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Dear ASEM Members,
Given the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments, we would like to provide an update on ASEM's response to the situation. First of all, we send our best wishes to all our members in the United States and around the World. Please know that the health and safety of the ASEM community that you are all a part of is our first priority.
The ASEM conference committee is closely monitoring the situation. Since the 2020 International Annual Conference will take place in Denver at the end of October (28th to 31st), which is still over seven months away, all of the conference preparations are continuing as planned. There are no changes to the technical paper submission and peer-review process, and we currently expect to hold the conference as planned (https://asem.org/2020-IAC-Call-for-Papers).
We advise you to follow the paper submission and registration deadlines as usual. We will continue to monitor any new developments and keep you informed if any changes need to be made. Please be rest assured that in the event the conference is disrupted by travel restrictions due to COVID-19 your conference registration will be refunded.
Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or concerns. We hope to see you in Denver.
Dr. Simon Philbin
As engineering managers we have a natural interest in science and technology, including how technologies can be commercialized for practical benefits. Indeed, commercialization of technology for industrial purposes has been undertaken across many applications and of course for many years. Historians have described in detail the Industrial Revolution, or First Industrial Revolution, as the period from ca. 1760 to 1830, where the manufacture of materials transitioned from hand production methods to the use of mechanization and machines in factories.
Growing up as a boy in the United Kingdom in the county of Nottinghamshire (famed for the legend of Robin Hood), I recall visiting a place called Cromford Mill, which was the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mill – developed in 1771 by the industrialist Richard Arkwright in Cromford, Derbyshire. Even today, this is an impressive facility and has been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This form of industrialization powered forward the first industrial revolution and the resulting changes that occurred thereafter.
Bringing the story up-to-date, many people now believe that we are potentially in the midst of a new industrial revolution, which is the fourth one. Innovation 4.0 can be regarded as a collection of different but related technologies that enable integration between physical and digital systems. The related technologies include cyber-physical systems, the industrial internet of things, artificial intelligence, autonomous robots, simulation, system integration, big data and big analytics, additive manufacturing (3D-printing), augmented reality, cloud computing and cybersecurity. Looking ahead it is likely that adoption of 5G wireless technology for digital cellular networks, with much faster download speeds, will help to power forward adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies.
Industry 4.0 technologies are already enabling a step-change in productivity improvements in the advanced manufacturing sector, for example, in the production of automotive vehicles. But Industry 4.0 also has the potential to enable major levels of disruptive innovation in other industrial sectors. Examples include smart delivery of materials to companies, where inventory levels are remotely monitored and replacement products are delivered by driverless vehicles. Just-in-time custom manufacturing through additive manufacturing on-site enabling reductions in manufacturing and distribution costs. Intelligent transportation networks supporting driverless operation of cars. Automation of repetitive tasks such as data entry and low level accounting practices.
Alongside these opportunities there will also be challenges created – certain jobs and professions may even become redundant – although this also occurred in previous industrial revolutions. Apparently, when steam-powered locomotive trains and cars with internal combustion engines were introduced, there was no longer a need for many of the workers associated with horse-drawn carriages (such as blacksmiths). Equally, many new jobs were created, for example, through the manufacture of complex machinery to enable more efficient agriculture. Consequently, there are likely to be new professions created as part of the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies.
As new professions are created and the nature of engineering jobs changes, there will still be a need for managers to oversee the development and implementation of new technologies – managers with a technical background and this includes engineering managers. This represents a key opportunity for engineering managers to help capitalize on the emerging technologies (such as those associated with Industry 4.0) and it is important to have an up-to-date awareness of such technological developments. From an academic education perspective, there is a need to ensure engineering management programs are structured appropriately, according to both a technical and pedagogic perspective, to deliver graduating engineers with skills aligned with industry’s requirements as Industry 4.0 gathers pace over the coming years.
