Last week, we were fortunate to give two presentations at our local university about a career in product development. For us, it is always energizing to connect with students who are curious and passionate about what we do as engineers, and who wonder if a career in product development is a good choice.
Product development is a topic that many students are interested in. This is for good reason: Developing new products is an attractive career path. People lucky enough to have a career in product development are able 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 a young person 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 — whether there is a customer need 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 requires 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 pursuing a career in product development is this: You SHOULD do so, maybe even with us here at SGW Designworks. By all means, 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.