The Evolving Engineer

Ron Rich, Director of Auxiliary Power Systems, Honeywell
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Ron Rich, Director of Auxiliary Power Systems, Honeywell

What you don’t know about engineering and the evolving requirements to stay ahead...

What comes to your mind when you think of engineers? In my father’s day, there was a generalization that all engineers carried a slide rule. Early on in my career, calculators were popular items to have on hand. Pocket protectors, checkered shirts, or excessive amounts of pencils as Dilbert depicts? Whatever comes to your mind first, probably demonstrates a common misconception about engineers.

The fact is engineers (at least the engineers at Honeywell) are dynamic individuals who are strong leaders, communicators and business people. Not only are we required to design and develop the latest innovative technologies, but we are able to understand what our customers need and manage a product through completion for successful delivery.

More than ever, business acumen competency for engineers is very important; the better an engineer can understand how business works, the better their critical thinking skills develop and the better their decision making can positively impact the business. Leading a large department of engineers, I consistently tell my team that I would like for them to be intellectually curious about how the business works, how we make money, and how their decisions impact the company’s ability to stay successful and competitive.

Having strong engineers that encompass these characteristics is very important for a company like Honeywell to continue our leadership in innovation and delivery of technically rich products and services to our customers which ultimately makes flying safer, more efficient and comfortable. During my 30 years at Honeywell, I was provided the opportunity to learn these skills through multiple job assignments throughout the organization in engineering, supply chain, marketing and product management. These roles allowed me to improve my understanding of how our company works and to develop my leadership and communication skills by working with mentors, engaging with international teams, speaking to customers and suppliers, and presenting at various forums and meetings.

Now, when we hire new engineers, we not only consider good performance in their engineering core course work but we also review their work experiences through their college years, personal interests and secondary course work in business and project management. These additional accomplishments demonstrate if an individual is ready to take on leadership and customer interfacing roles at Honeywell. As the aerospace industry evolves and becomes more competitive, the expectations of engineers have also become more comprehensive.

From my years at Honeywell, I am proud to say we invest in developing the skills of engineers through professional development courses, mentorship programs, and higher education assistance but most importantly through on-the-job assignments and training. We take an interest in providing the next generation of engineers opportunities to learn from legacy award winning engineers who helped to shape the aerospace industry, from colleagues and customers around the globe and through world class projects that enable them expand their horizons.

Becoming a successful aerospace engineer is hard work, it takes significant effort and commitment to remain focused on technologies that require years to enter into service. However, there is nothing more gratifying than walking through the production line and seeing product being built and shipped that I contributed years to its success, seeing our product on board a customer’s aircraft performing the job that you designed it to do, and contributing to the success of the business. I also take great pride in watching the organization that I lead transform and mature and seeing the personnel growth of individuals who contribute to our overall success.

Next time when you think of an engineer, remember that we don’t all have pocket protectors and only know how to design and build complex components, we are a diverse group of business people who solve problems and deliver value to the end user. In addition, some of us are certified black belt Tae Kwon Do martial artists that can kick some butt, at work and in the ring.

And if you or someone you know is considering a career in aerospace engineering, know that it is a diverse and rewarding job that will enrich your skills in design and business for a lifetime to come.

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