Friday, December 18, 2009

Technical Engineer versus Non-Technical Engineer

Who wins the battle between technical engineer versus non-technical (soft-skills) engineer ?
Though this might not be directly related to business, it has huge implications for technology companies and their bottom line. The culture that a company tries to promote, technical like Google/Facebook or business like Oracle/SAP has huge implications on the ways of working and what positions are valued inside the company.

Here is my rant on the engineering labor strategy that places the non-technical engineer as more important then the technical engineer to the company:

What role is more important ?A lot of people would say the non-technical engineer, since the non-technical engineering positions are usually sales engineers and project mangement engineers.

The topic is probably something a lot of people in tech companies think about but do not overtly talk about.

I think the issue is not just with money, but also how a technical person versus project manager/sales person is perceived. From what I see, project management/sales is perceived as a higher status/value then going the technical route (for example: solution architect or principal engineer). Not just internally in the company but externally also.

A project manager with PMP certification can use his experience here and be able to go anywhere else and be seen as creating value to the new company because of his past experience (same with other soft skills like sales).

On the other hand, being technical on a proprietary xyz technology pretty much limits you to a much smaller market and skillset. And your skills lose value pretty fast if you don't keep up with the latest and greatest revision of software/hardware.

Even though a company should not care where a person may go in the future, this creates a situation where one career path is a whole lot less attractive then another career path. And a difference in salary will just aggravate the situation more.

I feel that every technical company out there should try to build 2 career paths that are equally rewarding because to be able to deliver complex technical products and services in a timely manner, requires technical experts that can make/fix thing, project managers that can ensure execution and sales people who can bring in the revenue.

So to answer the question posed at the beginning, in an ideal world, either career path should be equally rewarding so there is no winner between technical versus non-technical engineer.

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