Woodrow W Winchester III, Ph.D., a lecturer and the director of Engineering Management in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, wrote a defining article in the American Society for Engineering Management’s (ASEM) Fall 2019 issue of Practice Periodical – Articles for the Practicing Engineering Manager. Winchester’s article was titled “Great Time to Be an Engineering Manager" and subtitled “Challenges and Opportunities for the Engineering Manager in the Emerging Technologies Space.”
Winchester’s article was a follow-up to the recent ASEM conference, in which the theme was "A Systems Approach to Engineering Management Solutions.” Winchester is also ASEM's co-director of Professional Development & Continuing Education.
“As an engineering management educator,” Winchester wrote in his article, “I echo [ASEM] President Simon Philbin’s sentiment, expressed during his closing remarks at the ASEM 2019 IAC banquet, that ‘This is a great time to be an engineering manager.’ This statement, for me, is affirmed in my work that promotes the use of more inclusive approaches in the design and management of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) products and systems. And, while the promises of these technologies are great - as witnessed in AI’s growing pervasiveness; the perils - as outcomes of often “unchecked” designs and deployments - can be even greater.”
As Winchester quoted in his article, “We are in a diversity crisis,” states a recent MIT Technology Review article that examines the existence and propagation of biases in AI systems. He went on to reference recent Congressional hearings on the topic of inclusion in technology that have called for “the tech sector to be more proactive in developing means that reduce, or better yet, eliminate bias from newer and emerging technologies.”
In that context, Winchester suggested three overarching principles for enlightened engineering managers. First, champion inclusive design and engineering thinking by acting more inclusively in the development and deployment of technologies, which is “equally of import in offering more inclusive technologies.”
Second, engage with methods, tools, and techniques that support more inclusive design and engineering decision making such as vision concepting – a research thread being explored by Winchester here at UMass (See article recently published in a special diversity and inclusion issue of INCOSE that reflects Winchester’s research at UMass Amherst).
“Engineering managers,” wrote Winchester in his ASEM article, “as often process and practice leaders, can be active proponents in the engagement and promotion of these more inclusive approaches.”
And third, advocate for the development of specific engineering management diversity and inclusion practice competencies. “The societal stakes are high in regard to the design and management of emerging technologies,” as Winchester explained. “I feel that we, as an engineering management community, are at a point where more explicit and poignant conversations and efforts around diversity and inclusion within our practices are needed….”
“Truly,” concluded Winchester in his article, “this is a great time to be an engineering manager. Adequately grappling with notions of diversity and inclusion in technological design is truly both complex and multilayered. More inclusive technological design and management practices are truly needed. It is my belief that engineering managers are well-positioned to offer the needed thought and practice leadership in finally moving the needle.”
As ASEM President Philbin said, “I would like to echo the points made by Dr. Winchester, since maintaining diversity and inclusion remains an important issue for the engineering professions. As digital transformation gathers pace across many areas of lives, including the various applications of artificial intelligence, we need to ensure that our focus on diversity and inclusion effectively translates into this digital world.”
Philbin added that “The American Society for Engineering Management is a leading professional society that is focused on advancing the field of engineering management. The society is keen to highlight the implications of technological advancements, such as those associated with digital transformation. This includes understanding the management implications for such technologies as well as diversity and inclusion aspects.” (December 2019)