Last week, we were fortunate enough to give two University presentations about a career in product development. For us, it is always energizing to connect with young students that are curious and passionate about what we do as engineers, and wonder if a career in product development is a good choice.
Product development is a topic that a lot of students are interested in. This is for good reason: Developing new products is attractive. People lucky enough to work in this field get to innovate, create, and disrupt the norm every day. Throughout our careers, we get to live at the intersection of markets and technology. We could talk all day about how great it is to do what we do and why you should follow a career in product development. But there is a less exciting reality that is critical to the successful development of new products.
Businesses develop new products because they have identified a compelling business reason to do so. Wheather there is a customer need that needs to be met or the opportunity to increase operational performance. As with any business expenditure, there is an expectation of results and a schedule. More often than not, the schedules are aggressive. Sometimes more than others they are unrealistic. Product development does require great creativity, technical excellence, and innovative approaches. But it also requires a great deal of planning, meeting commitments, tough deadlines, and sometimes difficult conversations.
Our message to the young people interested in doing this kind of work is this: You SHOULD pursue a career in product development, maybe even with us. Become an amazing engineer or designer. But also focus on growing your interpersonal skills, your crisis management skills, and your ability to problem solve under pressure.