IET
Decrease font size
Increase font size
Topic Title: E&T Magazine - Debate - Do engineers make poor businessmen?
Topic Summary:
Created On: 13 July 2011 07:45 AM
Status: Read Only
Read the related E&T article
Linear : Threading : Single : Branch
Search Topic Search Topic
Topic Tools Topic Tools
View similar topics View similar topics
View topic in raw text format. Print this topic.
 13 July 2011 07:45 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jpwilson

Posts: 63
Joined: 16 May 2007

For:
This house believes that engineers are well suited to becoming successful entrepreneurs.

Against:
This house does not believe that engineers are well suited to becoming successful entrepreneurs.
 13 July 2011 10:04 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



NicholasLee

Posts: 2
Joined: 05 November 2002

In my experience, almost all engineers 'think' they would make good entrepreneurs, but in practice most do not, and curiously they are also completely oblivious as to the reasons why.

An independent observer would be able to see that engineers commonly have the personality trait that makes them become obsessive about the invention they have created, in making it technically perfect and in brow-beating others about how brilliant their idea is. This approach is almost guaranteed to turn-off investors.

A good entrepreneur needs to be focused on the commercial aspects and is prepared to abandon an idea or technical approach if it is not commercially viable even if if might be technically superior. They do not get emotionally attached to products or ideas, even if they happen to be the person who invented it. In practice however an entrepreneur is far more likely to spot someone else's invention and make it profitable than they are to have invented anything themselves.

The few engineers who do make it as entrepreneurs are either the rare individuals who are self-aware enough to guard against their inherent engineer personality traits, or probably didn't truly have their heart in engineering to begin with.

I should point out that there is no shame in not being a good entrepreneur, as the world relies upon the engineers who have the skills, intellect, talents and dedication to stay as good engineers.
 15 July 2011 07:03 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

Originally posted by: mbirdi
The majority of engineers have too much engineering skills and little if any business skills to become successful entrepreneurs. The culture of education and training of engineers in the UK only helps to produce reliably trained engineers fit for employment purposes and nothing more.


You hit the nail on the head there. The fault lies with the education system. University engineering degrees are too academic and fail to sufficiently cover topics like business, marketing, legal matters, etc.

School is just as bad as the curriculum is designed with the intention that leavers will work for somebody else rather than set up their own businesses. There are plenty of critics within the home education movement who think that the prevailing attitude of measures to increase academic standards in schools is barking up the wrong tree and that more attention should be given to creativity and business skills instead.
 15 July 2011 09:16 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: jencam

The fault lies with the education system.

Who put the education system in and who has been voting for the governments who control it?

University engineering degrees are too academic and fail to sufficiently cover topics like business, marketing, legal matters, etc.

That is why they offer degrees in business, marketing, law, etc. I think good careers advice will be part of the answer. All too often young people are encouraged by the education system to just continue within it......self interest of the education system!

School is just as bad as the curriculum is designed with the intention that leavers will work for somebody else rather than set up their own businesses. There are plenty of critics within the home education movement who think that the prevailing attitude of measures to increase academic standards in schools is barking up the wrong tree and that more attention should be given to creativity and business skills instead.


School is however improving. Let's not forget that 'our' generation are responsible for the education system of today and the governments who control it. There are 100000's of engineers who make great businessmen it's just that we do not seem to notice them unless they own some large multi national company. How about all the 'sole traders' and small businesses who are owned and/or run by engineers? Also how many top businessmen talk about their engineering degree when they are now in a position which involves wider business aspects?

Regards.
 15 July 2011 10:53 AM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Universities and schools work hard to teach business studies. Engineering students work hard to ignore it. Ask any group of engineering graduates of any age which part of their course they skived off, it will always be business studies (this includes some I know who later became lecturers in business studies!!). Doesn't matter, those who are interested will pick it up later in life. It's not uncommon for engineering graduates to realise around 5 years after graduation that they're not actually interested in engineering, and so they go off and do a postgraduate course in business / management (my post grad management course was full of them).

