on 10 May 2017 10:10 PM
  • engineers
  • scientists
  • engineers in business
  • scientists in business

This is a bulleted article written for engineers and scientists, not for the prosaic at heart.  While 25% of the most successful companies have engineers and scientists at the helm and most stories from Silicon Valley tout the accomplishments of engineers-turned-entrepreneurs, more of them fail in business than succeed.  Here’s a take on the strengths and weaknesses of engineers and scientists when it comes to business.  Unlike engineering, business is very contextual and calls for a lot of judgment – strengths can be beneficial (or not) and weaknesses can be detrimental (or not).  Please chime in with your perspectives in the comments.


  • They are good at reality-based thinking (judgment that is often based on ‘soft factors’ that have little, nuanced or no data – require behavioral competencies)
  • They are good at building processes and systems (business requires flexibility and ability to deal with people who are not systematic in thinking or actions)
  • They are good at systematic and linear thinking and learning (business requires non-linear thinking and integration of other people’s, often illogical, ideas from different functions or fields)
  • They are good at number crunching and driven decisions (business requires decision-making with little or no data, and often bad data)
  • They are extremely fast learners – adapt to new situations and data all the time (business requires learning behavioral and non-STEM topics that they may not be inclined towards)
  • They are very good at explaining things – logically and systematically (business requires engaging non-techies with non-linear learning styles)
  • They talk to the techs and the numbers types better than the non-quants


  • Many engineers and scientists believe they are not (or will not be) good at leadership and business. It is also a societal stereotype (If you accept stereotypes without understanding yourself and committing to improve yourself, you are doomed)
  • Many engineers and scientists have business reluctance (have negative views about businesses, making money, wanting to be in business or succeeding in business – READ MEATY SURVEY-BASED ARTICLE HERE)
  • Many engineers and scientists are introverts, and believe only extroverts can become good at business
  • The higher the educational level of engineers and scientists in science or technology, the greater their specialization and avoidance of soft skills (you are technically or scientifically competent but never invested effort to learn the soft skills required to succeed in business)
  • They tend to lack business acumen – an understanding of various business functions (particularly finance, sales and marketing) and how they relate to each other to produce business results (become silo-specialized lacking business knowledge and skills)
  • They tend to fall in love with the technology or the innovation (in business, the technology or innovation is a means to make money, not the end unto itself)
  • They tend to lead from ‘knowing’ rather than inquiry – “I know that”; “I am smarter than you”; or, “You can’t be right because you are not being logical” (everybody has their place in a business)
  • They tend to under-communicate (communications are obviously essential to business success)
  • They tend to be risk-averse because the downside to failure is high in science and technology (business requires calculated risks and a willingness to fail)
  • They like (and need) certainty in engineering and scientific fields (business requires judgment calls that are often based on incomplete facts and have uncertain outcomes)
  • (((OK, so you counted and see that there are more weaknesses listed than strengths.  Well, engineers and scientists tend to be more self-critical than non-engineers, right?!?!?)))


You can become one of the successful ones if you leverage your strengths and tamp down the weaknesses.  Read on at the Business Thinking website http://businessthinking.com/join/engineers-scientists.

Business success factors: Your Mindset