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by Pat Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, CSEP, PMP
[This post is adapted from Episode 15 of the Engineering and Leadership Podcast.]
As engineering managers, we all feel the burden of increasing workloads, growing complexity, and the pressure to perform. For many of us, the response to this added pressure is to work more. We get to work early. We work through lunch. We work late. We skip breaks. We spend our weekends at our keyboards. We try to stay on top of things and get sucked into “whack-a-mole” management – if I can just keep up, we reason, we win the game.
The trouble with this approach, of course, is that you can’t keep up - not in the long run anyway. At some point, you hit terminal velocity, yet the work keeps building, and you start to fall behind.
The solution? Engineering managers must learn to prioritize and focus on what’s most important.
If we accept the fact that our to-do list will never really be done, and that there will always be more work to do, then “doing it all” is illogical. The best course of action then, is to make sure you’re always using your time on what’s most important.
Most people believe that being productive is all about being efficient – getting things done as quickly as possible. In my productivity course for engineers, I teach that efficiency is absolutely important, but it takes a back seat to being effective. Where efficiency is about doing things right, effectiveness is about doing the right things – those things that are actually important.
Peter Drucker, the father of modern management once said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Prioritization is the act of choosing which tasks and projects are really worth doing.
Now we know that prioritization is all about choosing and doing what’s important. How do we go about figuring that out?
Importance is determined by how well a given task or project supports your goals. If a project contributes in a significant way to either your goals or your team’s goals, then it’s important. If not, then it’s not important.
Importance is all about whether work moves you forward. All too often we get caught up in the urgency at the expense of the important. We make time for things that need to happen now if they’re to happen at all, regardless of whether they’re actually helping us achieve what we ultimately want to achieve.
The real crux of prioritization, then, is about understanding your goals in a concrete way, and making sure your work is helping you achieve those goals.
The first thing you need to do in order to learn to prioritize is to get clear on your goals and the work you have on your plate. List your goals on paper, including deadlines and clear descriptions of what it means to have them be 100% complete. Do the same with your projects and tasks. Next, you can determine how each project supports each goal using a house-of-quality-style assessment.
For most people, many projects support goals, but many others either don’t contribute or actively get in the way. That should tell you a lot about which projects ought to be priorities, and which ones should be delegated, deferred, or deleted from your list.
Once you know which projects are important (those that support goals), you can plot your projects in an Eisenhower Matrix – a quad chart that has importance on one axis and urgency on the other. I prioritize my projects as follows:
Priority 1 – Important and urgent
Priority 2 – Important but not urgent
Priority 3 – Urgent but not important
Priority 4 – Neither urgent nor important
Take some time today to write up your goals and projects lists. Even without doing any kind of in-depth analysis, you can intuitively start to make sense of things just by capturing what all is on your plate. Just understanding the lay of the land can do wonders for productivity and helping you prioritize the right work.
Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, PMP, CSEP is a recognized expert in engineering management, productivity, and leadership. He is also the host of the popular Engineering & Leadership Podcast, a show dedicated to helping engineering managers thrive. Download his free productivity guide “Finding the 6th Day” to learn how to create 8 hours of additional productive time this week.
by Atul Kalia
EMBOK Domain 2 covers “Leadership and Organizational Management”. This is arguably the hardest Engineering Management aspect to learn and master. Let me explain why I feel so. Leadership and organizational management involves inspiring individuals to be their best self and leading teams and organizations through transformational change. This involves self-awareness as a leader, understanding others behaviors and then utilizing this knowledge to drive transformational behavioral change. In fact any other EMBOK domain, e.g. Project Management, that requires a good understanding of the human psyche, is a challenging domain. Other domains that deal with Technology, Quality, Operations, Supply Chain, etc. are also very difficult but perhaps not as dependent on the vagaries of human nature.
How can we as Engineering Management professionals –educators as well as corporate managers– succeed in these difficult domains? Obviously there is no simple solution for this challenge. However, I would like to share key tips from a TED talk about changing behavior by Dan Ariely. Dan serves as a James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He has written 3 New York Times bestseller books.
