Career in Engineering for Non-Techies: Mission is Possible!
The engineering has seen radical changes and innovation in the past decade but many of us still hold various stereotypes and common misconceptions about the sector. What is why we decided to sit down and have a chat with engineering leaders to get insights about modern engineering and career opportunities for people coming from non-technological backgrounds. In the discussion, moderated by Zydrune Vitaite, the co-founder of Women Go Tech, Jurgita Macijauskiene, the Head of HR @Hella Lithuania and Ignas Vosylius, CEO @Axioma Metering have shared advice on how to break into the promising engineering sector and start a fulfilling career.
We often hear that it is still a man’s world reserved for specialists who have ALL the technical skills in the world. But we also see that these misconceptions have nothing to do with modern engineering. How do you see the engineering sector today?
Jurgita, Head of HR @Hella Lithuania: Industrialisation and the new technological trends have changed the way of work in the industry very much. When we speak about technology, we do not have one machine in mind – we work with complex, fully automated machines. There is not much manual work left – in Hella Lithuania, only 20 per cent of staff is manual workers and the rest is mainly engineers.
Ignas, CEO @Axioma Metering: The automation is a big trend and it’s not only the trend but actual reality. And it changes a lot the production part. However, engineering, in my opinion, is much broader than just production. It’s also creating, researching and developing new products. And the creative part or R&D (Research & Development) plays a significant role in the process.
In Axioma Metering, we are producing smart water and heat meters with ultrasound measurements. It is a highly advanced electronic equipment and longevity is a very important factor as these meters must work using a single small battery for 16 years. That is why quality is paramount in our company.
For those who are thinking about this sector – the big trend is towards complexity and it requires to switch a priority from the actual engineering to skills related to project management.
You need to coordinate with the production team, with procurement, you need to always monitor some new trends in components, markets, etc. So every single engineer in our team is a kind of project manager on itself.
Could you explain what it is that you can do in the industry if you are new in this field or when you are just starting your career?
Ignas, CEO @Axioma Metering
Our market is quite specific, so we don’t expect a so-called “finished product” coming out of the university. So we hire hard-working people who are willing to learn.
And we are putting them through extensive training, getting familiar with our specific technology because not many companies work with ultrasound. Even pure engineers are being trained and onboarded for several months.
If you want to work in tech without being a pure engineer there many fields available: project management, market analytics, competitive analysis, some new technological trends. And this is kind of mixture from commercial and technical skills. As I mentioned before, quality is extremely important to Axioma. And when it comes to quality control 50 per cent is technology but the rest 50 per cent is process management. You always can do something better, more fluent, more efficient.
And again, even in our production part, shifting from R&D to production, there are also many process engineers. So they are not coding, not developing anything, but they are operating with the equipment. They are checking and following the statistics of our production machines, identifying some flaws, collecting some analytical data. So it’s more like a data crunching. So again, we are a purely technological company and everything has something to do with it, but not necessarily at an engineering level.
Jurgita, Head of HR @Hella Lithuania
Even for engineers, only engineering knowledge is not enough. You need additional skills and knowledge such as project management, quality, operational excellence or lean tools.
I see probably the main important criteria for starting your career in engineering. It is your proactivity and contribution. Those who are curious why the specific problem happened and want get to the root cause of the problem develop and learn much faster.
Ignas, CEO @Axioma Metering: And let’s not be intimidated by many different skills that you need to have. When I say project management skills are important in engineering, I’m talking about character skills that you are building and that you are interested to see a broader picture. You want to see not only your specific task but how your path connects to the other part of the project. So we definitely do not expect people coming with a professional project management education or certification.
But there are some aspects that are important for example when people are keen to understand the broader picture who are interested to help their colleagues by suggesting some additional ideas etc. So this what I called complexity and people should not be afraid that these crazy technology companies expect some kind of superhumans!
What are your thoughts on re-qualification into engineering sector? Let’s say, I am coming from a non-technological background but have good analytical and process-oriented thinking. Is it possible for me to re-qualify to these engineering positions and what I have to do to actually get the entry positions?
Jurgita, Head of HR @Hella Lithuania
Nothing is impossible and a lot of depends on your motivation.
And, of course, it takes time. That’s why we have a paid internship program in Hella Lithuania. After this internship program, the person can already move into junior position, then, of course, the specialist position and so on. I remember one recent case in our company – one employee had started in logistics department but then successfully switched to a role in quality management. So, everything is possible!
Ignas, CEO @Axioma Metering: It is probably the specifics of our industry, but we don’t even have a chance to hire people that are one hundred per cent ready. I see many cases that there are nice transitions from sales to more technical roles. For example, there are even philology students that are fluent in the Spanish language starting working in our company with the Latin American region and sales. And we see that they also are very analytical and can see details and nuances that maybe others don’t see and they offer some ideas to our R&D department for new product development.
In some cases, it’s actually an advantage that you don’t have an engineering background. Sometimes we want a person to know nothing about the underlying technology and to look through the eyes of the customer to replicate potential things that the customer will do.
Please find the full discussion here:
Thinking of starting career in engineering? You can still apply for the Production Engineering track until the 5th of January! Hurry up and do not miss the one-in-a-year chance to participate in the Women Go Tech programme!