Know what question you’re trying to answer

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.┬áScience and engineering makes an art of asking the right questions, at the right times.

When you think of transitioning to a business role, you’ll need to lower your expectations. Word choice is sloppier. Definitions are more highly variable. Assumptions aren’t always revealed, if they’re even understood in the first place.

I’m not calling folks in business roles stupid. I’m saying, given your training as a scientist or engineer, you have a greater appreciation for posing high quality questions.

With this warning in mind, know what question you’re trying to answer. If you’re asked to generate a forecast, know exactly what quantities you should forecast, and over what period of time, and under what conditions, et cetera.

You won’t get a perfectly constrained problem. You’ll likely have to make assumptions. This is where knowing the market, your competitors, your customers, all comes into play. This is where you can really demonstrate your value.

You have the technical skills. But can you take an ambiguous non-technical question, and build in specificity using your knowledge of the business? If so, you can unlock all kinds of new career pathways.

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