I am a non-degreed design engineer in the Chicago area. I worked my way up through the ranks, and taught myself most of what I know, in terms of analytical skills. I worked with engineering plastics, exotic steels, processes, often at the very edge of material properties. I worked nearly 7 years in R&D as the guy who made experimental ideas real, so that we could find out if the results confirmed what we suspected. Sometimes it was to collect data with which to ask new questions. In that time, I filled four filing cabinets with designs, notes, calculations, and worksheets. We solved some problems, some few we didn’t. I worked with four doctorate level research scientists, and I like to think some of their methods for processing information and attacking problems rubbed off on me. I learned a lot, including how to think through a problem and choose a way through to a solution.
One discovery was that Occam’s Razor is rarely usable in the real world. Simple solutions are good starting points, but complications enter into all but the very simplest of problems.
Another discovery was that looking for answers is mostly these things:
- Knowing from experience what direction to NOT go in.
- Searching for the right questions. Working with the wrong questions usually comes from not knowing enough about the specific problem to ask the right questions. Thus, it becomes an effort to learn enough to discover what the right question(s) might be. One would be amazed at how often people jump to conclusions and that those conclusions cloud their minds preventing any progress.
- You have to be humble and let the problem talk to you. Only by admitting how little you actually know can you be receptive enough to see what evidence is out there. Often the evidence you seek is right in front of you, but your jumped-to conclusions obscures your sight, so you focus on the wrong things.
- DO THE WORK NEEDED TO MOVE TO THE NEXT QUESTION.
Most of the rest of my career was designing industrial equipment, tooling, molds, and hand tools. Later I also became part owner in a small, moderately successful, manufacturing firm for 8 years, handling all the engineering and ordering, plus running a production line.
Now I am retired.