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R&D or Operations Management as career path for engineer?

  1. Apr 26, 2013 #1
    I have gained a place on the graduate rotational leadership programme at a major heavy industrial company which involves me going to different divisions to lead projects. I have been given a choice of either going down the R&D path or the Operations Management path. Being an engineer from a top ranked university with heavy research output my experience has mainly been within the R&D sphere, so I am a bit lost when it comes to which path I should pick. Can fellow engineers here give me some insight?

    I would not like to be a specialist all my life. I see myself as a leadership/business guy leveraging upon my engineering skills to climb the ladder towards c-suit roles in an engineering company or becoming a strategy consultant in the future.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2013 #2
    If you want to move into management, then you should go with operations. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but if you are really interested in the business side, then R&D probably won't be a good fit for you.
  4. Apr 30, 2013 #3
    I agree with Ben. If you want to wear a suit and spend your days "synergizing" and "unlocking shareholder value" and working with "game-changing ideas" while you change you "paradigm" looking for "win-wins" to "expand customer mindshare" then operations is the way to go.

    Here's a hint for your future. Whenever you find things centralized, work to decentralize them. Whenever things are decentralized, work to centralize them.
  5. Apr 30, 2013 #4
    i have always seen my future role as combining the use of engineering skills and knowledge in a position that actually conveys status, good pay and some power to control the situation in order to not just become a cog in the wheel as I have seen too many specialist engineers/consultants become in my work placements so far. They get outsourced or kicked out as soon as the winds change or the company loses an order; a role on the border between business and engineering that have a direct link to a revenue stream in that sense seems more rewarding and safe. Correct me if im wrong
  6. Apr 30, 2013 #5
    There is no safe role you can play in general. Middle managers get laid off too. You should go where you enjoy the work and you feel like you add value. Plenty of stuffed-shirt management types becomes cogs in the wheel as well, it depends on you and your situation. The best defense is to be highly skilled at whatever you choose to do, and always keep your networks open... you never know when you'll need a new job.

    Most managers (especially when they get pretty high) don't use their engineering skills and knowledge anymore. Some do but they are a minority or they work for very unique companies. It can actually be dangerous in a sense to be a middle manager who hasn't kept up with the field.

    It all depends, really. The key is to be outstanding at whatever task it is you choose to do.
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