It’s not Rocket Science, but RocketEngineers is making waves for new, young engineers – soundwaves, that is.
Podcasts have become extremely popular, which is of little surprise because of their ability to provide all kinds of information in a direct and entertaining way. They can also be listened to virtually any time and any place. Having already provided ten mechanical engineering podcast tips while our Germany-based teammates have published episode #1 of the item podcast (in German), we’d like to introduce the host of an exciting podcast related to the manufacturing and engineering industry. Lennard Hermann is studying for a PhD in the Production Engineering Cluster at RWTH Aachen University and has spent a number of years exploring how mechanical engineering students and engineers can optimize their performance. His German-language RocketEngineers podcast focuses on how engineers can achieve their goals, and in the following interview with item team members, he provides some practical tips for engineers starting out on their careers.
Absolute Favorite Topic: The Journey So Far
I (Interviewer): Mr. Hermann, you’ve written two books for mechanical engineering students and now host your own podcast called RocketEngineers. How did your journey bring you to where you are now?
My student days didn’t get off to a very promising start, but I then really applied myself and obtained my Master’s degree with distinction. The main reason for this improvement was that I devoted a great deal of attention to study performance, asking how exactly the methodology of learning works and what you need to do. I then looked into this in greater depth in my study guide “Erfolgreich studieren Maschinenbau” (Study for Success in Mechanical Engineering) which I followed up with a general guide covering all engineering courses. That was the first time I came across the idea of working independently alongside my normal engineering career. I became what they call a “solopreneur.” That also led me to podcasting.
What is it that you like about sharing your knowledge?
The concept of community is what I enjoy most. You encounter people who are also looking to learn. They want to further their education, achieve something, and make things happen. Quite simply, I enjoy communicating with people like that. Young students looking for tips are also always getting in touch. I naturally appreciate this kind of feedback, so I’m more than happy to reply to questions, even though I obviously don’t always have the answer.
The Podcast with Managers Offering Career Tips to Engineers
What exactly does the RocketEngineers podcast cover?
My podcast offers career tips, tricks, and hacks from experienced engineers that can help others get ahead in their own engineering careers. I always interview experienced engineers in managerial positions who are in charge of other employees, the kind of people who run a department, division, or plant. I ask them questions about their professional lives, such as:
• “How do you manage staff?”
• “What is important to you?”
• “What characteristics must employees have if you are to help them advance their career?”
• “What characteristics irritate you?”
• “What are your specific goals?”
• “How do you organize yourself?”
• “How do you reply to emails?”
The focus is on everyday behavior at work that will help listeners shape their careers in the way they would like to at a typical company.
Is having your own podcast a logical step for you?
Yes, it is. Even when I was studying for my degree, I was very interested in what engineers need, besides purely technical knowledge, to be successful and perform well. It all started when I was looking for a podcast on the subject and couldn’t find one, so I decided to create my own. The institute where I work provides an excellent alumni network. These engineers took up managerial positions in the industry after obtaining their doctorates and we maintain close links with them. In many cases, you wouldn’t otherwise get your foot in the door.
The Hard Need for Soft Skills
In your opinion, what are the particular challenges facing engineers who are just starting out on their careers?
As I see it, there’s one key challenge – you normally don’t learn any soft skills when studying engineering. Such skills are incredibly important for a career in engineering, though, because you can’t solve problems on your own. They’re too complex and present a need to work in teams. What’s more, engineers often move into managerial positions after a few years of professional experience. They are then required to manage staff, which is something they have never learned to do.
Personnel management is another skill that must be learned, too. Staff are often given a managerial role based on their good technical performance, but management calls for different strengths. It’s always difficult to make the transition and delegate tasks. Acquiring and developing managerial skills also represents a big challenge. Most of the people I’ve interviewed in my podcast say a strategic approach is required. You need to get to grips with the topic, read guides, and attend seminars. It’s difficult to learn something like that without actively taking the initiative.
Career Development from an Early Stage
What advice would you give to engineers starting out on their careers?
I would definitely recommend keeping career development in mind. It’s something that shouldn’t be neglected. The following aspects should be considered early on:
• What is my goal?
• Why do I want to achieve it?
• How can I achieve it?
• Who can help me do so?
If you’re interested in learning more about engineering podcasts, click here to explore a similar article on 5 podcasts for women in STEM.
item America is dedicated to showcasing programs and people that are pushing boundaries in engineering, attracting and drawing women to become engineers. We aim to feature groundbreakers and glass ceiling breakers who are making strides in gender diversity in the engineering field. If you have a friend or colleague you’d like to nominate for a feature, click the box at the top right corner of this page!