We should also ensure that our society’s products (such as the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge and Engineering Management Handbook) are updated to reflect these and other technological advancements. Nevertheless, in this time of emerging technologies, changing and new jobs as well as new industries and technological changes that may impact our lives in different ways, it is an exciting time to be working in engineering management. Some of the Industry 4.0 technologies may ultimately make a bigger impact than others, but having a good background and understanding of engineering management means we can not only be spectators but also participants in the current industrial revolution as well as future ones.
by Palak Shah
The term engineering is not limited to the educational or professional arena but encompasses a wide spectrum of life science and materials science applications. Engineering is innately involved, from micro to mega creations, explorations to innovations, and from deliberated designs, development, production; to functional maintenance and management of cross-functional sectors withstanding unavoidable human flaws and unforeseen natural disturbance over time. When ‘time is money’ and not everything can be predicted ahead of time, there is no black and white approach for working through trials and errors adhering to fundamental guidelines. Even with set standard procedures and consistent practices, changes are inevitable for engineering further prospects, up-to-date competitive advantage, and optimum outcomes. Engineering is intended to make life simpler, faster, and better than harsh or difficult work. Engineering managers need to know the rules well, so they can break, amend, or reset the standards effectively as needed.
Having things simple and smooth comes from a well-balanced engineering approach - naturally, individually and collaboratively. Multifaceted planning, cross-functional execution, and overall management are not only complex under time constraints but also calls to include hypotheses and judgement for uncertainty. Beyond their traditional applications in inventory management and lean manufacturing, the ‘Just-in-Time’ (JIT) and ‘Just-In-Case’ (JIC) methods have their relevance to engineering any day-to-day tasks on every workfloor at companies, at homes, and at remote online workplaces. Consider whether JIT is an ideal philosophy or a real practice, while JIC is a model planning or mere probability. Either JIT or JIC is conventionally considered, but balancing between these methods for the same project in different circumstances is a key to comprehensive engineering life-cycle management. I call it ‘JI(T-C)’, a lean, safe, energy efficient and user friendly approach applicable to any field of engineering. This combination makes for a sustainable method that prepares the system to be more resilient to constructively embrace all sorts of incidents or curveballs.
The core purpose of ‘JI(T-C)’ is to balance lean efficiency and safety. Take this application on the 5S methodology: Sort, Set-in-order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.
Utilize a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix
Sorting out different areas suitable for efficient time practices, as well as case analysis of potential hazards requiring more lead time.
Set in order the resources and workflow to have minimal waste, JIT required steps with feasible tasks and safe, ergonomic arrangements.
Employ CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action) and FMEA (Failure Modes & Effect Analysis)
Shining refers to keeping the process clear and transparent to avoid pitfalls.
Standardizing approach for each unique case or similar cases, with resource flexibility for time shifts and emergency tasks, followed by standard documentation and proper reporting.
Use TQM (Total Quality Management)
Sustaining objectives under quality checks and occasional maintenance with a vigilant view for deformities to be resolved within lead time.
Below are some useful sites for a few diverse engineering disciplines as well as JI(T-C) training, prevention, and parenting solutions as a part of engineering all-round life-cycle management.
All-Round Engineering Management Consulting:
JIT Training & Prevention from Social Engineering:
JIT Parenting and JIC Positive Parenting Solutions:
About the Author
Palak Shah has pursued her BS in Biomedical Engineering and MS in Engineering Management with a Project Management certification. She is also a proud mother currently living in Dallas, Texas with her daughter and husband. She carries diverse work experience from a STEM tutor to corporate internal & external operations change analyst and as an independent consultant for medical devices engineering, R&D and IT sectors for SAP implementation. She possesses an innate awe for learning multi-languages and loves reading, writing, scrapbooking and striving for result-driven communication & creativity in all-round opportunities & challenges. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
by Jeff Tippett
Have you ever played a board game with friends and everyone starts to quibble over the rules midway through the game? It might have seemed as if you were on the same page, but if it comes to a point where your mutual understanding of the game falls apart, and it’s impossible to complete the game.
