable about finance, business and marketing?
My recommendation is that if you want to become a great manager by being a civil engineer then yes, you should have a little knowledge of finance, business and marketing. You do not have to be an expert on these subjects, but if you manage large projects or groups, these subjects are extremely important. Let's each comment individually:
Understanding finances regarding civil engineering projects will definitely give you an edge as a project manager because there are many civil engineers who are not financially proficient. Now, this does not mean that you should have an MBA in finance (though that may be a good choice for you), but you should make an effort to improve your financial knowledge.
I recommend you read about engineering economics and any other topics related to your type of projects. For example, if you are a county engineer, understand how the funding of city improvement projects is.
Secondly, find a civil engineer manager who is more experienced than you and ask if he or she can teach you about finances in your field.
Business is obviously a very generic term, but in this scenario we will again think about the business related to civil engineering. The civil engineering business section can include business development, proposal preparation, project budget management, staff projections, customer meetings, customer presentations, etc. These are all topics that can be grouped into "business".
My advice is to brainstorm to identify the business topics that pertain to your specific function, start learning about them. For example, if you know you will give presentations as a manager in your civil engineering company, then you should start improving your ability to speak in public. If you just try to learn about "business", you will probably become overwhelmed. Determine and focus on a few business topics that will help you succeed.
Marketing is another very generic term; However, as a civil engineering manager, marketing is probably related to the idea of the image you make your company design and how this can dictate the future of new business.
With regard to marketing, I recommend that you focus first on offering the best quality work to your customers, which in my opinion is the best form of marketing. Score. Once you have this solidified marketing side, you can further cover your marketing expertise for your products and services.
As for the books I can recommend related to management. Again, this really depends on your specific area and position, but here are some of my favorites:
The 80/20 Principle: The Secrets to Getting More with Less in Business and Life, by Richard Koch - This book will help you focus on the important items as a civil engineering manager.
[Available at Amazon]
The Entrepreneur's Myth, by Michael Gerber - I know this book seems to be more focused on entrepreneurs, but the truth is that it's a wonderful book that provides great advice for running a business, department, or project.
I hope this post helps you to become the best civil engineering manager you can be. Please share with me any comments or additional questions you may have.
Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Career Coach website that has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He is the host of the Civil Engineering Podcast and has written a best-selling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a series of free video on your website that will give you the tools you need to immediately improve your networking and communication skills.