Back to the main thread: inmrho* engineers make no better or worse businessmen than accountants, lawyers, doctors, men, women, Latvians, football enthusiasts or pigeon fanciers. Taking entrepreneurship in particular, a very small number of people seem to become succesful entrepreneurs, so in any group of people you look at the majority will not be. I can't claim to have done a statistical survey of this, but I personally seem to have met as many engineering-background entrepreneurs as I have non-engineering. Obviously this is rather skewed, as by the nature of my job (and other interests) I will come into contact with more engineers than average, but it still leaves a fair few of them around.

It may well be true that not many high-flying engineers make it as businessmen/entrepreneurs. This would not be at all surprising, if you're busy concentrating on one skill set it's hard to find the energy to concentrate on another. And it's probably true to say that those whose interest from teenage years is solely making money (and hence sales, marketing, wheeling, dealing) are more likely to be come entrepreneurs (Alan Sugar and Richard Branson please step forward). Whether these people may be considered fully rounded role models for the whole human race may be a matter of opinion. We need a few to keep the rest of us up to scratch, but not everyone please.

Personally, if my teenage children's sole interest in life was making money I'd disown them - although like most parents (except presumably Mr and Mrs Sugar and Mr and Mrs Branson) I'd be pleased if they'd show a little more get up and go. So yes, let's keep promoting an understanding of entrepreneurship and business through people's education and training, but we can only make it available: it's the sort of thing you can't teach, you can only learn.

I feel better for that, it's been a hard week and I needed a good rant. And hardly anything I've done this week has been engineering, it's almost all been "business". What is a businessman anyway?

P.S. Following a few weeks of interviewing graduates I have another good rant brewing there, but I'll save that for another thread...

*r = relatively

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 17 July 2011 07:23 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



georgecorvin

Posts: 2
Joined: 27 January 2003

Business studies appear simple after a hard engineering course. Though business can be learned, for many people, engineers or not, it comes naturally. Many engineers start with nothing, and engineering skills come useful to start a business with one's own hands to gather capital, even if one later expands into other fields. A business is not only about marketing or cooking the books, but about assessing, for example, if a contractor for a commercial property, (if one is in the property business), is quoting the right price and if he is doing a fair job. One does not need a consultant to assess the bill of quantities or an accountant to work out the prices. Being her mentor, during my daughter's MBA program, specialising in finance and marketing, I did parallel study with her, reading all her books and completing every assignment. I found it interesting and quite simple. I have been running my own businesses, for 42 years. Doing business is interesting, it is challenging, one learns every day. One can teach finance and marketing to engineers, but rarely the other way round. If all those interfering government clerks were sent on permanent leave in every country, businesss would even be fun. As Topol said in the "Fiddler on the roof": "God bless them, but keep them far away".

George Corvin C.Eng., MIET. Nairobi, Kenya

 18 July 2011 08:17 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

Originally posted by: westonpa
Who put the education system in and who has been voting for the governments who control it?


Every single UK government since 1945 has been elected on less than 50% of the total vote. This means that at every general election THE MAJORITY of people did not vote for the resulting government. The situation is even more acute if you factor in the number of people who abstained. In 2005 the Labour party managed to achieve a majority in parliament despite only just over 20% of all eligible voters casting their vote for Labour.

Our election system results in large number of 'wasted' votes which elect nobody, and the winning party is decided by the voters living in approximately 100 marginal constituencies out of a total of 650 constituencies. Voters in the UK generally have less power to influence the outcome of elections than in most countries where proportional representation is used. Therefore blaming the voters for the state of the education system is actually very disingenuous.

I think good careers advice will be part of the answer. All too often young people are encouraged by the education system to just continue within it......self interest of the education system!


The IET is just as guilty. Just over a month ago I enquired about whether the IET maintains a list of electronic engineering qualifications. The silence so far has been deafening.

School is however improving.


I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read this. Tell me please, what aspects of state schools are improving?

Cuts in public spending by the government are resulting in cutbacks in school budgets which means that it's almost a foregone conclusion that the quality of service in most state schools will decline over the next few years. I know for sure that support for children with SEN is being axed badly. I have also read in the news that many secondary schools are under financial pressure to discontinue optional GCSEs.

Let's not forget that 'our' generation are responsible for the education system of today and the governments who control it.


