5 Soft Skills Needed to Help You Get Promoted to Engineering Manager

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

As an Engineer, you already have the technical skills required to meet the qualifications of the job. But lately, you’ve been thinking about how to take those skills to the next level. If you are thinking of becoming an Engineering Manager, developing these 5 skills will help you stand and get recognized.

Effective Communication

Writing is a key part of our day to day jobs. In order to write effectively, you have to first know your audience. Whether you are writing for executives or junior engineers, you want to ensure that what you are writing will resonate. Aside from technical writing, you always want to use plain, simple words with easy to read sentences. Using correct grammar is critically important. Lastly, have someone proofread your writing before it is distributed to your team. This will help ensure that you haven’t missed anything important that you planned to communicate and will keep you from being embarrassed which will get you noticed in the wrong way.

How to learn these skills:

Volunteer to write articles for your office newsletter or take notes in meetings and distribute them to your leadership team. To check your grammar usage and spelling, download tools like Grammarlyor Scribens.Be sure to invest in good writing guide books like The Insider’s Guide to Technical Writing by Krista van Laan, for technical writing,and The Chicago Manual of Style (16thEdition) for everyday writing. The key here is to practice, practice, practice.

Project Management

Learning to be a project manager takes work, but you can certainly attain it. There are several areas of project management including negotiating techniques, time management, communication, as well as specific project management methodologies – Scrum, Waterfall and Critical Path. When learning these new skills, it is important to align yourself with opportunities that will allow you to get your feet wet. It will take some practice and maybe even a few project management courses to learn more.

How to learn these skills:

Reading books that teach you the leadership skills you need to get noticed is also very instrumental in honing your project management skills. An excellent book for learning negotiation skills, and one of my favorites is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher. This is a short read but packed with powerful tools to get you started. Joining project manager meetup groups like (meetup.com) or similar groups within your organization can also help you develop these skills. Find a mentor! You will want a mentor both inside and outside of your organization. Mentorship is invaluable to your career and most successful engineering project managers have them.

Presentation Skills

The ability to speak in front of others is a critical skill for an engineering manager. Throughout your career you will have the opportunity to speak in front of leadership, clients, contractors, and other employees or teams. Lots of people are terrified of speaking in front of others and it second to fearing death. The goal here is to know and understand what you are presenting. Know your audience and how they will receive the information. For example, if you are presenting in front of a room full of accountants, you don’t want to provide them with a ton of engineering technical terms.

How to learn these skills:

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Follow great speakers to learn their stance, style, breathing and eye contact. Practice in a mirror or record yourself reciting a poem or a positive affirmation that you enjoy. Dig deep within and pull out an alter ego or a presenter avatar, particularly if you are a shy person. Join your local Toastmasters group. This is an opportunity to present in front of like-minded people who are positive and encouraging. They can also provide you with constructive criticism but in a safe environment. All of these ideas will challenge your comfort zone, and that’s ok. If you want to be the best, you have to do the work.

Networking and Relationship Building

So first, you don’t have to be super popular to network and start building relationships. It too is a learned skill that can be developed. For engineering managers, relationship building is crucial because you will be interacting on a regular basis with clients, suppliers, executive leadership and peers. You have to be willing to share information, engage, ask questions and be present. Networking is about first connecting and then building upon that connection. Once people meet you, sit in on one of your exciting presentations or read your well-written emails and white papers, they will be excited to build a relationship with you.

How to learn these skills:

Linkedin is a great way to start reaching out to people that you want to start building relationships with. Those connections don’t necessarily have to be within your profession. Diversity of people within your circle will be important. As mentioned above, joinmeetupgroups they are so powerful. Ask to meet your new connections for coffee, tea or a cocktail. Attend industry specific networking events or conferences. Remember, building relationships is also building trust. Be honest with your new connections and share ideas as much as you ask for them. Ask for engineering management advice and share your journey with them. They can then introduce you to others within their network who may share additional tips and resources.

Active Listening

Because engineering requires accurate and precise information, it is critical to listen carefully. A way to ensure you are demonstrating active listening is by showing interest in what the person is saying and paraphrasing, clarifying, and summarizing. Maintain good eye contact and be non-judgmental to what they are sharing. Stay present during the discussion and try to give immediate feedback to what they are saying.

How to learn these skills:

Practice these skills by speaking with various people and paraphrasing what they have told you. Make eye contact and smile to show you are interested. Ask for feedback and give feedback but again not in a judging way.

Once you’ve developed these 5 skills, include them on your resume. Need help developing a killer resume, CMB HR Consulting can help!