The same threat applies to your business. If you assume that everyone understands the rules of the game, your vision for progression, things will probably seem to be going fine. But then, inevitably, something will happen. Someone will be unsure of the goal or the path to get there. This is where a firmly and clearly articulated vision comes into play.
As is clear by this point, you must develop a clear understanding of your vision. But, of course, you may need help in building out that vision. It may not be initially apparent. That’s perfectly natural.
The first step in finding and developing your vision is to narrow it. It needs to be rather specific, and achievable. “Making the world a better place” is as noble as any vision statement. But is it something that you alone can achieve? Moreover, there’s not likely a clear path to achieving it. Be bold, but realistic. Your vision should be the most you can reasonably expect to achieve.
Another aspect to consider is whether you’ve crafted your vision in terms that are concrete. This is a concept similar to one that I cover in my last book, Unleashing Your Superpower. When conveying your vision, be sure to use specific language, not abstract. Fully describe the goals and how you expect to reach them.
For example, which makes more sense in terms of really understanding the goal? (1) “We will lead the market in production” or (2) “We will become the preeminent supplier of this product, overtaking competitors while maintaining outstanding quality.” The same message is being conveyed, but the second option adds meat to it and makes clear that the goal is more than just making money; it’s about maintaining the work ethic and quality that brought your business to this point.
Concrete language focused on a narrow message is critical to improving your vision statement and ensuring that everyone buys in. And having a shared resolve among your team is indispensable. There’s a difference between a vision and a shared vision. A successful leader nurtures the latter. You can’t lead if the rest of your team is blindfolded. Ensure that they understand the goal and that there are clear benchmarks along the way so that everyone can stay on track and recognize progress.
A good leader doesn’t just lead; a good leader listens. Solicit feedback from your team on a regular basis, but particularly when moving in a new direction. Some folks will be hesitant to speak up if they have questions or concerns. But when encouraged to do so, they’ll be more inclined to speak up. Just because someone doesn’t tell you they have an issue doesn’t mean they’re completely on board. Take time to address concerns.
I like this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up men to gather wood, give orders,
and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea.”
Remember: Everything isn’t about you. If you can focus on the win for your team and how change can be a good thing for them, they’ll join you on the journey without issue.
You also want to remember that everyone in the digital age has 50 things competing to take their attention in 50 different directions. Make your message short and sweet. Take, for example, IKEA’s: “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.” That’s it. But it captures everything about their organization, and every member of their organization can understand and recite it. It’s also obvious to every person involved how their individual role impacts the mission, be it as a customer-facing clerk or as the chief financial officer. The goal remains the same.
Take these suggestions and begin thinking about how your vision statement might look and how to make it narrow, concrete and easy for your team to absorb. This isn’t everything you’ll need to perfect your vision statement, but it should be a groundwork upon which you can build.
Known to many as Mr. Persuasion, Jeff Tippett wrote the book on persuasive communications.
Speaking to international audiences through keynotes and seminars, Jeff helps attendees increase their effectiveness, gives them powerful tools to help reach their goals, and empowers attendees to positively impact their organizations or businesses.
His second book, Unleashing Your Superpower: Why Persuasive Communication Is The Only Force You Will Ever Need, boldly declares we all live or die based on our ability to persuade. It is an Amazon #1 best seller.
In 2014, Jeff founded Targeted Persuasion, an award-winning public affairs + communications firm. He has worked with renowned brands Airbnb, The National Restaurant Association, The League of Women Voters, The League of Conservation Voters, and numerous others. Other industry experts have validated Jeff’s work with numerous awards, including the prestigious American Advertising Award.
Jeff is the host of Victory by Association, a podcast designed to share association success stories to help inspire executives.
Jeff’s third book, Presidential Persuasion: The Future of Leadership in this New Decade of Millennial Ascendancy, Automation, and Artificial Intelligence, is scheduled for a February 2020 release. The book is designed to help leaders navigate the future of work and leadership in the new decade.
