He is an engineer, who coaches engineers! Meet Atul Kalia, a native of Ludhiana, Punjab and graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College (Now known as PEC University of Technology) Chandigarh, who worked at TELCO Jamshedpur and then went on to pursue Masters in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Maryland, College Park and M.B.A. in Corporate Strategy from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. After spending 20 years as an engineering professional and leader, Atul started CERTUS+, a consulting firm based in Ann Arbor, MI with a vision to enable success for individuals and organizations.
Atul is the lead coach of an Engineering Management Academy conducted by US based organization SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineering) for engineers and engineering leaders from automotive, aerospace, off-highway and commercial trucking industries. Coaching and mentoring comes naturally to Atul, whose father N.K. Kalia retired as Head of the English Department from S.C.D Govt. College for Men Ludhiana and mentored hundreds of students over his teaching career spread over decades. “I really admired the positive impact my father had on his students and the love and adulation he received from them”, Atul says.
He narrates, “As a young engineering professional, I did not receive any formal coaching when I was promoted to take on leadership roles. I had to learn on my own. Learning on your own is good. However, guidance and one on one coaching by experienced leaders can accelerate one’s leadership journey.” The challenges Atul faced as a young engineering leader inspired him to create CERTUS+ Leadership Development Program, which is a part of CERTUS+ Academy. Under this leadership development program, Atul coaches engineers and engineering leaders on topics such as building high performance teams & organizations, technical project management, talent acquisition, decision making, conflict resolution, communication & presentation skills. The goal is to enable these leaders to deliver exceptional results for their careers & their organizations.
Explaining the necessity of a leadership development program for engineers, Kalia says, “Being an exceptional leader is perhaps harder for engineers than other professionals. This is because the very skills that make someone a great engineer– data driven approach & technical focus, can become a handicap, when engineers take on a management role. People skills are critical for becoming a great leader. Yet, the natural technical strength of these professionals can lead to a tendency to under appreciate the significance of people skills. Also, engineering professionals go through four years of technical education to get their engineering degree, but they undergo only a few hours of learning, if that, for their new role as leaders or managers and get minimal coaching or guidance for learning managerial skills. This lack of guidance can result in inefficiencies for organizations, employee retention issues, loss of productivity and projects not being executed as intended due to lack of employee engagement”.
Emphasizing the need of an engaged workforce for boosting Indian economy, Atul says, “Organizations want to deliver results and execute their strategy on time, under budget while meeting quality goals. This requires high productivity and an engaged workforce. Gallup employee engagement surveys have shown year after year that approximately only 34% of the workforce worldwide is actively engaged at work and put in their best effort at work. Almost 50% of the workforce is not engaged. They just come to work 9-5 but are not interested in the success of their organization. Almost 16% of the workforce is actively disengaged. The latter are negative contributors to productivity. Unfortunately, these numbers are even worse for India, where percentage of workforce that is fully engaged at work is in single digits.”
The top reasons for lack of employee engagement are bad management by the immediate boss and no sense of vision or direction provided by the organization.” This is the exact reason why any offerings that can increase self-awareness and guide engineering professionals to become better leaders, can bring exceptional professional success for them and immense success, productivity gains & profitability for their organizations.
Kalia says, “It’s been an amazing journey of personal growth & co-learning. You know you are making a positive impact when you hear success stories from past attendees about their career success, positive feedback they receive from their superiors and the awesome business results they are able to deliver for their employers!”