Dan mentions the example of a program where financial tips are taught to the attendees. Immediately after the program only 3-4% of attendees follow through on the changes taught in the course. Long term, this drops to less than 0.1%. Clearly behavioral change is very rare simply based on providing good information to people. This is true not just for financial education but for most topics including engineering management and leadership & organizational management.
Dan talks about focusing on two things to ensure success in driving long-term behavioral change. These two things are similar to what is needed to send a rocket to space: reducing friction and providing fuel.
This concept involves reducing the difference in effort required for maintaining status quo and the effort required to enable the new behavior. In general, human tendency is to follow the path of least resistance. So we must understand the “friction” inherent in the new desired behavior and must figure out ways to reduce it.
Dan mentions the example of an online pharmacy in his talk. The online pharmacy wanted people to switch from branded to generic medication for their condition. They asked patients to mail back a letter in case they wanted to switch to generic medication. The response was very poor. The task required effort. Status quo: keep getting a branded prescription requires less effort. After consultation with behavioral experts, the company sent letters to patients telling them that their prescription service would end unless they responded and explicitly stated their preference: branded or prescription drug. Now that they were forced to respond and with the same effort required to choose branded or generic, the majority of patients chose generic.
How can we be aware of the effort required for behavioral change we seek in ourselves and others? Understand what is causing “friction”? How can we use that knowledge to trigger transformation?
For example, let’s say an engineer is struggling in interactions with a key customer’s team. The engineer is not responding in a customer-centric manner. Hence, the engineer’s manager would like to trigger a behavioral change in the engineer. He wants to ensure that customers do not have to escalate to the manager for day-to-day issues. “Friction” could be due to the engineer’s lack of skills in customer service and the effort required to learn these vs. the effort required in maintaining the status quo. Intervention could be to provide ongoing coaching for the engineer, allowing engineers to shadow to observe how others do a good job in customer interactions, providing continuous feedback – positive as well as constructive that enables growth for the engineer and reduces the “friction”.
Typical engineering managers do not provide such support. They simply reiterate the need for the engineer to be more customer-centric without coaching them on how to change. They may simply give the engineer a bad performance review or, at most, provide a one-time training or workshop. Such short-term training is highly ineffective in bringing about long-term behavioral change since it doesn’t eliminate the underlying friction.
Fuel for a rocket is similar to the motivation for an individual. As an engineering manager and leader we need to understand what drives each unique individual. There is no one size fits all solution. Dan’s TED talk mentions an effort to inspire villagers in Kenya to save a certain amount every week. The study tried various methods including weekly reminders, providing some financial incentive by matching a small percent of the villagers savings, loss aversion, emotional messages from kids, and a symbolic scratching of a coin every week that they saved money. The goal was to determine which approach might result in achieving the highest savings. They found that savings were almost double compared to other motivational methods when villagers had to scratch a mark on a coin every week to indicate that they met their savings goal. The coin was displayed in a prominent location in the hut. A visual indicator of an otherwise invisible task –savings– helped the family understand why it was important and stay on track.
As Engineering Management professionals providing fuel or motivation is a very significant and yet difficult task. We don’t always know what may work in any given situation and with any given person. This is where our skill as an engineering management leader comes into play.
In the example of the engineer above, what are some things that a manager could do to motivate the engineer? Would love to hear your thoughts. Do email me.
Atul Kalia, firstname.lastname@example.org, is passionate about enabling success for individuals, teams and organizations. This success manifests itself as professional growth for individuals, successful delivery of complex programs by high performance teams and sustainable profitability for organizations. Atul is a firm believer in the “Art of the Possible” and uses a generative approach. Using self-awareness as the foundation, Atul enables results for clients by sharing insights from his corporate and consulting career of 25+ years.
Atul is the Founder of SN Group LLC, a consulting firm delivering success for clients through coaching for engineering and program management professionals, leadership development workshops and program management consulting. Atul has experience in Automotive, Commercial Trucking, Off-Highway, Industrial, Non-profits, Telecom, Digital Printing and Manufacturing industry in North America, Europe and Asia. He works with, as well as coaches engineering professionals from C level executives to managers.
Prior to SN Group, Atul worked as the Director of Engineering for a Manufacturing firm. In this role his focus was new product development, engineering and program management. He led Global teams that successfully launched over 20 complex and innovative programs.
