Training to be an engineer can be incredibly tough but very rewarding. After all, you do have to put an awful lot of hard work in but the pay, conditions and job security you ultimately get out of it more than makes up for it in the long term. However, according to some, qualifying as an engineer may limit your business aspiration. This has been a hot topic for debate recently and if you take a quick look at both sides you can see why.
Engineering AND Entrepreneurial Ventures?
Engineers are, by nature, creators. They build, invent offer solutions and fulfill gaps that regular people cannot imagine are even there. Surely that would make them ideal material for the world of entrepreneurship? After all, in a world of high technology the demand for perfection is always there and engineers certainly help to achieve such high standards. Well, the suitability of engineers for entrepreneurship depends on the person you are talking to.
For example, a Duke and Howard survey of 500 technology companies in February 2012 revealed that just 37% of them had owners with engineering backgrounds. The conclusions drawn therefore pointed towards engineering and business ventures not mixing. A book by Krishna Uppuluri, “Engineer to Entrepreneur: The First Eight” seems to agree, pointing out just how opposite the two are. For example, engineers like predictability and hate risk but entrepreneurs have to take risks to be successful. Market research is vital in the entrepreneurial field as well but engineers tend to neglect the value of ensuring that their cool technology can connect with consumers too. These few points seem to suggest that engineers are at a disadvantage when starting a business.
There are people that disagree though. They hold up Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Larry Page up as engineers who were also highly successful businessmen. Surely they offer proof that Uppuluri’s argument does not apply to all engineers? Yes, they do, as does the existence of college and university courses in Engineering Entrepreneurship. The fact that these courses exist acknowledge that engineers do not always possess the skills they need to be able to be successful in business but they can learn them.
The Dean of Engineering at MIT, Thomas Magnanti also agrees with that perspective. He suggests that engineers need a strong foundation of technical knowledge but also needs to keep an open mind and demonstrate the leadership skills that make individuals great entrepreneurs. He also argues that engineering schools can be breeding grounds for start-ups that will create employment and revolutionise the future.
As you can see, these perspectives may be opposed at first glance but they actually share a few conclusions. Some engineers will be at a disadvantage in business if they do not possess the skills needed to pursue entrepreneurship, but that does not apply to all of them. Some have excellent business skills whereas others have the capacity to adapt and learn. Similarly, entrepreneurs can learn certain skills from engineers. For example, organisation, the ability to calculate risks and the ability to convert ideas into application are all obvious engineer skills that could be of benefit to entrepreneurs.
If you think that you would like to combine the two and use your engineering skills to become a successful entrepreneur then it is entirely possible that you could. Do your homework and develop the necessary skills in engineering and business and the sky is literally the limit.