Engineering Entrepreneurs


Lord Alan Sugar’s comments on Engineers in business has received a lot of media flak, mostly deserved. However there is an inkling of truth in his statement. He may not have met an engineer who could turn his hands to business simply because the majority of engineers simply choose not to do the day to day running of  business.  The few who do include some spectacularly successful entrepreneurs, like Henry Ford, James Dyson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Bell etc, etc.

Engineers make very good entrepreneurs and business leaders in technology businesses, where their knowledge and vision allow them to see far beyond the limited technological horizons of most other professions. Indeed the subsequent replacement of the technological entrepreneur by a “business administrator” has led to some spectacular business declines, reversed only when the original entrepreneur returned – Apple and Dell Computer are classic examples.

So what else is stopping the budding engineer/technologist from going on to be successful entrepreneurs?

Fundamentally it is far easier to learn appropriate business skills than to learn engineering and technology skills; after all the best MBA can be picked up in a year or less. Business training courses are available throughout the world and many qualified engineers step up to the challenge each year. However it is an expensive proposition and not high on the priority of many an engineer who in general want to get on and “do things”: practise engineering, rather than waste too much time in the seemingly boring world of business.

Many good engineering Universities recognise this dilemma and have added business courses to the engineering curriculum so as to introduce engineers to world of business, and in so doing demonstrate the value of business “nous”.

The even more switched on Universities use modern computer simulation technology to allow engineering students to run virtual businesses and prove to themselves that they have the requisite skills. An example is the Executive Business Simulation, one of the most advanced computer simulations of a manufacturing business available.

So many more engineers are now being trained in the art and science of business, many with the help of simulation, and are emerging into the workplace more than able to take on the challenge of entrepreneurship and business leadership.  This should please Lord Sugar.


Tags: entrepreneurial skills, The Apprentice

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