Meet the Engineer Strengthening His Leadership Skills

Written by Amanda Wicks • Updated on

Although Hubert Abiera is already managing an engineering team, he wanted to advance his leadership skills with a master's degree from the University of Colorado Boulder.

[Featured image] Engineering manager and CU Boulder master's degree student Hubert Abiera

The idea of a “born leader” is something of a misnomer. While some people may have an instinctive idea about how to shepherd projects or people toward effective outcomes, more often than not, leadership is a skill you have to develop—and strengthen—like any other. At least, that’s what Hubert Abiera realized. 

Abiera earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and spent the early phase of his career oscillating between working in manufacturing and the research & development phase of mechanical design. Then, he began managing teams. 

“You see good managers,” Abiera said. “You also see ineffective managers.” He’s had both and didn’t want to fall into the latter category. “I wanted to be able to have the fundamentals of what’s being taught out there, and then mix that in with what I’ve seen to be effective from the managers I’ve had.” 

Learn more: How to Get a Job as a Mechanical Engineer | 10 Tips

Abiera began thinking about earning his master’s in engineering management. With a degree program, he could learn the fundamentals he deemed so important while continuing to work full-time. “I wanted to make sure that I was able to finish the program without destroying my life,” he said with a laugh.

As he set about researching and applying to various programs, the University of Colorado Boulder’s Master of Engineering in Engineering Management rose to the top of Abiera’s options. “I really put a lot of thought into it,” he said. “I could have afforded other programs, but I wanted to support a program that’s making education accessible for a lot of people.” 

Abiera believes in “proliferating knowledge” because when he was younger even a bachelor’s degree felt out of reach. “I come from a very poor background,” he said. “I wasn’t meant to have a degree.” CU Boulder’s performance-based admission aims to create greater educational parity, and it became a big draw for Abiera. “Some of the best engineers I know were rocking 2.0 GPAs from college,” he explained. “But they wouldn’t be able to get into master’s programs, even though they’re amazing engineers.” 

Performance-based admission looks to see what potential students know. Rather than submit a more formal application with letters of recommendation and transcripts, applicants gain admittance to the full Master of Engineering program if they pass three pathway courses in either finance or project management. “I personally think that testing and GPAs are antiquated,” Abiera said. “I want to be able to support CU Boulder and other programs that basically ease the access to education so I can see more people like myself,” he said.

Abiera took the Finance for Technical Managers courses as his pathway and immediately began applying what he was learning to his team. “I actually internalized it,” he said. “I teach it with my team. If you work in manufacturing, you need to know the other side too. You’re not just designing; you’ve got to know the business side of things.” 

Balancing a full-time job and a master’s degree program takes commitment, though. Abiera dedicates his weekends to coursework. If he needs more time, he allocates certain weeknights to school. Thanks to CU Boulder’s online curriculum, Abiera can take as many courses as he can handle at a time. “The self-pacing is actually really nice for the program,” he said. 

Although Abiera is already managing a team of engineers, he’s excited about formalizing his ability to do so through his master’s degree with CU Boulder. “It’s the people development side of things,” he said about what he enjoys the most. “I love being able to trust in my team to do bigger and bigger things, so I spend a lot of time on people and their personal development. It’s an investment in them, and for myself, for the company. If the individuals on my team get stronger then my whole team is stronger. We can do more.” 

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