How to stop thinking like an engineer and think like a businessman?

23 July 2023 ยท Updated 30 July 2023

As an engineer, I've been trained to solve problems and to focus on the technical aspects of a project. However, I'm finding that as I want to do startup stuff, I need to start thinking more like a businessman. How can I shift my focus from the technical details to the broader business implications, become like a mix of CEO and CTO? How can I make decisions more effectively from a business perspective, while still leveraging my engineering background?


Uff, this is a tough one. I can say for sure โ€” it’s possible, everything can be learned.

I do get it, though. You’ve spent years honing your skills as an engineer, diving into the nitty-gritty of problems, and coming up with brilliant technical solutions. But now you’re standing at the edge of a whole new world – the startup world – and it’s like learning to speak a foreign language. I’ve been there, I know how it feels.

I also had to learn how to talk with people and communicate properly. That’s where I would start.

But the first thing you need to understand is that thinking like a businessman isn’t about forgetting your engineering mindset. It’s about adding a new layer to it. As an engineer, you’re trained to solve problems. That’s a skill you’ll still need, and it’s also a useful skill to have. The difference is, as a businessman, the problems you’re solving are broader. My motto is “I solve problems, occasionally a computer is involved”.

You’re not just thinking about how to build something, but why you’re building it, who you’re building it for, and how it’s going to make money.

So, how do you develop this business acumen? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. MBA might be a good start โ€” you don’t have to go to school for it just listen to the courses on youtube and read books recommended by the course, that’s a good place to start.

I’ve developed the skill through a mix of reading books + having a mentor who’s an amazing salesman and CEO as well as being thrown into situation where I have no choice but to adapt or the company will die (It’s a great way to learn fast I must say”

Remember, your engineering mindset is not a liability but an asset. You have a unique ability to understand the technical aspects of your business that others DO NOT. The trick is to leverage this understanding in a way that benefits the business. This could mean using your problem-solving skills to streamline operations, or your analytical skills to make data-driven business decisions.

Practically speaking, start by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. Instead of getting lost in the details of how something is done, ask yourself why it’s done and what the potential impact could be. Consider the financial implications of your decisions, and always keep the customer’s needs in mind.

But here’s the kicker – you don’t have to choose between being an engineer and a businessman. The most successful leaders are those who can wear both hats, who can dive into the technical details one minute and zoom out to strategize the next. It’s about finding a balance.

So, take a deep breath, start watching those MBA youtube channels, and coding at the same time. You’re embarking on a new journey, and it’s okay to stumble and learn as you go. Remember, every great businessman was once a beginner. And with your engineering background, you’re already one step ahead.

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  • Gautam

    When I first jumped into the startup world from engineering, I realized the gold was in communicating the ‘why’ and ‘for whom’ we were developing our tech. Pivot became my favorite word, instead of deep dives into algorithms, I started exploring market fit and user experience designs. Sharing this because I found that bridging the gap between tech and business isn’t about abandoning one for the other, it has more to do with focusing on solving real problems for real people.

  • Elke

    I realized that the tech bubble is pretty insulated from how brutal the startup market can be. Tried to pivot by soaking up as much about business as possible โ€” crashed a few meetups, binge-listened to some startup podcasts, even tried schmoozing with the sales team. The divide between engineer and entrepreneur isn’t just big, it’s a whole different ballgame. We’re used to just writing code and it working, but in the business it’s never easy like that.