5 Reasons Engineers Make Good Marketers

Engineers have many talents and end up working in many disciplines. Some like me even find their way into marketing roles. In today’s guest post, Emerson’s Lee Rumbles, Director of Marketing for the Oil & Gas Flow Group shares some reasons why engineers make good marketers.

Emerson's Lee RumblesSir Ove Arup, one of the best structural engineers of his time, was quoted about engineering: “…This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice.” Sound like a familiar approach to other creative pursuits in the business world? Some may shudder at the notion, but an engineering degree definitely lends itself to a successful path into marketing.

There are some good reasons for this.

Driven by data. Whether customer relationship management, a webinar, or a straightforward email marketing campaign, the goal in marketing is to grow, nurture, and convert leads into customers. These days, achieving this goal hinges on the data-driven software that underpins an organization’s operations.

Emerson's Jane Lansing“Marketing is becoming almost like an IT organization these days,” said Jane Lansing, VP marketing at Emerson, with a civil engineering degree from the University of Minnesota, in a recent Advertising Age article. “To do your job you have to be able to communicate not just with the design department at an ad agency and your PR guys,” she said, “but you’ve got to be able to communicate with the IT organization, with your enterprise organization who is implementing your [customer-relationship-management system].”

Algorithms not slogans. While quality message development isn’t going anywhere, getting it to your ideal audience is often reliant on the effectiveness of supporting algorithms. There might not be a necessity to actually create algorithms in the marketing department; however, like an understanding and respect for data to drive decisions, it’s important to comprehend how these tools can nudge the behavior and actions of your prospects in your direction.

As noted in a McKinsey report, “Algorithmic marketing isn’t really a choice. Leading companies are already doing it and seeing tremendous growth. Companies need to develop their own algorithmic capabilities or risk being locked out of the next wave of growth.”

Product development. The development of products is driven by systematic processes, controls, testing, quality, and taking engineering concepts and ideas to reality. Feeling at home? This methodical approach is a critical piece within marketing and doesn’t stop at new product development but applies to the entire lifecycle including line extensions and support services. Sure, product development also includes the more intangible areas of idea generation, screening, focus groups, and commercialization but it all benefits from the structure and critical thinking of an engineer.

Managing innovation. Marketing can be a balance of trade-offs as the risk of investment is weighed against the reward of growth. It’s a blend of adhering to processes, being open to improvement, and just going for it. The spirit of innovation should exist central in marketing and the principles of innovation management, complementary to the engineering discipline, exist to nurture and grow a successful innovation culture.

It’s a skill that the Royal Academy of Engineering believes engineers have and should deploy, “At the core of most innovations is a new technology or a new application of an existing technology. This puts engineering at the centre of innovation. Engineers have an established capability to deliver incremental innovation.”

Creativity. Just as Sir Arup implied, creativity is inherent to engineering. You know you’re out there, just look at the creative pursuits these fellow, trained engineers have accomplished:

  • Hedy Lamarr: Hollywood actress
  • Cindy Crawford: Supermodel
  • Brian May: Guitarist in Queen
  • Alfred Hitchcock: Movie director

Where will your engineering degree take you?

Look for more of Lee’s posts soon as she highlights the effective use of flow measurement technology in the oil & gas industry.

12 comments

  1. Chris Noonan says:

    Very smartly written and innovative article … good thinking and I wonder what things can trigger the actions which Ms. Rumbles invites engineers to consider …

    • Lee Rumbles says:

      Thanks for your comment – I’m glad you liked the article! I’ve seen several engineer-to-marketing routes, including joining product marketing or getting involved with early market research to further understand and define customer needs and wants. A desire to get closer to the customer and improve the organization’s connection with the market seems to open a number of opportunities within organizations.

      • Chris, I’ll share that my path was from a systems engineer working on automation and safety shutdown projects on offshore oil & gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico for Conoco. I enjoyed the project work but wanted to try the other side, to work for a supplier of automation systems to industries including oil & gas. I’ve had various roles in sales support, application sales, product management, communications, and ultimately social media-based communications. It’s been a great ride so far!

  2. In the second year of university they taught us that engineers are designers,builder’s, thinkers, problem solvers and above all innovative sellers, I didnt forget those words easily. So yes indeed you not far from the truth in your creative article.

  3. Excellent article. I had experienced this before. i.e. being in tech domain earlier and suddenly getting into market research, positioning, AR, PR and all 🙂

    • Lee Rumbles says:

      I’m glad you liked the post! It sounds like you’ve experienced, first hand, how technical backgrounds can be transferred into marketing.

  4. Love it! I had a conversation with a VP of Marketing candidate for one of my clients. At the end of the conversation, after I told him I was an engineer he said, “That explains it!” He said my approach was very analytical and data-driven. I couldn’t agree more with Jane’s point that marketing departments are almost like IT organizations these days.

    • Lee Rumbles says:

      John, thanks for your comment! It’s funny how our training (and even personality 🙂 shine through no matter what.

  5. This is a really great article, I really like it. 1 comment , the site needs some new design or change perhaps.

    • Thanks for your comment on the post and the blog design. I was thinking the same thing that it needs a refreshed design and will be exploring options.

  6. This is one good article.

    1 comment , the site needs some new design or change perhaps.

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