Education, Certifications, Memberships, Publications
by Larry Mallak, PhD, CPEM, FASEM
Why would college seniors in Engineering Management visit an art museum? If we’re serious about the art and science of engineering management, then let’s go experience some art. Since 2007, I’ve been taking my undergraduate Industrial Systems Management students to the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Institute of Arts (KIA) for a field trip. My first call to KIA with this request was met with bewilderment, but then they realized I was serious. Of course, the learning objectives are key to a successful visit.
With many students mired in problem sets and quantitative analyses, we need to prepare them to view the world more systemically. My objectives are twofold: 1) to help the student gain a deeper (or an initial) experience with art and science and 2) to understand how artists communicate meaning. We engineering managers should not be addicted to PowerPoint’s bullet charts if we’re going to be successful project managers and leaders.
As with most things, this year was different, so I called over the summer and asked if the museum would do a virtual tour for my class. I had done this tour for over a decade and had no intention of skipping it. Museum staff were game to this idea and we were the first virtual tour. Our docent, Dr. Frank Wolf, is an emeritus faculty member of our department at Western Michigan University. He taught operations research and engineering economy. Now, he teaches us how to find systems and engineering concepts in KIA artworks.
Connecting via Zoom, my students, Dr. Wolf, KIA director Jessica Sundstrom, and myself toured an exhibit titled “Cultural Encounters,” a collection of artworks from Asian immigrants to the Americas (which you’ll recall is North America excluding for the U.S. and Canada). These works embodied several types of processes—metal sculpture, master printmaking, watercolors, videos, and fiber art.
Rainforest XI: The Sharp Edge of Seasons. 2013.
Bernadette Indira Persaud. Acrylic on canvas. 22”x14"
For example, the art shown below is Indo-Caribbean from an artist who was born in Guyana. This is Rainforest XI by Bernadette Persaud. Her grandparents were laborers on a sugar plantation. The process of producing this painting is based on neo-Impressionist techniques to produce color and perspective. Colonialist pursuit of profits from clearing land to raise sugarcane removes land from the rainforest—a political, scientific, and environmental conflict. Although the artist’s depiction is a beautiful rainforest scene, there was much pain and sacrifice by her ancestors to reach this point. The systems view of this single art work contains many elements related to engineering management.
Over the years, we have seen many unique art works—installations depicting oil-ruined land, glassworks by Chihuly, Chinese prints, enchanting videos, and traditional paintings of people and landscapes. Each year, the class sees something different, but the lesson is the same—engineering managers and artists rely on color, perspective, processes, and materials to produce an output for an end user. We can learn a lot from artists—even when it’s virtual.
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.
Pandemic, Inc. by Patrick Schwerdtfeger. Authority Publishing: Gold River, CA (2020). 168 +x pages . US$19.99 (paperback).
For all of us, 2020 has been a year of uncertainty and confusion. “Normal “ activities of going to work or school, seeing family, and even shopping have been aborted. Who could have predicted these life-altering changes?
It turns out that futurists, like Patrick Schwerdtfeger, spend time analyzing trends and predicting business activities for tomorrow. Patrick is a sought-after keynote speaker and author. During the corona-panic lockdown, he looked toward the most impactful changes that he believes have staying power. This is the thrust of “Pandemic, Inc.”
Unlike much of the media in 2020, Patrick offers a message of opportunity for business owners and managers. “...there are some very real and tangible things that businesses can do to (1) survive, (2) rebuild, and (3) thrive after the crisis is over...” (pg. 3, author’s emphasis). Each of the eight primary chapters describes trends and offers business advice to take advantage of future trends.
Already a trend before corona-panic, groups of people were moving “off the grid”. Patrick recognizes this trend and its impact on engineers and engineering managers. Solar panels will continue to grow as people strive for independent living. Technology will continue to advance driving down manufacturing and installation costs.
The trend toward “Big Data” was already in place long before corona-panic. The pandemic has simply accelerated the vast accumulation, storage, and processing of more and more data. Engineering managers and business owners will use and optimize data to target marketing, while governments will use increased data to manage healthcare. We must be cautious, however, of the misuse of data and understand the complexity of models before we accept their outcomes and predictions.
