A Leadership Journey for Engineers


Developing entry-level engineers into senior engineers, effective managers and leaders is a very common problem encountered by many technology companies. Making that transition successfully over their careers at an individual level is a nontrivial challenge faced by most young engineers. A case in point, and a poster child for this scenario, is one of the coauthors of this paper and presentation – a hard-core techie at one time, a trained physicist with advanced degrees in engineering and a “certified nerd” early in his career, he gradually navigated his career over the years to successfully make that transition, when specialized programs were not available.

He applied the lessons learned from his personal experience, along with strong support and sponsorship from his institution’s leadership, to champion a program that is directed towards such engineers – early in their careers in corporations who aspire to become either senior engineers, or mangers and leaders – and have the ambition, drive, motivation, and the desire to begin the journey, and to take the first steps to make that transition to transform themselves. These skills are not taught in engineering programs, at any level, due to the necessity of such programs to focus on developing and honing engineering skills within credit hour constraints. The program, launched in August 2010 in the DFW area, is targeted towards such early-stage engineers and takes a “systems” perspective, drawing at the systems level from both major disciplines, engineering as well as management. The program requires engineers to complete equal number of engineering and management courses at a master’s level, with a limited number of core courses, to establish the necessary foundation, and yet allowing enough flexibility to customize the program to their own and their company’s particular needs through prescribed and free elective courses. Also, the program allows for leadership skills to become part of the focus earlier, and some of those skills include communication, emotional intelligence, and people development. It is a way to shift-left on leadership career development, because world-class organizations recruit and retain strong leaders. This paper and presentation will describe this program in more detail. Furthermore, launching new products, new businesses, and new ventures, based upon innovation and entrepreneurship, forms the bedrock of new revenue and profit growth opportunities in companies, as well as GDP growth of a country. This needs skills beyond just science, engineering, and technology development. Once again, due to time, cost, and credit hour limitations such skills, while critically needed in companies, both big and small, are not taught in science and engineering programs.

The “systems” program alluded to earlier, launched locally in 2010 in the DFW area, in conjunction with the “innovation and entrepreneurship” program also at the same institution, provides access to such courses to professionally develop, teach, train and mentor engineers, and more broadly early-stage professionals, to develop and hone their skills in Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is also known as Intrapreneusrhip. In this paper and presentation, the authors will cover in detail both these efforts, that are available locally in the DFW area, for engineers and other professionals, to help set them on a path to realize their career ambitions, as well as their corporate employers to take advantage of, to professionally develop, teach, train and mentor their workforce and enhance their talent pool.



Paula Lipnick

Paula has had the opportunity to be a part of innovative organizations for over 10 years. Currently, Paula is a Product Agility Lead at JP Morgan Chase. She enjoys continuously improving processes to ...rajiv-shah

Dr. Rajiv Shah


Dr. Shah is presently a Clinical Professor in the Jindal School of Management (JSOM) at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas), which he joined in August 2008, and also the Founder and Program