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Engineers in Public vs Private Companies

Cruz Donato
Eminent Member Registered

This lecture discussed the differences behind public and private companies with one being owned by a slew of shareholders and the other owned by select individuals respectively. While both value the opinions and financial goals of their shareholders, private companies do not have to publicly report financial data while public companies do. Operating costs make up a good portion of that reported financial data which much of it is accrued by engineers, R&D, quality, etc. 

How does thinking about a project shift from working in a public company versus working in a private company as an engineer? Should engineers be more concerned with shareholder opinions, even if they are non-managing, or the project at hand despite necessary costs? Also thinking about the rewards offered between public and private companies, would engineers be more motivated working at a private company than a public one?

Topic starter Posted : 06/10/2021 12:09 pm
Trusted Member Registered

I think this is a great question. As a current engineer working in the field at an entry level position, I would have to say that my day to day tasks do not involve with being concerned with shareholder opinions as I feel it comes more in direct contact with upper level management. By the time it comes down to me, a budget has already been decided that meets the needs and goals of individuals at my level and those of shareholders. I think overall shareholder opinions are important to take into consideration for the benefit of the company but it terms of day to day work, the project at hand is more directly tied to engineers like myself. 

In terms of which company people would be more motivated to work at, I think it depends on the individual and their career goals. If someone wants more benefits and job opportunities a public company would be great for them. But if someone doesn't care as much about stock involvement and is in it for the satisfaction of completing the work with less constraints then a private company would be better. 

Posted : 06/10/2021 12:48 pm
Sheila Sarathy

Great question, Cruz. I think a lot of the business scheme in the engineering world is lost when working as a field tech or most entry level positions. I doubt they have to be concerned with the opinions of shareholders because that is so much larger scale than the laboring engineers. All the engineers really have to be concerned with is their immediate supervisors, directors, and the customers, clientele, and hospital staff (should they work with them). These are people they would come into immediate contact with on a daily basis. Yes it could be beneficial for the company, for the engineer to know the scope of the shareholders. However that's not really in their place to be concerned about. It isn't like any changes they could make would be enough to be acknowledged, especially if its unwarranted from their direct supervisor or if they're not in the know about the engineer planning to make potentially larger scale changes to save or improve the company. There are already people put in place to make those types of decisions, and taking it into your own hands to adjust work processes seems like it could only be problematic and only damage reputations. 

Posted : 09/10/2021 9:17 am
Trusted Member Registered

I do not think engineers need to be too concerned with shareholder opinions unless it is directly impacting the project at hand. As stated in a previous reply, a budget is commonly decided very well beforehand anyways. Now in the case that the project is going to exceed the budget, then I believe that it is important for the engineers to become more involved with the shareholders to justify their reasoning for the additional expenses. While occasional meetings to update the shareholders are important, engineers shouldn't have to be too concerned with their opinions as long as they are within the pre determined budget. 

While it may be more rewarding to work at a private company, the stability provided by public companies is just more appealing. As a younger person entering the workforce, a private company does sound extremely fun as the pay might be better, however, it would be ideal to have stability when getting older. A more stable job can be found in public companies.

Posted : 09/10/2021 10:35 pm
Trusted Member Registered

I believe your average engineer does not need to worry about a company being either public or private in their work. In theory, much of the work at both types of companies would be the same. While their scale, funding and goals may be slightly different the fundamental role of an engineer does not change based on the fiscal decisions of a company. As you mention in the later portion of your question, an engineer should generally only worry about the factors within a company that affect them such as pay, stock options, upward mobility and job security. Public companies often pay more and are more stable financially. However, in the United States there are far less public companies than there are private so availability of said positions should be a factor when deciding as well.

Posted : 10/10/2021 6:50 pm
Eminent Member Registered

As the posts before me have stated, I don’t think that engineers have to actively worry about the shareholder’s opinions. From personal experience, that is definitely not something I have really concerned myself with in my projects. By the time projects have been handed down to the engineers and associates, the managers and directors have already taken into consideration the shareholders’ opinions and have given us the budget and resources we could use in order to complete the project. I think preference between a public and private company is dependent on the individual’s ambitions. For a recent graduate who may only be looking into gaining a few years’ experience and not a long term role/position in a company, it might not matter so much if the company is public or private as they will most likely not stay with the first company they ever work for.  

Posted : 10/10/2021 7:07 pm
Eminent Member Registered

In working for a publicly owned company, engineers are not that involved with the opinions of shareholders unless their project holds a lot of weight for the company. For example, if there is a new project launch that the company is expecting to boosts sales and inflate the bottom line, there will be a lot of pressure from shareholders and upper management for the project to be completed on time with good results. Because of this, upper management and shareholders may be more favorable to increase the resources if they are needed to complete the project on time. If the project you are working on is an internal remediation project or a cost savings project that really doesn't draw a lot of appeal, I doubt many people from upper management will have interest in your project and shareholders will most likely not know what you are working on. A lot of times everything is financially driven, so if it doesn't affect the bottom line, it really isn't that important.

In private companies it may be similar, but a lot of the times the owner of the company takes interest in most projects and doesn't always care about the bottom line as much as a publicly traded company. My brother worked for a private company and he said that the owner cared more about the projects getting done correctly and being well established then rushing them to meet deadlines. This is a totally different atmosphere than what I am used to at my work.

Posted : 09/12/2021 10:24 pm