In business terms, cash is the most liquid asset you own. You can trade cash for anything. Debt in our personal lives, in business, and especially in governments is a threat to long-term survival. What happened to your day-to-day living when the stock market crashed in March? Holding sufficient cash resources to keep things running will be an important lesson for all of us going forward.
Most of us are now spending a significant amount of time on Zoom or FaceTime. We have social networks, business meetings, and family time in front of a screen. Engineering managers must consider how to apply technologies, like virtual reality (VR), to trouble-shooting operations. Educators must adopt engaging studies via virtual platforms. How have you adapted to a virtual world and what can you change to make a hybrid approach (virtual and in-the-office) successful going forward?
Again, automation was already trending upward before the corona-panic. However, “Pandemic, Inc.” emphasizes an acceleration of automation as cash-strapped businesses transition routine tasks to machines. “Germaphobes” (pg. 80-81) will continue to drive fears of contact with people we know and especially of strangers. Patrick predicts reemergence of shared ride service and autonomous vehicles despite a growth in the number of “germaphobes”.
Big government with more intrusion into previously private activities is an enduring trend predicted in “Pandemic, Inc.” “The pandemic is turning into a massive power-grab by governments and globalists” (pg. 106). Bitcoin and blockchain are likely outgrowths of this trend. Serving government agencies and customers will become a bigger aspect of most businesses in the future.
Patrick notes that technology has growth at accelerating rates - exponential versus linear. From an engineering management perspective, we are seeing enhanced performance at decreased costs for many goods. Harkening back to Trend #3 (Liquidity), engineering managers should consider how to invest in these rapidly accelerating technologies while still preserving cash.
In “Pandemic, Inc.”, Patrick notes that decentralization encompasses most of the other trends (pg. 123). Just like me, when the author was a child, we had just one local newspaper and a handful of television channels. Today, we are bombarded with hundreds of channels in social media and ways to consume “the news”. Unfortunately, we seek out “echo chambers“ (pg. 124) more than truth or full data sets. This trend allows us to be more connected with those like us but less connected to anyone with a different opinion. Decentralization thus impacts business decisions, including market structures in hiring of new employees.
“Pandemic, Inc.” is an interesting read. Patrick Schwerdtfeger has been analyzing and speaking on future trends for years. Will all these trends come to fruition? Certainly not. But as engineers and engineering managers, we must be aware of both technological and social trends that impact how we design operations and products. I recommend “Pandemic, Inc.” for a couple of reasons. First, it is easy and quick to read. It summarizes challenges to the global economy and offers a glimpse into a possible future. Second, whether or not you agree with Patrick's view of future trends, engineers and engineering managers must be aware of alternate perspectives that influence our customers and manufacturing processes.
What do you think is the most significant trend to arise from the corona-panic?
Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, PE (State of Louisiana), PMP®, CPEM, NPDP is a writer, speaker, and facilitator. Teresa founded Global NP Solutions to help organizations learn, adopt, transform, and sustain innovation. She frequently presents keynote presentation on innovation and design thinking.
Teresa is the co-editor of the PDMA Body of Knowledge 2nd edition and is the author of a popular book on innovation, The Innovation ANSWER Book.
Prior to founding Global NP Solutions, Teresa worked in R&D, process technology, innovation at ExxonMobil Chemical Company. She has degrees in Chemical Engineering and an MBA. She is a Certified Professional Engineering Manager. You can reach Teresa at email@example.com.
by Alexis Devenin, PMP
Sometimes businesses run in continuous and stable scenarios and this situation can be likened to a fisherman who always fishes in the same spot from the edge of a river. Other times businesses are confronted with rapid and dramatic changes. This other situation is similar to a fisherman who floats down the river, fishing from the boat.
