What did you like best about the Engineering Management program?
As the program aims to capture working professionals, a lot of my classmates had legitimate working experience. Not only does this mean many of my project mates understood my own time and schedule considerations, it meant that I was able to find other professionals to work with where we could build off each other's experiences.
Many engineers also rarely ever get to consider case studies or have the time to look at them unless they're in research and development. This program uses a lot of great case studies to show tough decisions in real world situations where there was no "easy answer" or "right answer," which is different from most academia where there is an absolute right answer. Business decisions are made with data and experience and often require trade-offs, so I found these to be extremely valuable learning tools.
How did the program prepare you for your career?
As a senior engineer, my experience has been overwhelmingly technical and not managerial. This program was my way of starting my journey toward management, as few companies will give an engineer a managerial role without management experience, which invokes the Steven Wright quote "experience is something you get, just after you need it."
Do you have any advice for incoming students?
The most important thing with any education program is you're only going to get out of it what you put into it. For every class, look at the items in the syllabus and, as you go through the course, ask questions of the professor and your colleagues because many of those in the program aren't just your classmates, but others from industry! When we can discuss ideas with other engineers and managers from different disciplines, organizations and fields, we get the chance at learning something we couldn't learn from our coworkers who see the same things we do every day.
It's also helpful to consider that the traditional business-centric decisions of accounting, planning, profit margins, and revenue/growth rarely involve complex math or science - compared to what an engineer does every day. As an engineer (and an employee) your goals within the company are from the bottom looking up, while managers are at the top looking down. The engineering manager is the individual stuck in the middle in every sense and it means that you need to learn the management mindset as much as the management rules and numbers.