What Specific Qualities Do Companies Look for In a Chief Engineer?
Leadership and engineering are both difficult fields by themselves, but becoming a leader in engineering is even more of a challenge, and requires a unique skill set. The first part is, of course, being a master in your field, but here are 6 other important characteristics companies look for when hiring a chief engineer.
It’s easy to be ambitious when you’re new to something, but those individuals who have been in a given field for a long time and remain interested in learning and improving almost always make good leaders.
In engineering, forward-thinking is the name of the game, and having a leader who encourages and creates opportunities for people to think outside of the box is even more important in engineering than it is in other fields.
Having a chief engineer who is a true go-getter generally leads to a team that shares the same mentality on the whole.
Related to being ambitious, an engineer who isn’t afraid to make mistakes is an engineer who comes up with some innovative ideas. This mindset also resonates with teams, and a fearless leader in engineering is often sought out by hiring teams. With that comes a necessary sense of accountability, too, and an ability to admit when an idea did not pan out.
Remaining confident even after a failure is a great trait of a leader in engineering.
Multiple brains are always better than one, and expert leaders in engineering need to know how to invite and encourage their team members to think and share ideas. This starts with an ability to display cross-cultural leadership, and to encourage individuality in the workplace. Long gone are the days when having a team that walks and talks just like everyone else is something sought after.
Diversity and inclusion are quintessential parts of a successful team, and a successful leader in engineering should heavily encourage both.
This one is true of almost any leader, but understanding what goals are important and being able to direct workflow accordingly is a necessary trait of any good engineering leader. Often there is a lot of trial-and-error in engineering, and being able to learn from mistakes, change goals accordingly, and continue to motivate your team after something doesn’t work out is a challenge that chief engineers need to take on.
Rewarding your team for small achievements makes the big ones seem more achievable!
Leaders do need to have a certain level of ability when it comes to dictating work, but even more important is having a level of understanding when team members may fall short or have life get in the way of work. A team that feels welcomed and understood is a team that performs well, and being able to understand what your team members may be going through in the stressful job that is engineering can help with employee retention, ultimately saving time and money needed to bring new team members up to speed.
Giving someone some time for their mental health may cost the team in the short run, but generally, engineering projects are very large, and building trust in your team will pay dividends in the long run.
Engineering practices are often changing, and being able to stay current is also an important train in a chief engineer. She or he can choose to have a team member be someone who self-educates and trains the entire squad on new trends, but one way or another, being abreast of trends and changes is an important part of leadership in engineering, as is ensuring all of your team members are educated as well.
A degree is important, and a postsecondary degree definitely can bring new insights to leaders in engineering, but education on trends and changes is key as well.
The Whole Package
Good leaders can be very difficult to find, but when they are found, they are almost always worth a hefty investment. In engineering, these 7 traits coupled with a deep knowledge of the field they are working in will make for an outstanding leader.