There are times when businesses run smoothly, and there are external market variables that fluctuate, but there are only small or regular fluctuations around an average situation. Production and business are planned and executed according to these stationary scenarios. The situation is similar to a fisherman that always goes fishing in the same spot in a river. He knows where the trout lies, the best hour in the day, and the best time in a season. He knows where, how, and when to cast, what line, and what fly patterns to use. Of course, there are good days and bad days, but on average, his method works. Unexpectedly, some days the water is warmer or muddy, and other days the water is too cold. In these instances, the tactics that he usually uses don't pay so well, but the fisher knows some tricks to use in these circumstances. This fisher can embark on his journey with a small set of fly patterns and with a specific line and rod because he knows what works there. In business, the same happens in times where there are no rapid changes.
On the contrary, sometimes in business, there are times with rapid and unpredicted changes. Phenomena such as digital transformation, Industry 4.0, the AI revolution, pandemic occurrence, etc. No company is completely prepared for these changes. Returning to the fisherman, the situation is closer to someone who is floating the river in a boat and is confronted with different fishing situations. During his journey, riffles, runs and pools are encountered several times. Each scenario demands different fishing strategies. The fisher must carry with him more than one line, at least a floating line and a sinking line, probably more than one rod, and a larger set of fly patterns. In the same ways, companies exposed to rapid changes must continuously check their strategy and operations. They must have a larger set of skills to draw upon. That is, they must have different people with different education, culture, and ways to see the world. The larger the diversity of the employee profiles, the more resilient and adaptive the organization will be.
Some companies are very uniform in their team composition. They are composed of people of the same formation and even the same school. That could be an optimal situation for a specific scenario, like the fisherman who fishes in the same spot every time. However, it is not an optimal situation for rapid changes in the environment, like the situation of the fisher who is floating the river. Clearly, with digital transformation and eruption of the pandemic, today's business scenario is close to the situation of the fisher floating down the river. Organizations must continuously review their processes and reinforce their team skills set in order to “match the hatch”.
Alexis Devenin is engineer, MBA & PMP. He has a Professional Certificate in Foundations for Data Science from Stanford. He is interested in the analysis of industrial systems and organizations from a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, that includes tools from disciplines like data science, systems engineering and social sciences. www.linkedin.com/in/alexisdevenin
UAH Professional Development Solutions, in partnership with the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM®), is proud to announce the ASEM® Certification: CAEM®/CPEM® Exam Prep. This exam prep, written and presented by prominent members of ASEM®, prepares the participant to sit for either the Certified Associate in Engineering Management (CAEM®) or the Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM®) exams. These exams are designed for professionals seeking to establish their credentials or validate their skills and experience with a professional certification.
Over the course of two months, participants will appreciate the interactive online training facilitated by ASEM® members, who are also subject-matter-experts and are there to assist participants with their learning experience. The course offers lectures and mock test questions developed by ASEM® and are reflective of the 11 domains in the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge or EMBOK.
The EMBOK Guide includes competency areas that were derived from role delineation studies. Professionals, managers, and executives in the field of engineering should strive to acquire experience in these competency areas.
The 11 domains consist of the following:
Participants can sign up anytime of the year and will receive a free membership to ASEM®, a free voucher to take the exam of their choice, and digital copies of all the materials, including the EMBOK. To register, please visit the website at CPS.uah.edu/ASEM.
UAH Professional Development Solutions works continuously to offer many opportunities for job growth and training in a variety of formats including classroom, online on-demand, live-virtual, and customized. For more information about the ASEM® Exam Prep or any other courses, contact Professional Development Solutions at 256.824.4033 or PDSolutions@uah.edu.
Continuing our series on Women in Engineering Management (#WiEM) featuring a fireside chat with ASEM's most recent Past President, truly a leader in engineering management. Learn more about Dr. Suzanna 'Suzie' Long, PhD, CPEM, F.ASEM, F.IISE and hear her views on the future for women in EM.
Q1: What led you to the field of engineering management?
My department is Engineering Management and Systems Engineering (EMSE). It was none of those things that led me to the department. My undergraduate degrees are in Physics & History, and my first graduate degree was in history. I went to work for the National Archives and Records Administration. Because of Physics, I was assigned to work on scientific records because I had a unique background to be able to characterize what is uniquely valuable for the good of the Nation. Then I started falling more and more into how you effectively manage technology. I started looking for PhD programs, and I was drawn to EMSE because it had a strong program in looking at the concept of an engineering system or sociotechnical system. My PhD is in EM with a systems flavor and so one of the first professional societies that i joined as a graduate student was ASEM because I was so enchanted in this concept of the management of systems and the management of technology. So with that, whereas most coming into ASEM through a student membership, I joined as a professional member from the get-go.