The heart and soul of Jeff’s presentations is the emotional story he tells of adopting his youngest daughter from Haiti while the country’s government was collapsing. Through this near-death experience of navigating civil unrest and institutional bureaucracy in a third-world nation, Jeff learned valuable lessons in how to persuade others without ever manipulating. Jeff unpacks these secrets of the superpower of persuasion in every presentation.
Every New Year brings new opportunities and I am sure 2020 will be no different. Such opportunities can of course exist in our personal as well as professional lives. In regard to finding good opportunities, some people talk about the importance of having good luck. While I don’t particularly think a lot about the need to have good luck, maybe there is something to do with making one’s own luck, but how can we make our own luck? The Roman philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.
Also, there is a famous quote from Thomas Jefferson (former President of the United States) as saying “I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it”.
These quotes would lead us to think that finding great new opportunities and having good luck is not a matter of chance, but is more a product of how well prepared we are to tackle opportunities when they arise and how much work we have invested into a given part of our lives in order to be successful. I believe that being associated with a professional society such as ASEM can help us all to be prepared for new opportunities and support the work that we do. In fact, the society offers a number of complementary products and services that can help on this matter.
The professional certification offered by ASEM, through either the CAEM (Certified Associate in Engineering Management) or CPEM (Certified Professional in Engineering Management) route, provides a rigorous understanding of the engineering management discipline and its applications, and can help engineering managers to be prepared for a range of different situations. Staying up-to-date on new theories and different approaches as well as practical insights can be gained through regularly reading the society’s Engineering Management Journal and the Practice Periodical. The society’s key foundational texts on engineering management, the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) and the Engineering Management Handbook, provide the theoretical and industrial underpinnings for the subject. We can also exchange knowledge and network with peers at the society’s annual conference – helping to refresh our own knowledge base and be connected with others who have shared interests. All these activities across different aspects of engineering management can help us to be more effective in our own work and enable us to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities that we may encounter.
I would also like to remind everyone of the ASEM 2020 International Annual Conference and 41st Annual Meeting that will be held at The Curtis-Denver – a Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Denver, Colorado from Thursday 29th October through Saturday 31st, 2020. The conference theme this year is ‘Engineering Management Entrepreneurship and Innovation’ and the deadline for abstract submission is 24th February 2020. The Conference Director (Ean Ng), Technical Program Committee Co-Chairs (Heather Keathley, Mike Parrish and James Enos), and Conference Logistics Co-Chairs (Elizabeth Gibson and Patricia McDonald) will all be working hard over the coming months to ensure that a high quality technical program is developed for the conference and that the necessary logistics arrangements are all in place.
I have been attending the ASEM Annual Conference since 2008 (yes, I know, that is a lot of air miles…), when it was held at the US Military Academy at West Point and I have always found the conferences to be excellent technical meetings. The conferences really help for staying up-to-date on different aspects of engineering management, meeting new contacts, catching up with existing friends and making new ones, as well as helping to identify new opportunities, and dare I say even making our own luck.
by Don Kennedy, Ph.D., P.Eng., IntPE, CPEM, FASEM
I was recently surprised by a client who was pushing to spend more to finish a construction project during a winter cold snap. When asked for a reason, the response was one that I had heard many times decades ago: “In January the money dries up.”
Some organizations manage tight budgets by using a time limit on the availability of scarce financial resources. A manager is given an allotment of funds to spend however they deem appropriate for a specific purpose, but only until the end of a fiscal cycle. Then new moneys become available for new specific purposes in the next fiscal cycle.
An analogy I have often used is to imagine if personal spending was treated this way. Your child comes home with broken teeth from a playground incident. You look at the crying child and announce, “We have funds allocated this year for a new home sound system. We have no funds set aside for teeth. Next year we will see if we can afford orthodontics, but for now we are going to the store for the sound system.” No one could afford to operate this way, so why do some companies still have fixed budget cycles?
