Problem solving

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Engineers struggle with soft skills in a unique way

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article on Tuesday titled “Two-Thirds of College Grads Struggle to Launch Their Careers”. Here’s one section that resonated with me: …employers question whether a traditional undergraduate education arms students with the soft skills needed in the workplace—problem solving, critical thinking, communications, and working in teams. An analysis of
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The Black Swan and why there is no perfect diet

The nutritional literature frustrates me to no end. You can find data-supported advice to avoid saturated fat. You can find data-supported advice to avoid simple carbohydrates. You name one part of a diet…any part of a diet…and you can find data-supported claims to eat it or not eat it. Frustration is an understatement. With that
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Right versus wrong, science versus business

When you think of the difference between science and business, what do you think of? Rigid versus flexible? Exact versus inexact? Empirical versus heuristic? Maybe you think of something else. The point is, you get down to something along the lines of science having a “right” answer, while business doesn’t. That’s kind of true, but
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Take the time to consider a plan B

I’m processing a ton of data at work right now. In an ideal world, I’d have some software built for large data sets. In the real world, I have Microsoft Excel. We have developer licenses for TIBCO’s Spotfire. I’ve used Spotfire in the past, and I really like it. It would do what I need
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The Fed, interest rates, and the fear of change

You probably heard the news that the Fed raised U.S. interest rates last Wednesday for the first time since 2006. I want to talk about how this big change, a move away from “near zero” interest rates, makes people nervous. Because you’ll see the same nervousness with any big decision in the business world. If your
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Answer questions before they're asked

My boss asked me to build a revenue forecast recently. He gave me a rough idea of what he wanted. I was free to fill in the blanks as I pleased. I had some important decisions to make: What methodology did I want to use for the forecast? What parameters would I include? How detailed
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Given your technical background, you’re familiar with well-posed questions. What makes a question well-posed? Clearly stated assumptions. Precise word choice. Minimal ambiguity. Technical problems require this kind of structure. Without it, you couldn’t make much progress. Science and engineering makes an art of asking the right questions, at the right times. When you think of transitioning
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With technical backgrounds, you and I are likely to be specialists. We’ve spent our time working on certain kinds of problems, in certain kinds of applications. We have a recognizable expertise. We use that expertise to earn respect and trust, which translates to even more exciting opportunities. There’s a problem viewing the world strictly as
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