Q2: Why do you think its essential to have have women in engineering, and specifically engineering management?
I think a lot about this, even on my own campus, I am currently the only female chair. One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of opinion is essential. If you are not considering all dimensions of a problem, your solution is simply not robust. Not just women need to be actively involved in EM, but across all diverse dimensions, we need that to have the engineering solutions we need to move the profession forward. It’s been a privilege to be a women leader in the field of Engineering Management. It’s still far too rare.
You didn’t ask about challenges but it becomes a disheartening thing when you know because there is a deeper voice, capable of being louder that sometimes you’ll be shut down or talked over. Or more importantly they will pick up your idea and it’s attributed to them and not you. I think we still have a lot of growing to do, and until we get past that our default leaders look a certain way, we have made no progress.
Q3: Is there anything you think educators can do to make Engineering more attractive to women?
Part of it requires that we actually think about education from a more inclusive respective. NSF is currently using a term called convergence, which is starting to be designed. [. . .] What it means to me is that we are trying to work towards a framework where diversity of thought is truly present in our systems designs and in our engineering management approach in everything from work to life. If you think of things as a sociotechnical system, and most engineering managers are looking at that, then to be perfectly honest we spend way too much time on the technical, and not enough time on the integration of the human into the management system.
The way you look at things, whenever you got a human, there are dimensions and emerging conditions that cannot be clinically designed so that’s why you can’t have an artificial intelligence approach constantly. There’s got to be compassion and cultural awareness as part of the system.
Q4: What are some of your memories from ASEM or some of your proudest accomplishments?
I’m going to back to my early days on the faculty here at Missouri S&T about 12 years ago. In my second year as a faculty member, we hosted the ASEM conference in Springfield, MO. I remember being so proud of the team I was able to put together to attend that conference, both that conference and the next one. We had 9 different graduate students presenting research in EM. When I started thinking about contributions and ways to give back, it occurred to me as I was sitting in one of their sessions, 'Wow! this is the future of our society, you’re here on the ground floor getting to mentor and benefit from their perspective and I was so proud of that.'
Next month we will have the first virtual ASEM International Annual Conference (IAC) and it promises to be packed with many high-quality technical presentations that we usually expect to hear at ASEM’s annual technical meeting. We also have a series of excellent panel sessions, workshops and other sessions, and the conference will be kicked off by the award of the Engineering Manager of the Year. I would like to encourage you to register for this exciting event if you have not yet done so.
Over the last several months, we have all been affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic. This is the reason we are holding a virtual conference this year and not the usual the face-to-face conference. Holding a virtual conference is one example of how we have all had to change the way we work and live in the wake of the pandemic. Such changes have included the need to ‘social distance’ and many of us have been working at home during lockdown periods that have taken place. We should now all be experts in attending virtual meetings on the various online meeting platforms that have become part of our daily working lives – although how often do we still have to say to someone: “You need to turn your mic on”. I have to admit this does include myself as I have also forgotten to unmute myself at least a few times during meetings.
Changed working patterns have only been part of this period. An inability to meet for face to face interactions means that we don’t necessarily have the same level of social interactions with work colleagues, fellow students and other peers that we usually interact with. In order to avoid becoming isolated it is now even more important that we find time to reach out to colleagues in the workplace, other students as well as friends and family members so that we remain connected – albeit virtually. During this recent period, we have needed to be flexible and adaptable to change; in many cases changing our usual pattern of working and studying through adopting a new approach. In this context we need to be resilient and steadfast in our underlying beliefs to ensure we maintain our focus not just on the ‘here and now’ but also on our eventual goals that we want to achieve.
Over the last several months there have also been certain events that have taken place, which have brought to our attention the need to maintain equality and respect for all. To this end, we have released a new ‘ASEM Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Statement’ that sits alongside the existing ‘ASEM Code of Ethics’. We have also recently released a new ‘ASEM Code of Conduct for Meetings’. ASEM is committed to maintaining equal opportunities and participation for all, irrespective of their background or characteristics. While such policies and commitments are clearly important, we know that across wider society there remains much that is still to be done and we should all be vigilant in this regard.
