People ask me what I do for a living. It’s a fair question, one I certainly feel comfortable asking other people, and, yet, one I can’t easily answer for my own career. I tell them I’m an “industrial mathematician.”
A business operates some set of processes or activities within a set of limitations or constraints and realizes some kind of outcome, revenue or profit, from it. (How is that for a general definition of a business?) In its operation, a business makes choices or decisions that affect the outcome. The process of selecting the best decisions that stay within the business limitations is called “constrained optimization.”
My education is in a field called “Operations Research,” so named because it started as the study of ways to help the U.S. military after World War II. It is also called “Management Science” with similar fields called “Industrial Engineering” and “Engineering-Economic Systems.” In one form or another, these fields specialize in constrained optimization, finding the best solution amid a vast array of choices, maximizing a given objective within specified limitations.