Engineering Management and Entrepreneurship: A Natural Fit

Werwath2I recently spoke with an IEMS senior undergraduate, a very bright and energetic young person, who had much of her life pretty well planned out for herself. Her plan was to pursue an MBA roughly three years after graduation while working for a major multi-national company. She then wanted to go on and become an entrepreneur after finishing her MBA. I asked why she never planned on pursuing an MEM, given her obvious engineering heritage. Her response was that she had never heard of MEM and never connected this field of study with entrepreneurship. I started to make my case for her, but let me embellish on this case with some scholarly research:
A recent scholarly paper from the IEEE Technology Management conference from July, 2012, entitled “Entrepreneurship as a field of study in Engineering Management states that:
“Engineering (management) is well positioned to make an original contribution to entrepreneurship as engineers and entrepreneurs both are seen as ‘creators.’ Engineering can contribute a systems perspective to understanding the entrepreneurial phenomenon and can offer a well-developed formal and mathematical apparatus to further the understanding of complex non-linear and dynamic processes in the creation of new ventures.”

The paper concludes the following:

“Technological inventions are generally accepted as one of the major drivers for entrepreneurship. And many well-known entrepreneurs, Edison, Siemens, Gates, or Jobs, just to name a few, are engineers. It therefore does not surprise that a quick review in IEEExplore reveals that entrepreneurship is a topic embedded in many engineering disciplines. We have shown in the paper that engineers and entrepreneurs alike can be conceived as creators from which an original engineering contribution to entrepreneurship theory can be motivated.”

 As the student was digesting all that I told her, beginning to understand that an MEM degree leverages and builds upon her engineering training and mathematical discipline while also teaching leadership and management essentials that fit nicely with entrepreneurship, she started to realize that the world was a very big place. All she desired could barely fit within one lifetime, which is the magic of being a budding young engineer with all of life’s possibilities before you.

She is off to a fantastic start, with myriad, lucrative options immediately ahead. I assured her that her future has time for successes, failures, and u-turns because her foundation is solid and her training is impeccable. She can literally go as far as her will and energy desires. If she is truly an entrepreneur, sooner or later it will emerge. Entrepreneurship is not only an event in one’s life, but a continuing and unfolding process of innovation and discovery. It is a frame of mind that captures all the opportunities of invention and creation that the engineering mind can muster. This is at the essence of entrepreneurship. I wish her all the best.

By Mark Werwath, Director MEM Department Northwestern University

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