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Engineer Entrepreneur

Daniel T. Koenig, P.E.
Daniel T. Koenig, P.E.
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ASME Press
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So far I've presented a picture of how the engineer's work environment has changed from a specialist applying his or her talent to a specific project to one that is engaged in a product team environment. In that environment, the engineer is expected to be a generalist technical expert and at the same time be a businessman or businesswoman very directly engaged in the process of making a profit. I've also devoted time to explain the education needs for the engineer to be successful in that environment. Now I'd like to pursue these 2 compatible issues, work environment and education needs to succeed in that work environment, and show how that is really the basis for the first step toward becoming an entrepreneur. This is the initial step for skills development toward establishing an independent business. The skill I will introduce now is project management. But first we need to understand why project management proficiency is necessary to evolve into a successful entrepreneurship.

Let's make sure we understand that entrepreneurship does not necessarily lead to the engineer abandoning the business team and striking off on her or his own venture. It is a method of working that is a necessary condition to be an independent businessperson, but not totally sufficient for it to happen. Being an engineer exhibiting the desirable traits of entrepreneurship is just as important for the individual who stays on the company's business team as it is for the person desiring to own his or her own business. Let us just say that the first step in establishing an independent business is learning how to be an entrepreneur. Whether the engineer ever does start an independent business depends on a host of other factors. Some of these are the right product or service development, financial situations, and opportunities within the current job.

We will start with an explanation of how the current environment the engineer dwells in invariably drives “aware” toward the entrepreneur model. In this environment, it is easy to see why learning entrepreneurship skills becomes necessary simply to survive. If the engineer is aware of these forces driving career success, then he or she will probably do a better job absorbing the skills of entrepreneurship and in the bargain, also learn quite a bit about being a company owner. The engineer would also learn that being the owner is something very special and liberating and is not alien to a successful engineering career. Learning how to be an independent businessperson is actually a good thing. It teaches self-reliance and an ability to stretch one's sense of capabilities. But perhaps more important, it teaches a sense of realism, a healthy degree of pragmatic philosophy to mitigate unbridled idealism. It makes the individual aware that great things can be done but that there is a need to carefully plan for success, including looking at situations as they really are and not viewing them through rose-colored glasses. It also means being prepared mentally to shift gears and cut losses if what appeared to be a good idea turns out not to be. It means always having contingencies to turn to, to enable the entrepreneur to go on to new opportunities.

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