At the ASEM conferences, I have heard a lot of stories of the suboptimal spending that comes from annual budgets. In one case, a delivery truck would pull up to the engineering office near the end of the cut off for funds. It was filled with especially high priced electronics devices their projects typically require. The company rules were that items had to be delivered by the end of the cycle. The engineers had funds to buy instruments they knew they would need, but the funds would evaporate within days. It was better for them to pay double for items now than to try and get new approval to buy them for much less later.
Many organizations base the new year's budget on the previous year's spending. If you are a manager and you save too much money, you are penalized by cuts to help support the manager who overspent the year before. People who read this publication include those who can now, or will in the future, influence organizational policies. Please do not just accept annual budget cycles as the way your team operates.
Dr. Don Kennedy, a fellow of ASEM, has been a regular attendee of the ASEM conference since 1999, with particularly good participation at the informal late evening "discussions" (sometimes making it difficult to get to the morning plenaries). “Improving Your Life at Work” is Don Kennedy's ebook which includes a lengthy bibliography for people looking for references on management theory.
by William Daughton, PhD, FASEM, Former ASEM Executive Director
We often think of leadership in terms of the “great man or woman” theory or as something reserved for presidents and CEOs. However, individuals in positions of authority at all levels in an organization have leadership as well as management responsibilities. In terms of technical, human, and conceptual skills of a leader, the proportion associated with human skills is just as large at the technical group level as it is for top management. So, what form of leadership can be exercised at the technical group level which can positively affect the individual contributors?
There are several things which could be done, but one of the most effective is described by the Path-Goal Theory of leadership. The reason that this theory is useful at this level of supervision is that the supervised population is typically comprised of very motivated individuals highly focused on completing their technical work or projects and who are easily frustrated by the lack of clear goals, various obstacles to success, and poor support. Path-Goal Theory addresses all of these issues. This approach to leadership is not only theoretical but also pragmatic and can be readily exercised by the technical group leader.
Pragmatically, the theory forces the leader to understand the needs of the group members by asking the following questions:
What obstacles do the group members face in completing their work? Little is more frustrating than wanting to achieve success but being prevented from achieving it by obstacles which unnecessarily get in the way. These can include inadequate tools, poor training, lack of equipment or facilities, and a very important one, poor coordination with other groups or individuals upon which the work depends. A leader must be sensitive to these potential obstacles, anticipate them if possible, and certainly resolve them quickly if they arise.
These three questions really focus on the needs of the technical contributors. Pragmatic application of the theory leads to strong motivation, reduced frustration, and a real sense of accomplishment. In its simplest sense, this theory provides a way for the technical supervisor to guide individual contributors along a path to success.
Dr. Daughton has been involved in Engineering Management education for over 20 years. He was the Lockheed Martin Professor and Program Director of the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management program at the University of Colorado - Boulder. He then moved to Missouri S&T where he was chair of the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Department. While there, his department hosted an ASEM Conference in Springfield, MO. Moving back to Colorado, he took a position as the Director of Extended Studies in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs. The programs in extended studies included Engineering Management.
He held the position of ASEM Executive Director and is an ASEM Fellow. He has an ASEM service award named in his honor. Dr. Daughton had extensive experience in technical management in the semiconductor industry before moving to academia. He holds a Ph.D. in solid-state physics with emphasis in electronic materials. He continues to teach online graduate courses for Missouri S&T and UCCS in engineering leadership and case study analysis.
As we approach the festive season, I have been thinking that we often hear about global challenges. Climate change and global warning usually comes towards the top of the list. This is because of the need to tackle the rising global temperature caused by greenhouse gases and principally through the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting carbon dioxide emissions.
Indeed, the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that we only have about 10 years remaining to ensure the global temperature does not exceed a 1.5°C increase, which if it does, could lead to a range of serious consequences for the world, including greater risks of floods and drought as well as more extremes of weather and further negative consequences. But there are other global challenges too. An increasing trend of people migrating to cities and the resulting overcrowding and other social issues. The rising cost of healthcare. The need to become more sustainable and reduce the amount of waste generated by society. The list goes on.
