Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Marketing ideas for engineers

Robert Stephenson
Soon after graduating, if not before, some smart engineers figure out there are better paid jobs in business and finance than in engineering.

Ever since I  joined the Institute of Electrical Engineers [IEE]  which has since morphed into the IET, from time to time in the letters pages of the Institute's publications there has been a debate on the status of engineers. Generally the the story  is that on the 'Continent' engineers are widely respected as professionals, akin to lawyers and doctors and the term 'Engineer' proceeds their name, where as in the UK  such letters appear after the name and nobody knows what they mean. But worse, friends and relatives look to their engineering friends and relations to fix the telly when it goes wrong, sort out the washing machine or toaster. What nobody in these occasional righteous bouts of concern and feeling disrespected ever mentions is ... money.

After graduating, my employer a major British electrical manufacturer circulated my details throughout the organisation and offers of interviews flooded in. Most were in engineering departments, but one interestingly enough was from the Accounts Department at Head Office in London's West End - a change from the northern, midland and south coast towns where all the factory engineering and R&D went on. As a student apprentice I  had plenty of experience in factories, R&D even in HR, but none of my work stints had taken me into finance. As I  waited for the Financial Officer to call me in for my interview a secretary from another department asked me to wait afterwards as her boss wanted a chat. The interview seemed to go pretty well and an offer seemed likely to follow. As I left the interview the mysterious secretary was waiting to conduct me to her boss who turned out to be the Marketing Director. He wasn't a large man, in fact quite short and he wore a bow tie. He occupied a vast office with views to Trafalgar Square and other London landmarks. The interview was short and to the point. "How much did those book keepers offer you in salary he asked?" I named the figure which I guess he already knew anyway. "I'll pay you so many thousand pounds a year more he responded." And so I left engineering and joined the Marketing Department.

In the early years of industrialisation engineers had to market themselves - railway engineers like Stephenson, or the more lavishly styled Isambard Kingdom Brunel, or Thomas Edison the electrical engineer. Try Googling 'the most famous engineers' and names like Nikola Tesla, Alan Turing and James Watt - even Archimedes crop up. And guess what  - they are all long dead. Maybe that's why engineers don't cut it sticking to engineering.

This blog was really started for people like me, trained as engineers, retrained in marketing and needing quick briefing from time to time on marketing ideas.

Foot note: a photo I took today outside Euston Station in London. 'Robert Stephenson.' He was a famous engineer.

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