CU Boulder ME-EM Faculty Director Christy Bozic on the Importance of Leadership Skills in Tech

Written by Amanda Wicks • Updated on

Bozic teaches the project management courses in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Master of Engineering in Engineering Management degree, available on Coursera.

[Feature image] CU Boulder's ME-EM faculty director Christy Bozic's professional headshot.

Christy Bozic—the faculty director overseeing the University of Colorado Boulder’s Master of Engineering in Engineering Management program—developed a natural curiosity about “the way things were made” when she was younger. When it came time to pursue her bachelor’s degree, she opted to study industrial engineering technology—a choice that helped elucidate “the why behind the what.” 

But while her engineering degree provided an excellent foundation, something wasn't fully clicking in terms of her career. As she attempted to figure out what she wanted to do, Bozic first discovered what she didn’t—a clarifying move that can be equally important in the quest to find satisfying work. “I did internships in operations management and industrial safety and quality,” she recalled, admitting that neither placement felt like a good fit. 

It turned out, she felt most edified when she used her technical know-how to address customers’ needs. She began working in technical and engineering sales, which required a mix of skills, including technical proficiency, communication, and a larger understanding of business operations. “I realized that that was what I liked and what I was good at,” she said. 

Bozic began working for a distributor before transitioning to a tier-two automotive company—a career she held until the 2008 recession, which upended the automotive industry. At the time, Bozic became tasked with transferring production to low-cost regions, but she didn’t feel ethically comfortable about that goal. 

The moment felt ripe for change and she found it in academia, returning to her alma mater Purdue University to work on a large grant. Bozic essentially took the “cool stuff” happening at Purdue’s research labs and helped small- and medium-sized manufacturers remain competitive. “That grant brought me to the university,” she said. “After working there and seeing the impact that we were having on students and their lives, it was very rewarding.”  

While at Purdue, Bozic chose to pursue her PhD so that she could teach as well. Where once she worked closely with customers, she began guiding engineering students. “It's really cool to help students understand that having a STEM degree is just the start,” she explained. “They can use their technical knowledge base to make huge impacts at a business level. Those who succeed really understand the importance of grasping where their designs and their technology fit within the corporate structure.” 

Eventually, Bozic joined CU Boulder, moving into the faculty director role of the EMP program four years ago. She also teaches the project management pathway courses as part of CU Boulder’s online Master of Engineering in Engineering Management on Coursera. Interested learners who successfully pass all three courses in the area gain full admission to the master’s degree. “It’s really helping those who want to level up in their careers by giving them the ability to build upon their current knowledge base and contribute something new,” she explained. 

In the tech industry, many career paths eventually lead to some kind of managerial position. However, for engineers and technologists who have spent the vast majority of their work developing the technical prowess necessary to succeed, moving into a leadership role or taking on new leadership responsibilities often involves a significant shift. Managing people, after all, requires a different skill set. That’s where a master’s in engineering management can help, teaching students about key leadership principles, business functions, and effective communication to round out their abilities for their next career phase. 

Bozic is passionate about the online master’s degree and what students can achieve. “At any point in your career, those who are promoted into leadership positions are usually promoted because they’ve done an excellent job at their current position,” she said. “But what you don’t have, perhaps, is the understanding of the business as a whole. In engineering management, we give you those tools. It’s really about taking you beyond the individual contributor (IC) role to being a great leader of people.”  

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