On this matter, the UN has set out the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These global goals were adopted by all member states of the UN in 2015, and they can be regarded as a universal call of action for countries and people to work together in order to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure all people can live a healthy and peaceful life by 2030. There are 17 SDGs, ranging from ‘Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere’, through to ‘Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development’. The figure bellow provides an overview of the SDGs.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – courtesy of the United Nations
The question is, why have I started this newsletter introduction with a discussion of global challenges and the SDGs? The answer is that achieving these goals will of course require many actions, and by many people, but there will also be many cases and situations where engineering managers and the discipline of engineering management can help. This could be through, for instance, using systems engineering to improve our understanding of the move to a circular economy as well as the need for more renewable forms of energy. Or devising techno-economic models to measure the performance of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), and understanding how to manage large infrastructure projects more sustainably. As engineering managers, including researchers, students and practitioners, we are developing the supporting knowledge, tools and techniques to work alongside others and tackle the SDGs head-on. Although these global goals are certainly challenges they can also represent opportunities that we can pursue through applying our engineering management knowledge and tools.
Finally, as we head towards the festive period, I hope that you can all have some time with family and friends. Where possible spend time away from the daily pressures of work and other commitments, so that you can be rested and recharged to tackle the challenges and goals for 2020.
Simon Philbin, ASEM President
Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Resultsby Morten T. Hansen. Harvard Business Review Press (2009). 256 pages.
US$26.95 (hardcover). ISBN: 978-1-4221151-5-2
Reviewed by Larry Mallak, Ph.D., Fellow, ASEM; Professor, Western Michigan University
If you need a resource on how to improve collaboration in your organization, skip the airport books. Save yourself the hassle of poring through countless journal articles that explore one small set of variables in a constrained setting or geography. Morten Hansen has been studying collaboration ever since he conducted his doctoral research at H-P in the mid-1990s. Along the way, he has taken an engineering approach to collaboration, despite his B-school cred that would suggest otherwise.
Many of us engineers and engineering management types like to use analytical and quantitative techniques when we investigate a problem, even a social science problem. Ever since I read Ellen Langer’s “The Illusion of Control” while working on my master’s thesis at Virginia Tech, I’ve also become intrigued by the use of informal analytical techniques—essentially engineering estimation—applied to social science-based problems. Langer’s work got me thinking about the false uniformity of precision garnered by highly-quantified models and techniques, such as operations research and other forms of mathematical modeling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say. It’s just that when we want to achieve better outcomes in our organizations, we can’t wait for big modeling efforts or wade through complex mathematical models that may or may not match the assumptions of our workplaces. We need to “Pareto” to a few better outcomes, rather than strive for the optimal outcome.
Which brings us to Hansen. Rather than drag us through highly-constrained models, Hansen offers a few “back-of-the-envelope” simulations to make his points regarding how to improve outcomes with disciplined collaboration. He bashes popular business myths with data from case studies and formulates business-y equations that make sense to those of us seeking to make change now. For example, he dispels the notion that networking is always good and that those who have the largest number of contacts are in the best position. He even acknowledges that Gladwell makes this statement in his classic “The Tipping Point.” However, Hansen argues that those with many contacts often spend far more time cultivating those relationships rather than using the network to solve problems and “bridge” to necessary information. He calls these people “butterflies,” because they flit from one place to another without accomplishing a whole lot. At the other extreme, “lone stars” are self-appointed heroes who single handedly solve problems, not asking for, looking for, or accepting help from others.
Hansen calls for “T-shaped” managers; these are managers who “simultaneously deliver results in their own job (the vertical part of the ‘T’) and deliver results by collaborating across the company (the horizontal part of the ‘T’)” (Hansen, 2009, pp. 95-96). Southwest Airlines uses this concept when applicants are asked to stand up and read a short statement about themselves. Those who support others through listening, paying attention to them, and cheering are considered aligned with the Southwest culture. Many applicants think it’s merely a public speaking test.
