There comes a time in the lives of many engineers when they decide that working for someone else might be OK for others, but not for them. They believe they’ve hit upon an idea that is not only innovative, but also marketable (as we all know, these two qualities do not necessarily coexist for all ideas).
The innovative (and marketable) idea is one matter; the task of engineering that idea is yet another. And the rest of what it takes to bring to fruition an end product that finds its way to market is the subject of The Entrepreneurial Engineer by David E. Goldberg. A relatively slim volume that covers a good deal of ground, there may not be enough on any one aspect of “entrepreneurial engineering” to make you an expert, but it’ll certainly be enough to get you thinking about what it is you need to accomplish to make your dreams a reality.
Part self-help book, part leadership seminar and part how-to, Goldberg’s book visits a number of arenas. None of them on their own will make you a successful entrepreneur, but all of them represent elements of success. From early in the first chapter comes this list of ten competencies for the entrepreneurial engineer:
- Seek the joy of engineering
- Examine personal motivation and set goals
- Master time and space
- Write fast, revise well, and practice BPR (the elements of background, purpose, and road map)
- Prepare and deliver effective presentations
- Understand and practice good human relations
- Act ethically in matters large, small, and engineering
- Master the pervasive team
- Understand leadership, culture, and the organization of organizations
- Assess technology opportunities.
I’d be willing to bet that few of these competencies were covered in your engineering school curriculum. But Goldberg covers them all in separate chapters that provide details on each of them. At the end of each chapter is a series of exercises that, if worked thoroughly, will serve to drive home the salient points.
If you want to get your ideas heard, you may find yourself having to present at symposia or to small groups in business meetings (like venture capitalists, for example). This book will give you some great pointers on how to do that. It also delves into what Goldberg terms “the human side of engineering,” or the interpersonal skills that make for effective management. Just about all of these skills translate in any business, not just engineering, but they’re critical for anyone who would cast themselves as successful entrepreneurs.
Just as important is a chapter on ethics from the personal variety on up to the organizational. Perhaps some of us have, at one time or another in our careers, found ourselves working for organizations or individuals whose sense of ethics seemed lacking. This chapter will serve to remind the reader of some of the essential elements of conducting a business with an ethical mindset.
Goldberg’s writing style is conversational and highly readable; the book carries enough illustrative material to amplify its points. All told, it’s a worthy read for anyone thinking of striking out on their own as an entrepreneurial engineer.