Employment Outlook for Engineering Managers

I am often asked questions about the salary and employment prospects for graduates from an Engineering Management program such as the one at Oklahoma State University. That is a very difficult question to answer in general. For example, oil prices are low, and companies involved exploration and production of oil and natural gas are contracting. On the other hand, the aerospace industry here in Oklahoma is experiencing a shortage of engineers.
To better answer that question IN GENERAL, I will point you to U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their Occupational Outlook shows a median pay of $132,800 per year in 2015. They also predict very strong competition for these jobs in the coming years… All the more reason to better equip yourself with an advanced degree.

Things I learned (or needed to learn) in being an engineering manager.

Here is an interesting article in ACM Queue about skills needed as an engineering manager. This article is aimed toward software engineering, but it is valuable for all engineering and technology managers.
The author lists 9 traits that she learned as an engineering manager. Two of them really jumped out at me:
3.) Explaining tech to non-tech. If you can’t explain your problems, solutions, concepts, etc., to non-tech colleagues and management, I doubt that you ever get much support. your projects may never see the light of day.
6.) Caring about other disciplines. The author mentions understanding the roles of sales and marketing. I will add finance and human resources, just to name a few.
How do you learn these things? Most can be taught, but are not really understood until put into practice on the job. You might consider adding a M.S. in Engineering and Technology Management to your resume. Such a degree will certainly give you a head start down the road to acquiring these skills.

Bootcamps versus a graduate degree???

According to U. S. News and World Report, some students find that a “bootcamp” type of course is a quick way to job. Being involved in higher education where we offer a Master of Science in Engineering Management, I find there is room for many types of programs. Yes, bootcamps seem ideal for retraining or transitioning from one filed to another. On the other hand, we hear from employers all the time that the engineers that get promoted most frequently have two traits: 1.) They are excellent engineers that can mentor other engineers AND 2.) have an understanding of how the business functions. That is, they understand how their actions affect the “business” of the organization.

So, I say, yes, their are many valuable educational programs and venues. Not every program is correct for every student.

Panama Canal modifications affect U.S. logisitcs

Sitting watching a huge container ship in the glide up the Savannah River toward the Port of Savannah, Georgia, gave me a new perspective on container ships… They are HUGE. They make shipping containers look like Legos.

Container Ship

Container Ship

A friendly visitor seated next to me talked about how the Corps of Engineers was dredging the river to accommodate the new super containers ships that would soon be able to pass through the widened Panama Canal.

A little research made me again marvel the inter-connectivity of our world. Currently, most of the goods shipped to the US from Asia go to a West Cost port. They are then offloaded and moved inland via truck or rail. Once the Panama Canal is widened shipping rates to the East Coast will be reduced because the new ships can carry about twice as many containers. This will mean that containers destined for Memphis or Chicago may actually transit Panama and make port in Savannah or Charleston.

Wow… a “little” change about 1600 miles away can have a major effect on business activity here.

Big Boy Toys Go Big Time

A few years ago, I was one of the original members of LVL1, Louisville’s hackerspace/makerspace. One of our first prize acquisitions was a MakerBot, which was a 3-D printer for hobbyists. I don’t remember the cost, but I do remember a couple of guys dedicating at least one, if not more, all night building session to assemble it.

Now it seems the technology is about to go full circle. The hobbyist level printers are getting more sophisticated. The commercial machines are getting more competitive in price, and the line between the two is becoming more fuzzy all the time.

At the time that we got our first 3D printer at LVL1, many of us hypothesized the commercialization and industrial uses of 3D printing, but I am not sure we expected the technology to improve so fast.

Yet another lesson learned… better not blink or you will be left behind.

Military student “drops in” to visit Louisville

In December 2014, I got a text message from one of our military students, a U.S. Army pilot stationed in Korea, that he was ferrying a plane from Korea to the East Coast, and had scheduled an overnight rest stop over in Louisville. He knew that I had an interest in aviation and invited me to Louisville International airport to tour the plane. (I must confess that I suspected the he had the ulterior motive of confirming that I was a really person, not just a bot teaching his online courses.)

Come to find out, the plane was a decommissioned Beechcraft King Air, known to the Army as an RC-12H. Before he arrived, I did some online research to find out more about the plane and found some pictures of this King Air with about a ‘gazillion’ antennae protruding from every surface… clearly this plane had a mission to “listen” to something.


RC-12H in military configuration

The plane that I got to tour had all of the electronic eavesdropping device and antennae removed. The primary content inside the plane were the standard cockpit instruments and auxiliary fuel tanks.

Decommissioned RC-12H

Decommissioned RC-12H

Come to find out, that very plane made the news when it was airlifted to an Army Depot located in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. Here is the story of the final flight of this plane: To view the news story, click this link.

Video link

Video of Airlift of RC-12H to its final destination.


I wanted to thank our student for including me in this adventure.

I also want to thank all of our military students for their service to this great country of ours!


Online Engineering Management Begins…

We begin a new chapter in the Engineering Management program. The Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Louisville has offered the M.Eng.E.M. degree on campus in Louisville and in Panama for many years.

Beginning today (8/26/2013) this degree will be available as a fully online program. Our goal for the first semester was to have 20 students enrolled. As of this writing, there are 35 students registered for courses, with a few last minute applications pending.

Several of our students are recent grads of the various undergraduate degrees offered by Speed School. Most of our students are new to UofL as well as new to online education. The bulk of our students are in the general Louisville area, but we have students scattered around the U.S. and military students deployed internationally.

This a strong start to an exciting new program.

If you would like more information, please click this link.

Teachers, Coaches and Mentors

I recently attended a seminar on teaching critical thinking hosted by the University of Louisville.

There were several “table exercises” which were brief discussions on various topics. I found myself at a table with people from Dental Hygiene, School of Medicine, and School of Engineering. I don’t even remember how the topic arose, but the question was, “What is the difference between teaching and coaching, and which do we do?” That question has haunted me since. Maybe I should tone that down some and say that the question has been on my mind since.

When I was looking for the link to Steve Blank’s article for my previous posting, I found this article:

Steve Blank: Teachers, Coaches and Mentors.

Mr. Blank carries my original question step further and includes mentoring. He provides some guidance as to the difference. However, he does not provide the answer as to which do I do.

In a classroom or online setting, I mostly teach. As Mr. Blank puts it, “At worst I deliver knowledge to them. At best, I try to help my students to discover and acquire knowledge themselves.” It is the last part of his quote that I strive for, but I am never satisfied with my attainment.

In a small lab setting, I hope I do a mixture of coaching and teaching. Sometimes, I am coaching undergrads in a specific skill that might be needed in upcoming job coop rotations.

It is the mentoring that perplexes me. Mr. Blank refers to mentoring as a “back and forth dialogue.” I am very fortunate to have a colleague that has been a mentor when it comes to teaching and navigating academia. Having had 30+ years out in industry before coming to academia, I would like to think that I provide some mentoring to some students, but I never thought about it as a two-way street.

Hmmmm…. mentoring as a two-way street… that might haunt me for a while.