security skills crisis

Many engineers are far more valuable than their managers – and their salaries should reflect this

Michael Lines

Senior consultant, security integrations

Author Bio ▼

Michael Lines is experienced in providing consultancy services for systems integrations on a wide range of security projects.
February 15, 2017

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Finding a good engineer increasingly seems like an exercise in pot luck.

There are plenty of poor companies burning through good engineers, despite the huge skills gap in this area.

At the same time, good companies are relieved when poor engineers leave of their own accord.

The main issues in attracting and keeping high quality engineers:

1. The working environment: rapport with colleagues, whether it’s a pleasant place to work with a positive atmosphere, feeling valued.
2. Job satisfaction: Whether the work is enjoyable and rewarding. Whether they are given the right resources to do the job. Whether enough training and scope for career progression is on offer.
3. Money.

If two out of these three are OK, then the workforce tends to be relatively stable. But if two of the three or less than favourable, or perceived as such, then people will jump ship.


But finding suitable staff is partly down to luck.

A good website always helps reinforce a strong business image. Prospective employees do look at them.

Do you advertise the position yourself or use an agency – or both?

CVs are often full of empty boasts and promises. Can you expose these during an interview?

How does the prospective employee relate to you? How well do you get on with them?

Unhappy, disruptive or incompetent staff

Most importantly: don’t keep someone on just because the effort to employ them was so great in the first place. It’s better to find out that someone is not up to the job as quickly as possible, then reevaluate and make a decision early.

Do not let things drag on. You’re doing no one any favours and you are very likely to disenfranchise the good staff that you do have.

A poor or dissatisfied employee can cause the business image, and customer relationships, untold damage in just a few days.

In my experience, too many engineers are promoted into supervisory and managerial positions just to get around wage ceilings

Unfortunately, in many businesses the competence of line supervisors and managers is the single most damaging factor, because they’re the least monitored and reviewed personnel.

They also have the biggest influence on the trinity of issues – environment, job satisfaction and pay growth – outlined above.

Gaining a bad manager, losing a good engineer

In my experience, too many engineers are promoted into supervisory and managerial positions. Often this is to get around wage ceilings.

Actual suitability for the role or whether the role is needed never gets questioned. This desire to retain good people, whatever the cost, can inadvertently convert them into something that doesn’t even harness the skills you want to retain.

Having become a supervisor or manager, they may want to act out that role. Management and supervision usually requires a totally different set of abilities. Often the result is: nobody is happy at all, and other good staff leave.

I would rather see the first step into management being accompanied by a drop in pay. You need to prove yourself as a good manager, and be judged on that.

The move into management needs to be carefully thought through on both sides.

Sometimes a great engineer is far more valuable to the company than their manager(s). It would be sensible for pay and benefits to reflect this.

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Peter ManolescueJohn Guest Recent comment authors
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John Guest
John Guest

Good post Michael, certainly promoting an engineer into a management role just to avoid giving a pay rise is only advised if they are clearly qualified for a role that is normally more Admin, Time Management and Project intense than being on the tools, you need to determine carefully if someone is both capable (can they do the job) and willing (are they motivated to do it), without both of these there will not be a long term fit. I would add that when putting together your recruiting plan, think about why someone who is happy elsewhere would even consider… Read more »

Peter Manolescue
Peter Manolescue

Oh dear! Once again we seem to be talking about technicians, not engineers. I have no problem with technicians being paid what they are due but engineers are a different thing all together. For a start they have spent 3 or 4 years following a very demanding University course. I could go on but please define your terms properly. Oh, and by the way, most engineers in the UK are underpaid as well. This all stems from our Victorian thinking about the value of people associated with ‘making things’

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