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We often say ‘You will find a course or a teacher once in your career that will change your career - forever.’ I think the statement stands true.
After graduating as a Materials Engineer, I was on a look out for a job. Somehow I cam across Engineering Problem Solving course that was offered by Queensland University, Australia. Just a semester long course and it was completely remote. Like 100% before it was cool.
I’ll share the context, content and lessons that I have learned from this course.
The course was offered internationally and all it took was an application and a statement of purpose. So they made teams from all around the world and the priority was to get people from different parts as well. Like you wont find two Asians in the same team or two Americans either. It was a community project course mostly focus on developmental work in Africa.
Why did they do it? To remove the cultural barriers, to make sure we learn communication, get past the comfort zone of being a Pakistani and most importantly they did it so we can work together without hating each other and keeping our differences aside.
Every single time we would give us different problem statements like not having a hostel in one of African countries. or building a water reservoir, etc. so they divided the entire project into electrical, mechanical, geosciences, etc. domain. I applied in technology with no coding experience background, mainly with my problem solving skill.
We have to build the entire project from the ground up. There were budget limitations and nothing else. So we have to find out the rules, regulations, documentations, and everything was assumption. Like no one was answering any questions or anything.
Lessons that I have learned
- Its important to understand the problem before start thinking about the solutions. I just cant stress that enough
- Due to working with people backgrounds I get to learn a lot from everyone and how they think about solving a problem.
- Communication is the key but its a challenge
- Story telling was the key. we needed to make a report and ideally you should tell the entire story rather than just sharing the solution straight away
- Prioritisation of the issues. Not solving all of the problems but the ones that makes the most impact, etc.
If you are an experienced Product Manage or just starting out as one these are absolute bangers. I have seen not once but dozens of time people rushing to find the solution and maybe becuase this entire field has been focused around solving problems and providing values - which is not wrong but not 100% correct either. Product Manager’s job is about finding problems first then looking out for the reasons.
When finding and solving problems learning is imminent. You will learn a lot. LIKE A LOT! Or you wont be able to hack into this world. I never write code, I never studied CS, I never took courses or classes but yet I am proficient enough to understand basic code and understand what my team is talking about. I have learned hundreds of tools and techniques over the period of time that helps me getting very good at my job.
If anything you need to learn, yes learn, is getting good at communication. A good chat goes a long way. When you are working with people all around the globe its important to understand the culture of your team. What you hold sacred might be an element of fun for others - if you can master the communication here and able to get your message across successfully, trust me you are going places my friend.
I think story telling deserves a post of its own. But, as a Product Manager you would write stories all day long and if you get really good at that you will share the story with every user of your product and would be able to connect at a much deeper level.
Prioritization is a skill. Believe me, it is a lot harder than what you expect. People really struggle with focus and prioritization.
Understanding different problems that led me to help build the products. Now I work remotely, core part of my job is to communicate with the customers, technical team, higher management, etc. Ability to learn from everyone. Like literally learning from all types of resources I can get and I get to learn how to share a story. like now. like right now what we are doing here.
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