APS News

APS Workshop Targets Tribulations of New Managers

When asked by the APS what professional development courses most interested them, members of the APS Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics (FIAP) overwhelmingly ranked the problems of being a manager as number one. That choice reflects the concerns of industrial physicists working in or contemplating managerial jobs, and their awareness of the need to acquire new skills and better understanding of leadership.

During its Centennial meeting, the APS will host a workshop entitled "Management Problems of the Technical Person in a Leadership Role," a wide-ranging program designed to increase the successful transition of technical specialists into the ranks of management. Other career-related events include a series of special symposia, a tutorial on career choices, and a networking breakfast for women industrial physicists.

Physicists moving into management positions confront several challenges along their new career paths. "The skills and capabilities that help them do their jobs as technical specialists are dramatically different from what it takes to lead people," says Vicki Cherry, an electrical and biomedical engineer with management experience in the food-processing industry who will lead the workshop, which was developed by Fred Pryor Seminars.

The five-hour session on Sunday, March 21, will be followed by a two-hour optional question and answer period. Cherry will address such issues as how to delegate work; dealing effectively with corporate politics and power structures; channeling one's strengths as a technical specialist into strong leadership skills; and ways to develop productive, motivated employees. "It takes more people skills than technical skills to do the job of a technical manager," Cherry says.

Technical experts tend to look for perfect solutions to specific problems, but as managers, they must find less-than-perfect - yet acceptable - answers to many different situations. High standards remain necessary for any manager, but excessive expectations can cripple his or her effectiveness. Today's managers need to skillfully practice "situation leadership" - to get their team involved in the planning and decision-making process and to recognize that on any given project, someone else might have better skills than they do to head the effort.

Adapted from an article by Patrick Young appearing in The Industrial Physicist, February 1999. To request a free subscription, visit the website www.aip.org/tip, or send inquiries to tip@aip.org.

For more information or to register early to ensure a place at the "Management Problems of the Technical Person in a Leadership Role" workshop, contact Arlene Modeste, modeste@aps.org, 301- 209-3232.

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette