The Engineer’s Paradox

Engineers are trained problem solvers. How many times have you heard that? It turns out many engineers want to solve more challenging problems, growing bored with the routine. As a result, the REAL challenge is then finding more difficult problems. Many engineers change jobs searching for these challenges, but reality comes quickly, the new problems become routine.

Less often are engineers trained to be problem proposers. I call this, “The Engineer’s Paradox.” In order to work on challenging problems, an engineer who is highly creative and well-versed in technical knowledge has to propose one. If (s)he does, (s)he’s most likely the person to solve it. At it’s core, “The Engineer’s Paradox” boils down to the fact that in order to solve the most difficult engineering challenges, you can’t be an engineer. You have to be more than an engineer, becoming either an entrepreneur, or an intrapreneur, thinking up new inventions, the challenges they face, the business case on why they would be an improvement, and who the customer would be. While there are some exceptions, the best odds for working on interesting problems is through your own creativity, salesmanship and persistence.

The real point that makes it a paradox is that an engineer doesn’t work on the most interesting problems, a great salesman or marketer with an engineering background does. It challenges the idea of what most engineers think sales and marketing are.

P.S. If you ever read about Nikola Tesla, one thing that’s commented on routinely is his “showmanship.” Think about how that contributed to his career.

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