How to Think like an Engineer

Have you ever worked with an engineer? Ever had to solve a problem and just found that they think in a completely different way? That's because they are trained to. Engineers use the skills and knowledge they have at their disposal to improve a process or find a solution to a problem. Why might we want to think like engineers? Well for one, a study showed that Engineering was the most common profession in a survey consisting of 70,000 millionaires! In this article, SkyCiv Online Engineering Software explores a few tricks you can use to think more like an engineer and be on your way to greater success.

1. Persistance!

Engineers have a one track mind. If something is broken, they will be fixated on it until it is solved. Get in this mindset! I strongly believe that this is one of the main attributes of engineers that make them successful.

Persistence is key, however don't get stuck on the same solution - Insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. When I feel I have hit a bit of a wall, I have found 3 techniques that help. The first is to take a break - come back to the problem with a fresh mind. Secondly is to explore different tools and third is to Google, Google, Google! - whatever you do, don't give up!

2. Think Outside the Box

This is probably the second characteristic that most contributes to the success of engineers. The earlier survey that stated Engineering was the profession to most likely result in a millionaire, also stated that many of these surveyed engineers were also entrepreneurs. This is because an engineer will often find a process or solution to a common problem. Thinking differently, and questioning why something is done in a particular way paves the way for innovation. This, combined with their persistence is a recipe for success.

Thinking outside the box can be learned. Simply start by questioning everything - ask why? Why is it done like that? Isn't there an easier way? In my experiences, the best time to do this is by changing your scenery - take a walk, have a shower or lie in bed with no distractions. In this time, think about attacking a problem from a completely different angle.

3. Isolate the Problem

If something is broken, try make a list of the possible causes and work backwards. For instance, I used to work at a gym and the music system would break down on a monthly basis, and everyone relied on me to fix it - when in actual fact it was quite simple. I had a mental flow chart of the process and possible culprits along the line. I would work backwards from the iPod to eliminate the possible culprits.

Flow chart of Structural Engineering problem

4. Use your Tools

Engineers are like any other tradesmen - they use the tools they have to complete a task. I like the saying "Engineers use techniques we don't understand to solve problems we didn't even know existed." I would say this isn't limited to engineers, as everyone has an arsenal of tools they can use to solve a problem. It's all about using the tools you have at your disposal to finish the job. It's also extremely important to keep adding skills to your toolbox - always learning and trying new techniques to complete a task makes an engineer more equipped for future tasks. Engineers teach themselves new tools and skills all the time. Like a self learning sponge, soak up all the new skills you can!

5. Murphy's Law

If something can go wrong, it will. Engineers are amazing forward thinkers - anticipating issues and problems that may arise in the future. It's a fairly simple habit that you can train yourself to have. A couple minutes of thought here can save you hours of work and headache in the future. In doing so, you are also reducing your exposed risk which will translate to success.

Next time you're finished a project, take the time and answer the following 3 questions:

  • What could go wrong with this in the future?
  • Is this a solid foundation to build on?
  • If something changes in the future what will I need to change?

So there you have it. Apply these techniques to think more like an engineer and improve your chances of success. Are you an engineer? Visit SkyCiv to view our Online Engineering Software and get your free trial today!

Sam Carigliano, PEng CEO and Co-Founder of SkyCiv
Sam Carigliano, PEng
CEO and Co-Founder of SkyCiv
BEng (Civil), BCom
LinkedIn