Who exactly is 'our' generation?
 28 July 2011 01:19 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



drumbold

Posts: 102
Joined: 08 May 2002

This is rather interesting, as is there a difference between a businessman (or woman) and an entrepreneur? And looking at it the other way do businessmen (or women)/entrepreneur make good engineers?

Isn't this just the same as the whole do Engineers make good managers? From my experience in general the answer is no. The best managers I have worked for have been rubbish Engineers, the worse managers have normally been great Engineers, but in order to progress their career have had to take a management role. Please note that isn't to say all managers are rubbish Engineers.

Anyway back to the topic, during my teenage years I was forever taking things to bits to see how and why they worked. However rather than getting a normal part time job, I would go and fix others bicycles, wash their cars, cut their grass and ended up doing a number of different odd jobs. Does that make me more entrepreneurial than normal?

Fast forwarding onto my university years, and just about all the options given to us where technical engineering subjects. The only exception to this I remember being given (and taking) where decision making and another on project management. Many many years later, the only thing I really remember was them telling us if you had a problem, throwing money and resources at it doesn't help. Yet every problem I've seen in my working life this is exactly what has happened. I don't remember every seeing an option for business or engineering law or marketing.

Originally posted by: amillar
It's not uncommon for engineering graduates to realise around 5 years after graduation that they're not actually interested in engineering, and so they go off and do a postgraduate course in business / management (my post grad management course was full of them).


Andy, if I could pick you up on that and put another couple of suggestions into the pot.

Where I work in order to progress your career you have to end up going into management, having done the graduate training scheme for 2 years and a further 3 ish years of 'normal' work I would suggest that people in this case or not so much not interested in engineering, but realise that if they want to progress/earn more (maybe because in those 5 years since graduation they have got married and started a family) then they have to move into management.

The other comment I would like to throw into the pot is that from my experience, a large amount of engineers that I know seem to spend most of their working time doing everything but engineering. They are chasing suppliers for quotes, chasing suppliers for parts, raising paperwork for parts, changing the format of supplier information into the format the project team want it in etc. After 5 years or so of this, which is called engineering, I think just about all I know are wondering if they are really interested in this engineering.

I wonder though if it all boils down to the risk that someone is prepared to take. Are Businessmen (and women) are happier taking bigger risks than Engineers? Is Engineering by it's very nature risk adverse?
 29 July 2011 12:34 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



PhilipJBrooks

Posts: 2
Joined: 08 October 2002

This debate has some of its roots at the fundamental and undelying issues which causes commercialisation to fight longevity. I'm not suggesting that this becomes a political soap box or that businesses don't want to be around for the future. However the need to make massive profits and rewards has helped to cause the demise of Industry as we know it by having quick paybacks (which breeds greed, prevents re-investment and causes risky decisions) rather than sustainability.

The Victorians had a belief that they needed to provide for future generations and their models were not built upon quick paybacks but what was best for the security and development as a whole. How many 150 year plus companies are now in exsitance? How many have demised over the last few decades?
Not forgetting the many Engineers of our past whom many were true inovators and entrepreneurs and sat on the board of directors or ran their own companies.

I'm not suggesting that we go back to this era, there were many things wrong as well, however the balance seems to have swung too far nowadays.

There is a place and need in todays wirkd for commercialisation (as there always has been) and rewarding the entrepreneurs and investors is key. Its the levels of reward and mindset of what rewards should be seems to have been misplaced. It is surely better to have a business that is still trading and offering employment...etc 150 years from now rather than falling by the wayside because the rewards aren't high enough.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why there is such a chasim.
I think that all the points made so far in early postings are contributing factors.
Business works hand in hand with Science, Technology, Engineering and each need the other to be a success, However the weighting of importance doesn't appear to be balanced and the emphasis seems to focus too much on one aspect only.
 30 July 2011 12:47 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Originally posted by: jencam
School is however improving.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read this. Tell me please, what aspects of state schools are improving?

Most of todays significant problems have been caused, or allowed to happen, by people who were educated from decades ago. The results of todays education will be judged in the longer term future and not today.

It is the standard of parenting which requires a significant improvement, because the foundations of 'education' come from the home.....that is where the standards have been dropping over the last 20 - 30 years.


