Growth prospects and career paths for mechanical design engineer

what are the prospects for growth and how does career progression take place for design engineers in industry. A detailed look

If you are a design engineer at the Entry level and are curious to know the prospects and paths to growth in the career. Here is a detailed breakdown.

Design engineering is one of the fundamental skillsets in any industry which allows engineers to visualize and create design plans which can be produced , hence the value inherently lies in the profession independent of any organizations .

However, the engineering profession today has been compartmentalized into various roles, specializations and based on the management of large projects .

Generally speaking, in an organization or employment, there are three paths.

  1. Subject Matter Expert
  2. Team Lead and Engineering leadership for projects.
  3. Project Manager

The subject matter expert is as the name implies an expert in a narrow domain or product.

For example, an expert in Chassis design under the larger umbrella of automotive product development would concentrate their work on one domain which is chassis design and would be called a subject matter expert in that . Another example is a materials expert , like a plastics design expert. Who can design well with plastics processing in mind. There are many such specializations which allow the design engineer to advance in their careers.

The Team lead is a combination of leadership, management and technical skills . As a person experienced in delivering projects in a product development environment. Ability to take decisions on key issues, take cognizance of technical details and drive innovation . A good candidate to lead projects from concept to completion. Compared to the Subject matter expert , team leads need to also be able to manage people , timelines and have superior operational skills on top of technical skills which may be on the surface level . Generally subject matter experts work with the team leads on projects.

The Project manager is more of a managerial role with less technical details involved. Although having a good technical grounding is critical to decision making. But this role is more about business, operations, and delivery. Project manager doesn’t require to be creative innovative to come up with solutions unlike the team lead who is also the thought leader .

Individuals having different skillsets and tendencies which also depend on psychology and personality.

While most engineers like to work with details and machines, delivering projects requires working with people and conflicts. Hence growth in a corporate setting is a combination of Operational /managerial skills and technical prowess.

What I mean by technical prowess is the ability to

  1. Solve hard problems.
  2. Think creatively.
  3. Give attention to detail and analytical approaches.
  4. Demonstrate flair for innovation.

Managerial/Operational prowess

  1. Initiative and assertiveness
  2. Getting things done - Execution
  3. Communication skills
  4. Ability to manage projects/people and deliver on timelines.

Out of employment, design engineering has a lot of potential. working Independently as a consultant or entrepreneurship are good options especially for design engineers who have exposure to product development and know how to build projects / products.

Entrepreneurship is difficult with a lot of risk involved as compared to being employed. However, if an opportunity is identified with the creative flair, design engineers can land a good product albeit starting small.

Categories: Skills and knowledge