In this newsletter I would like to thank all the members of the Society and the members of the Board of Directors for their support over the last year while I have been President of ASEM, which has been an honour that I have enjoyed tremendously. I would like to thank Gene Dixon (Executive Director) and Angie Cornelius (Operations Director) from the ASEM Headquarters for all their hard work and support as well as Paul Kauffmann (Associate Executive Director) who has provided outstanding service to the Society in various roles over
the last several years. I would like to thank Greg Sedrick (Secretary) and Ruwen Qin (Treasurer) for their excellent work over the last year. I would also like to thank Suzie Long who will be soon be completing her service as Past President for her dedication and hard work for ASEM. Finally, I would like to thank Jim Schreiner (President Elect) for his excellent work on leading our planning for the virtual IAC and wish him every success in his forthcoming tenure as President of ASEM.
Dr. Simon Philbin
Women in the workplace have come a long way in the past century. They’ve contributed to countless industries’ success, increasing from a general workforce of 8.2 million in 1920 to more than 78.6 million strong in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Although women have cemented themselves as staples in the teaching and nursing sectors, women in engineering still have a long way to go to welcome more women into this expanding field; the proof is in the numbers.
Today, women make up more than 50% of all college-educated people in the workforce, yet the National Science Foundation (NSF) estimates that women only account for 28% of all science and engineering occupations. A separate DOL study shows an even greater gap between the genders, as just 16% of engineering workers in the STEM field are women.
On top of employment divides between men and women in the engineering field, women are faced with significant discrepancy in pay. The wage gap between men and women in science and engineering fields is truly eye-opening, as men earned an average of $86,000 in 2015 compared to just $57,000 for women during that same year, according to the NSF.
Clearly, there’s still significant ground to cover to promote women in the engineering industry. But where can women who are interested in becoming engineers and advancing to management positions turn to for added support? Let’s find out!
With the engineering field projected to add nearly 140,000 new jobs between 2016 and 2026, the time is nowto put women in positions to succeed in this growing industry. An engineering society is the first step in connecting like-minded professionals with one another to advance their careers. Engineering societies enable members to…
Access a global network of engineering management professionals so women can explore employment opportunities and receive the latest updates on the engineering profession.
Explore industry publications such as the Guide to the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBoK), Engineering Management Journal (EMJ), and Engineering Management Handbook. These resources are must-haves for women interested in the engineering field and elevating their careers.
Take advantage of professional development opportunities such as International Annual Conference (IAC) and its Proceedings, webinars, and newsletters with best practices in the field.
In addition to networking opportunities, publications, and professional development resources, engineering societies also provide certifications that help women advance their careers. The Certified Associate in Engineering Management (CAEM) certification provides the groundwork for women to receive the necessary technology, financial resources, strategic planning, and operational knowledge to strengthen their employment credentials.
Women who are looking to climb the corporate ladder to an engineering management position will benefit greatly from the Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM) certification. The CPEM certification is designed for engineering professionals who have several years of execution, leadership, project, design, and management experience. With a CPEM certification, women will have the opportunity to showcase their technical operations management skills to further their engineering careers.
But completing these certifications is just the beginning to honing long-term skills in the engineering field. Women must maintain their professional engineering management by keeping up with their recertifications. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste.
The engineering industry is trending in the right direction, but there’s so much work left to be done to ensure women succeed in this expanding marketplace. The American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) is committed to helping build a brighter, more diverse future for the engineering field. If you’re looking for resources to refine your engineering knowledge to accelerate your career, or you’re searching for certifications, ongoing training, and professional development materials that will elevate you to a management position, ASEM has you covered.
ASEM is always looking for opportunities to promote diversity in engineering on a global scale. In addition to sponsoring STEM-related events such as the Annual STEM Capitol Hill Day, ASEM has joined other professional societies, most notably the Society of Women Engineers, to help women advance in the engineering field.
