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Topic Title: Profile Change-Engineering to Commercial, Why?
Topic Summary: Why is it necessary to know Commercials also for Engineers?
Created On: 30 June 2010 12:54 PM
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 30 June 2010 12:54 PM
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Recently, I made a career change. Earlier, I was working with an Telecom Service Provider where I was responsible for Network Planning & Optimization.
Now, I work for a Telecom turn key solution provider, where my role encompasses many different aspects like network planning, rollouts and commercial deals like rate finalization etc. In fact, at few occasions I was involved in selling out one IBS project to one of the leading service providers.
Earlier, when I made such career choice I made it because I wanted to know more about other side of technology i.e. business. But now when I am here for more than a week, I feel engineering was better than commercials.
But then my question to all is that; is it really necessary to know all aspects to excel in career? Or does it depend on situation?
How many of you engineers feel that being an engineer and remaining a engineer for whole professional life is a better deal than switching the path to something like Commercial?
Thank you.
 23 July 2010 04:16 PM
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I think the situation depends entirely on the individual, specifically what and where they want to work.

As I've moved through positions and raised my profile in various organisations I have had to become more commercially aware because as you move from being a member of an engineering team to being a lead engineer and so on you become aware of the fact that there is a budget you are working to and at the end of the day if you don't come in inside that budget you're going to be out of a job PDQ.

Additionally when designing solutions for customers in a competitive environment you need to be keenly aware of the cost implications of what you are designing because if your customer gets a functional design they like that is cheaper then you're going to lose the business. At the same time you need to make sure you're not sacrificing any ground against your customers requirements so theres no point in coming up with a stupidly cheap solution that doesn't tick the boxes.

Another way to look at it is that designing a solution/system on an unlimited budget is easy, designing something that meets all the requirements, customer, regulatory and otherwise, on a budget is quite a challenge to your engineering skills.

Of course it's possible to stay in positions where you don't have to worry about this kind of thing but in my personal experience they are rarely at the top of the profession. So for my money I don'tt hink I would like to go back to a position where I was purely an engineer because I enjoy the challenge [and remuneration] having to combine those two skillsets gives me.

Jake Greenland, CEng MIET.
CCIE #22595

Edited: 26 July 2010 at 01:58 PM by jakegreenland
 24 July 2010 12:19 PM
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Define 'top of the proffession'?
Most money? best title?
A lot of Engineers move to more commercial roles then miss the old job.
This country needs top quality technical people, why is it that so many engineers feel they have to move into more commercial positions? Is there still a stigma about being an engineer ie a guy in a boilersuit wiping his hands on cotton waste.
Yes we need to be commercialy aware but lets still be first and formost Engineers, perhaps then the perception of our proffession will be raised.
 26 July 2010 01:55 PM
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Well when I was referring to being top of the profession I was mainly envisaging the people who lead engineering teams and projects and those that design the solutions and set the strategy. Sure there are people who work in pure R&D but those positions are few and far between and often highly specialised.

To me the greatest challenges of my engineering career have been when I have been presented with a brief by a customer that not only includes a lot of functional requirements but also budgetry ones as it means I have not been able to simply go and use the best of everything in the design. I didn't, however, feel I had to move into that role - I wanted to do it because I felt it offered a greater challenge and that's what motivates me. This may not be the same for other people and each to their own but don't think it makes me any less of an engineer.

To give a few general examples one of my engineering heroes is a man called Tom Kelly, he was the Project Engineer for the Lunar Landing Module on the Apollo program. He had to not only review and peer check the work of many engineers on the team all with different disciplines but be fully aware of all the requirements and specifications from the weight budget through to the financial budget to produce a machine that did something never done before in an enviornment noone had even been to - it's the sort of challenge I would love to take on one day.

Similarly the structural engineer or civil engineer leading a large construction project need to take the architects design and temper it into reality based not only on what is structurally possible but on the budget of the project and the requirements of regulation and safety. The fact that he is not directly involved with the nuts and bolts doesn't make him any less critical to the process or any less of an engineer in my eyes.

Now the original poster sounds like they moved from an operational role within a large service driven company to a pre-sales role in a smaller sales driven company and this is an enormous leap to make which probably contributes heavily to his dislike of the new position. Pre-Sales can also end up as being far more a sales and much less a technical role and can easily lead you away from engineering. However, my point was largely that I believe if you want to lead a project team and/or head a large engineering project then you have to have a good degree of commercial and budgetry awareness. Other peoples opinion, and experience, may differ but I do not see anything wrong with taking on that part of engineering and don't see how it makes the person doing it any less of an engineer than someone who purely focuses on the technical challenges.

Jake Greenland, CEng MIET.
CCIE #22595
 27 July 2010 09:40 AM
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Originally posted by: ArthurHall
Yes we need to be commercialy aware but lets still be first and formost Engineers, perhaps then the perception of our proffession will be raised.

Although I think part of the perception problem with engineers at boardroom level is just that we are totally focussed on technology and not interested in making money for the business (which is, after all why businesses exist!).

I have lost track of the number of times that I have seen engineering teams "accused" of "just producing xyz because it was fun", and seen them having to explain that actually it was based on a good understanding of what the customer wanted - which, of course, is all part of the commercial focus.

Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert

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