A collaborative leader, according to Hansen, believes in and role models three distinct behaviors:
Hansen shares a case study of Arnold Schwarzenegger and how he used these behaviors in his role as governor of California.
Rather than just sharing his insights and wishing us well, Hansen includes several tools in this book that can be used to build better collaborations. He has a companion “Collaboration Toolkit” that can be purchased separately. Some of the tools are contained in his book and can be readily used. However, if you want a more detailed analysis of collaboration and have a decent budget, the toolkit may be the way to go.
Collaboration doesn’t have to be a mysterious concept that stays conceptual. With Hansen (and others), we can take tangible steps to improve how we lead, follow, and participate in collaborative efforts.
Hansen, M.T. 2009. Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hansen, M.T. 2019. The Collaboration Toolkit: Tools adapted from the Book "Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results." [Available: https://hbsp.harvard.edu/product/1463TK-PDF-ENG].
Dr. Larry Mallak is an industrial engineer whose work on corporate ethnography is bringing new tools to balance the art and science of new product development. He’s a Professor of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Engineering & Engineering Management at Western Michigan University. Prior to his university appointment, he worked in Charlotte, North Carolina, for Premier Healthcare and he has worked as a science reporter for National Public Radio. His work has been featured in numerous outlets, including TEDx, Engineering Management Journal, WORK, and Industrial Management. He holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Industrial & Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech, with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois. Dr. Mallak is a Fellow of ASEM.
by Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, PE, CPEMGlobal NP SolutionsBuilding Innovation Leaders
What do you think about networking? If you’re like most engineers, the word networking suggests images of pushy people shaking your hand, shoving a business card at you, and then walking away. You might think that expert networkers fall pretty close to used car salesmen and greedy life insurance agents. Yet becoming a strategic networker is important for your career and growth as an engineer, engineering manager, and professional in general.
A common misunderstanding is that networking is attendance at an event followed by the exchange of business cards. Networking is much, much more than business cards. Of course, you should always have a professional business card, including your contact information, available to share with people as you meet them (and only if they ask for it). But the business card is only the beginning of a networking relationship.
Networking is really about building long-term relationships and helping other people. You can network with people inside your organization and external to your company. Often, as engineers and engineering managers, we build relationships with people that share a common interest, such as in the American Society of Engineering Management. Our relationships with other people include things we have in common, such as an interest in learning and growing as technical leaders. Thus, networking is creating a relationship with like-minded people and diverse individuals that will last over the long run.
With a mythical image of slimy characters trying to get us to buy something we don’t need, it’s hard to see why we should network. Yet, when you understand that networking is a professional skill, you will understand that it’s important to build long-term relationships with a variety of people. People use networking to build their knowledge and influence, for example.
When we meet different people in diverse settings, and especially when we meet new people that share a common interest, we can learn new information. Networking at events like ASEM’s annual conference leads to collaborative research and creative resources. Often, the simple act of talking to someone new about a favorite topic will yield new insights to tools, techniques, and applications. While many of us know a lot about one subject area, networking allows us to expand our understanding of the topic, especially in adjacent and tangential arenas.
Networking also provides an opportunity to influence the discussion and direction in your field of study. As an example, by attending networking events and getting to know different people, I have been presented with speaking opportunities leading to new insights on topics within my field of expertise. Talking about my favorite subject to a group of people who are largely unfamiliar with the topic enables me to reframe and simplify my assumptions as well as to openly share my personal opinions and experiences. Being presented with a chance to learn different perspectives and viewpoints through networking increases your own knowledge and allows you to influence others.
If someone asked me, “When should I be networking?” My answer is: “All the time.” Too many people decide that it’s time to network when they are laid off from their job or the economy faces a downturn. This is the short game of networking, resulting in an ugly clamor for business cards from the single person at an event who is hiring. Because networking is about planting and nourishing the seeds of a relationship, it is no surprise that few people reap positive outcomes from attending one event and flashing around their newly printed business cards.