Regards.
 01 August 2011 01:40 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

Originally posted by: drumbold
Originally posted by: amillar
It's not uncommon for engineering graduates to realise around 5 years after graduation that they're not actually interested in engineering, and so they go off and do a postgraduate course in business / management (my post grad management course was full of them).


Andy, if I could pick you up on that and put another couple of suggestions into the pot.

Where I work in order to progress your career you have to end up going into management, having done the graduate training scheme for 2 years and a further 3 ish years of 'normal' work I would suggest that people in this case or not so much not interested in engineering, but realise that if they want to progress/earn more (maybe because in those 5 years since graduation they have got married and started a family) then they have to move into management.

I think it depends on the company (and, to some extent, the industry sector). Everywhere I have worked has contained a majority of "career" engineers, with only a minority moving into management: although I am well aware that this probably mainly reflects the type of company I like working for! Similarly I know a number of engineers who are paid more than their managers (considerably more in some cases). I would certainly advise anyone to at least consider moving company if they want to stay as an engineer and feel that their present employer provides no other upward path besides management.

P.S. To be mildly contentious, I reckon that it typically takes 10 years after graduation to become a fully competent engineer, so if you move into management after 5 years you never know what you've missed! Personally I moved into management 18 years after graduation, but that was more because I was finding people more interesting than lumps of silicon, not because I had a burning desire to climb the greasy pole.

The other comment I would like to throw into the pot is that from my experience, a large amount of engineers that I know seem to spend most of their working time doing everything but engineering. They are chasing suppliers for quotes, chasing suppliers for parts, raising paperwork for parts, changing the format of supplier information into the format the project team want it in etc. After 5 years or so of this, which is called engineering, I think just about all I know are wondering if they are really interested in this engineering.

Hmmm...what is engineering? In practice, it is like any other profession (or indeed any job) in that there is always a surprisingly large amount of the boring stuff that surrounds the fun stuff. There is also a whole other topic here about the way that the rise in the use of IT has meant that many more of us are doing "admin" work which used to be done by others: the first engineering department I worked in had two secretaries, three technical draughtspeople and a technical author, now we do it all ourselves. But when I talk to doctors, solicitors etc they bemoan exactly the same thing. It seems to be a fact of (Western) life.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 06 August 2011 12:25 PM
User is offline View Users Profile Print this message



jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

Originally posted by: drumbold
This is rather interesting, as is there a difference between a businessman (or woman) and an entrepreneur?


I have discussed this one in the past and reached a conclusion that the two are almost synonymous although entrepreneur has a ring around it of somebody from a financially ordinary background starting a highly profitable business whereas businessman doesn't.

And looking at it the other way do businessmen (or women)/entrepreneur make good engineers?


Bear in mind that a high proportion of businessmen / entrepreneurs in the UK run rather "low tech" service sector businesses rather than anything engineering related. Going round wondering whether they make good engineers is little different from wondering whether they may good open heart surgeons.

Fast forwarding onto my university years, and just about all the options given to us where technical engineering subjects. The only exception to this I remember being given (and taking) where decision making and another on project management. Many many years later, the only thing I really remember was them telling us if you had a problem, throwing money and resources at it doesn't help. Yet every problem I've seen in my working life this is exactly what has happened. I don't remember every seeing an option for business or engineering law or marketing.


This is why my son thinks that electronic engineering degrees really should be renamed electronic science. He was talking to a few 30 something engineers some time ago. One them had a law module in their degree course but it didn't focus much on anything engineering related. Another had an accountancy module that focused more on large service sector businesses. Both thought that they were a waste of time and a lost opportunity by the university.

Where I work in order to progress your career you have to end up going into management, having done the graduate training scheme for 2 years and a further 3 ish years of 'normal' work I would suggest that people in this case or not so much not interested in engineering, but realise that if they want to progress/earn more (maybe because in those 5 years since graduation they have got married and started a family) then they have to move into management.


Exactly. Career progression for technically minded people is quite poor in the UK due to cultural issues and attitudes of the present crop of management. It may be better in other countries.
Statistics

See Also:



FuseTalk Standard Edition v3.2 - © 1999-2014 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.