The past 100 years have laid the groundwork for women to enter the workforce and succeed across countless industries. For STEM-related professionals, there are still barriers that we must be overcome. ASEM is committed to ensuring the next 100 years welcomes more women engineers into the market who are ready to make this industry their own.
Contact us today to join a community of women who are committed to advancing the engineering field by furthering their career aspirations. Also, keep an eye out for more ASEM blogs in the future, as we tackle other topics regarding diversity & inclusion in engineering.
by Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM
“Racism does not usually take an obvious form that we can see and prevent; rather it masquerades as the most ordinary of daily actions: as unnoticed and ever-present as the air we breathe.”
—Anne Warfield Rawls and Waverly Duck, Tacit Racism
The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Blacks coupled with the ongoing Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests sparked, initially, by the killing of George Floyd are forcing a spotlight on structural racism in America. As with all aspects of American society, the discipline and profession of engineering management (EM) are not immune to interrogation. From Black technologists calling for more systemic action in advancing racial equality within the tech industry to recent studies highlighting the challenges speech recognition systems (personal voice assistants) have in understanding Black voices, it is truly time for EM to get real about anti-Black racism.
In getting real, as Rob Girling and Emilia Palaveeva state in their Fast Company article, Beyond the Cult of Human-Centered Design, “we need to be clear-eyed about what we are striving to do and minimize the chances of creating more problems than we are trying to solve”. And, in EM contexts, becoming more “clear-eyed” particularly around issues of race and racism requires greater intentionality to notions of exclusion & oppression that can cloud EM actions and decision making (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: The Big 10 (+1) Ideas that Fuel Oppression
Exclusionary practices, patterns, behaviors, and norms have and are being ingrained within the culture of EM that, while “unintentional”, are leading to both EM practices and outcomes that are doing more harm than good. EM can and must do better.
As a part of the Great Radical Race Read Circle, I am reading Tacit Racism. As detailed in the book, “many people think that if they are not conscious of racism and do not ‘hate,’ they are not doing racist things.” This is problematic. “The problem is that White people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that,” states Ola Caracola in the Medium article, A Quick Read for White People Who Don’t Consider Themselves Racist. “Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of Whites at other people’s expense, whether Whites know/like it or not.” Thus, the bigger challenge is not racists, per se, but dealing with the racism that we can’t see - tacit racism.
Tacit racism is woven into the fabric of American life, shaping the thoughts and actions of all Americans in racist ways. Consequently, there are EM implications. Leveraging the three groupings offered in Figure 1.3 of the Engineering Management Handbook (2nd Edition) that define the challenges associated with EM as a framing, exemplar racist EM interactions that can occur without intent or even conscious awareness include:
Fractured relations with Black colleagues (Business Environment Trends & Challenges)
Technological development and/or deployment decisions made with a “White racial framing” as the default or the norm (Organizational Trends & Challenges)
Managerial actions influenced by racial stereotypes and standards (Engineering Management/Manager Trends & Challenges)
It is the engineering manager acting on racist biases and assumptions that can foster and drive EM actions and decisions that can both perpetuate and exacerbate anti-Black racist ideologies and outcomes.
As a countermeasure, the onus is on the engineering manager to be racially self-aware. Critical self-examination is core to becoming racially self-aware and should underpin the engagement of any anti-racist effort or initiative. As highlighted by Ibram X. Kendi in a NPR piece about his book How To Be An Antiracist, “critical self-reflection is, in fact, the responsibility of the antiracist…like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination."
All is truly not lost in dismantling anti-Black racism within the discipline and profession of EM. Personally, I am very hopeful. Conversations are finally being had that I feel will catalyze the needed actions to bring change. Underscored by current events, the time is both ripe and right for a reformation in EM. As Black lives and futures are at stake, so too is the relevancy and future of engineering management.
Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM is a Professor of the Practice and the Graduate Program Director, Professional Graduate Engineering Programs in the College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He is also the Professional Development & Continuing Education Director for ASEM. Selected as a member of the second cohort of the IAspire Leadership Academy, Dr. Woodrow W. Winchester, III is an advocate for more equitable, inclusive, and consequential approaches to technological design and deployment. He is currently under contract with CRC Press to write Inclusion by Design: Future Thinking Approaches to New Product Development.
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