Date

12-2009

Degree Name

BS in General Engineering

Department

Biomedical and General Engineering Department

Advisor(s)

Karen Bangs

Abstract

The profession of Sales Engineering (S.E.) offers engineers a unique opportunity to fuse their technical background with communication and business skills in order to seek a rewarding alternative to the typical engineering career path. The shortfall of this niche industry is the lack of formal academic programs that seek to develop the skills necessary to prepare engineers for the field. At this time only two sales engineering minors exist in the nation, one at Iowa State University and the other at the University of Florida. The process for this senior project was to clearly identify the scope of a competitive sales engineering minor for California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. The final decision on the courses included in the minor being suggested were rigorously scrutinized to fulfill requirements from multiple sources interviewed and researched, sources such as: industry contacts close to Cal Poly, engineering students, and finally, Cal Poly faculty and administration interested in the success of the minor. Industry contacts were all given a standard open-ended survey aimed at defining Sales Engineering and the gathering of input on what academic areas should be focused on. The course areas mentioned most prominently were business and communication. Finance was also mentioned as one area in particular that many engineering graduates have no solid foundation in. In addition to industry input, Cal Poly students were asked about what they would like to see in a S.E. curriculum. The results of this survey were transcribed into metrics and analyzed. The results indicated an echo of the focuses industry wanted to see, both in business and communication skills, with communication skills being the main focus. The two existing minors in Iowa and Florida were also used as references to improve upon. The goal at this stage was then to create multiple curriculum options for Cal Poly and to thoroughly analyze the strengths and weaknesses of these options. Multiple tools were used to execute this stage, including; Affinity Diagrams, Cause & Effect Ishikawa Diagrams, Flowcharts, Force Field Analysis, Interrelationship Digraphs, Matrix Diagrams, Prioritization Matrices and Radar Charts.

Financial considerations were taken into account as well, crafting a minor that works well within Cal Poly’s current offered curriculum; introducing only two new courses. The final curriculum proposed includes the creation of a 4-unit Sales Engineering seminar in addition to the current IME 401 course. The other course creation is a Finance course for non-business majors. The rest of the 29 unit minor consists of course options that develop skills in the areas of Business and Communications from the existing catalog.

Another aspect to gauge the success of this project was to generate excitement and support for the proposed minor. It was determined that the best method to do this would be to create a Sales Engineering Club on campus. In the spring of 2009, the first official meeting was kicked off by Joshua Checkis and Clint Hebrew with a representative team from Trane coming to give a presentation. From that point on, the club has grown to just under one-hundred members and counting. The industry and student commitment in conjunction with contributions to this project are closely aligned to the success of the club. The club has focused on educating Cal Poly’s engineering students on the benefits of a career in Sales Engineering, developing communication and business skills for their members as well as generating significant industry support behind the concept of a Sales Engineering minor.