You will want to meet people whenever and however you can. Get to know them by asking pertinent questions and actively listening to their responses. Find the common ground – do you both have a history in the oil and gas industry? Maybe you both have industrial engineering degrees or are wondering about pursuing your CPEM credential. Pay attention to the other person’s passions and purpose. In five or ten years, you may be in the position of the hiring manager and by playing the long game, you’ll have a great candidate in mind because of the relationship you’ve built through common interests.
The first key to strategic networking is to remember that you are trying to build a relationship with another person. Often, other people beginning with networking skills feels just as awkward as you do. My goal at networking events is simply to meet one new person. Because I am an introvert, I can be too quiet in larger groups and will not make connections with people. So, I intentionally look for another person who is also standing or sitting alone. With a deep breath, I approach and ask if I can join them.
Next, I ask why they are attending the event. This simple question can create a wonderful conversation and start to build our relationship on common ground. Maybe they came to the event because they thought the topic was interesting or they know the speaker. Affirm your reasons for attending the event and ask more questions. But, remember it’s not an inquisition – you are seeking to identify shared professional interests and create the seed of a relationship.
You want to build relationships within your organization, with people who share your education and trade, and with people that have diverse interests. If you come to a time in your life when you need a new job or help with a research paper, all these people will be great resources. It’s fairly easy to build a relationship with co-workers while working on a project together. Yet, you also want to consider creating ties with people in your organization that work in different departments and have different functional duties than you do. When you are in a leadership position, you’ll need to assemble a team of skilled individuals that you can trust, and people within your organizational network will be prime candidates!
Of course, networking at ASEM’s IAC and other engineering conferences is a great way to build technical relationships. Don’t forget that you can create professional relationships with people at organizations where you volunteer, or you share hobbies. I recently expanded my network by chatting with someone at the gym while we sweated on adjacent elliptical trainers. We connected even though I only had a crumpled-up business card at the bottom of my backpack. Our professional relationship is growing based on common technical interests and experiences.
LinkedIn is also a tremendous place to network. After every in-person networking event I attend, I try to connect with people I’ve met on LinkedIn. There I can learn more about their educational background and work experience to further our relationship. LinkedIn makes it super easy to congratulate people on promotions and say “Happy Birthday” on their special day.
Social media offers tools to search for people working in industries, companies, or jobs about which you might want to learn more. You can follow the activity of others and learn what is “hot” in your area of expertise. By commenting on articles posted on LinkedIn, you continue to build your own reputation while you build relationships with people who share common interests.
First, don’t be afraid to network. Erase any assumption that networking is a distasteful practice of shoving business cards at other people. Strategic networking is about building relationships with interesting people.
Second, identify an event where you can comfortably test your networking skills. ASEM is a great place to network with other engineers and engineering managers. You can test ideas, learn, and influence the field of study. As you build relationships with other ASEM members, you will find that networking becomes easier in both face-to-face and online situations.
Next, create an action plan for attending networking events. Identify someone you’d like to meet by reviewing the roster in advance or by finding another person who looks as awkward as you might feel. Ask short and simple questions about the event, seeking common ground. Don’t be discouraged if the other person doesn’t respond enthusiastically. They might just be feeling grumpy that day, or they really are checking in with the babysitter on their mobile device.
Connect with people you’ve met or admired on Linked In. Start with me at linkedin.com/in/teresajurgenskowal/ or Annmarie, ASEM’s Communications Director at linkedin.com/in/annmarieuliano/. Follow organizations (like ASEM), companies, and people that are interesting to you. Like and comment on articles and share good wishes with people who are celebrating birthdays or work anniversaries. It is risk-free to start with LinkedIn’s automated suggestions, but you should build your confidence in networking by adding your own unique comments to posts and articles.
Finally, remember above all that networking is about building relationships. If you promise to contact someone or do something for them, keep your word. Be polite, professional, and engaging. It’s always safe to listen more than you talk, and it is totally okay to leave a networking event with zero business cards!
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