Every other engineer passing out of a top educational institution heads for a management degree and then gets hired by a financial organisation. However, the world is a better place not because of the finance guys but the engineers. Like Margaret Hutchinson, a chemical engineer, who developed a fermentation method to mass-produce penicillin, a life-saver. Until then, penicillin could be produced only in a lab for a few people at a time.
Or Jean-Baptiste Vaquette de Gribeauval, who argued that cannons, while being useful for fortress defences, were too heavy to transport. His idea for agile weaponry was not accepted immediately but he proved himself years later and, therefore, paved the way for the breakthrough concept of ‘interchangeable parts’, the basis for modern industrial production. It was “a blueprint for precision and large-scale manufacturing that has since affected the far reaches of our society,” says Guru Madhavan in his book (Applied Minds: How Engineers Think
; Guruprasad Madhavan; Penguin Books; 288 pages; Rs1,690.95)
What are the common traits of such people? They are problem-solvers. They are able to comprehend the structure of a problem, acknowledge the constraints they must work within, and are able to evaluate the trade-offs while arriving at the most optimum solutions.
Incorporating such thinking brings order to chaos (traffic management), improves lives (medicine and health) and creates new products and services (cellphones, computers), etc. Madhavan believes that an engineer’s mindset can be applied by anyone for personal and professional progress. So, when you next face problems, maybe you can try to think like an engineer, remembering the triad of structure, constraints and trade-offs.