Even before finishing my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2010, I had an interest in furthering my education. The decision I had at that point was whether the next step would be a graduate degree on the technical side or something more like an MBA. I would end up with the chance to study at the University of Denver (DU), focusing on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), and if that field does not make it clear, my first stint in grad school was technical.
At DU, we sourced our Ansys simulation software from a company called, you guessed it, PADT. After finishing this degree, and while working at PADT, the desire to further my education cropped up again after seeing the need for a well-rounded understanding of the technical and business/management side of engineering work. After some research, I decided that a Master’s in Engineering Management program made more sense than an MBA, and I started the program back at my original alma mater, CU Boulder.
Throughout the program, I would find myself using the skills I was learning during lectures immediately in my work at PADT. It is difficult to boil down everything learned in a 10-course program to one skill that is used most often, and as I think about it, I think that what is used most frequently is the new perspective, the new lens through which I can now view situations. It’s taking a step back from the technical work and viewing a given project or situation from a perspective shaped by the curriculum as a whole with courses like EMEN 5020 – Finance and Accounting for Engineers, EMEN 5030/5032 – Fundamentals/Advanced Topics of Project Management, EMEN 5050 – Leading Oneself, EMEN 5080 – Ethical Decision Making, EMEN 5500 – Lean and Agile Management, and more. It is the creation of this new perspective that has been most valuable and influential to my work as an engineer and comes from the time spent completing the full program.
Okay okay, but what is the one thing that I use most often, besides this new engineering management perspective? If I had to boil it down to one skill, it would be the ‘pull’ method for feedback. During the course Leading Oneself, we read Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, Even When it is Off Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and, Frankly, You’re Not In The Mood (Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, 2014), where this method was introduced. By taking an active role in asking for feedback, it has been possible to head-off issues while they remain small, understand where I can do better in my current responsibilities, and grow to increase my value to my group and PADT as a whole.