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A better world through a systems approach
  • Interview with Gabriela Coe, ESEP

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 07, 2021

    SEP Interview 07b - Gabriela Coe photoThe interview presents information from 2014 and updates from 2021:

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.

    2014: Gabriela is a Deputy Manager in a Systems Engineering department of about 20 people. Her primary responsibility is to keep track of the development processes used in order to ensure that that the team is consistent and that all the Systems Engineering artifacts are systematically developed (e.g., use cases, requirements). 

    2021:  Gabriela is a Consulting Systems Engineer and Technical Fellow at Northrop Grumman.  As a senior technical advisor, her current assignment allows her to drive systems engineering and software development discipline across the organization.  Her areas of focus include digital transformation and software modernization and sustainment.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    2014: Getting respect from peers and having peers come to her for advice and feedback on how to do certain things is Gabriela’s most proud accomplishment. Additionally, Gabriela is proud of being able to work with her team and guide the less experienced Systems Engineers through the process including what to look at, influencing how they go through the process, and how to work with the team.

    2021: Obtaining the INCOSE Expert Systems Engineer (ESEP) certification and being selected as a Technical Fellow, an elite group of technical experts within her company, have been two of Gabriela’s proudest professional accomplishments.  Additionally, Gabriela is proud of influencing leaders, peers, and early career engineers within her organization to develop solutions for tough customer problems.

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    2014: The biggest challenge that Gabriela faces is budget restrictions. Another big challenge she faces is having higher level management appreciate the System Engineering processes. When management wants something quicker, she reinforces that it is the process that drives quality and that shortcuts sometimes sacrifice quality. The challenge is to try and negotiate the lead times to ensure that all the basic processes are covered adequately to ensure quality.

    2021: One of the biggest challenges that Gabriela faces is change management especially when working with dated systems and methodologies.

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    2014: Gabriela advises to look at the big picture and drill down into the details. Additionally, Gabriela suggests obtaining assignments in different areas of the system life cycle such as development and testing to get more of the big picture and to get to know every fact of the lifecycle of the program to become good Systems Engineers.

    2021:  Gabriela’s advice for early career Systems Engineers is to take every opportunity, no matter how big, small, or glamorous to make a difference within their organizations.  Sometimes doing a great job with a small task or less glamorous assignment can turn into an opportunity that propels one to discover people, and new solutions and challenges.

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    2014: Gabriela attends INCOSE webinars on a regular basis. She is the lead for the INCOSE Community of Practice at her organization. She coordinates with different speakers/presenters and hosts webinars for her community of practice.

    2021: Gabriela is the chair of the INCOSE Training Working Group where she volunteers her time to provide and coordinate training to other INCOSE members, she attends INCOSE International Workshops, continues to lead the INCOSE Community of Practice at her organization, and mentors other engineers on their systems engineering journey.  Additionally, she attends INCOSE and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) webinars.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    2014: Gabriela would like to continue to progress in Systems Engineering. She would like to become a Systems Engineering manager who has authority to make decisions.

    2021: Gabriela would like to continue to mentor early- and mid-career engineers so that they can make an impact in their organizations.

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?

    2014: Gabriela enjoys travel, exercise, triathlons, and being in the outdoors.

    2021: Gabriela continues to enjoy travel (within pandemic boundaries!), exercise, and most recently launched her Keys to the Future podcast which provides advice and tips on staying focused on one’s education journey targeting under-served student communities.

    Q8:  Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

    2014: Systems Engineering goes really well with interpersonal skills, since System Engineers have to be able to influence people to achieve common goals (e.g., on time, under budget). Interpersonal skills are something that the Systems Engineer should have in their bag of skills.

    2021: Gabriela encourages early career engineers to start out by obtaining their ASEP certification and building the skills and experience that will set them up on a course to get SEP certification and beyond!

    In 2021, we reached out to Ms. Coe to answer more questions:

    Q9: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

    I decided to get the SEP certification initially because I felt it provided additional pedigree to my systems engineering experience.  When I became eligible to pursue the ESEP certification, it really was the next logical step to take to continue having the certification from a world-renowned organization.

    Q10: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

    I think having the CSEP and ESEP certifications have impacted my career in several positive ways, including meeting a lot of like-minded and SE-passionate individuals, applying the knowledge gained through having obtained the certifications to solving tough problems for our customers, mentoring young professionals on systems engineering activities and topics, and being recognized as a leader in my organization.

    Q11: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

    What has surprised me in the past five years is how much systems engineering has evolved and the realization, by some leaders, that systems engineering is needed as the cornerstone of any system development.

    Q12: What job title have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

    I’ve had “Systems Engineer” included in my title most of my professional career. I’m a Systems Engineer by training and at heart.  Most recently, my title is “Consulting Software Engineer”, that is Systems Engineer of software systems.

  • Interview with Peter Graham, ASEP

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 05, 2021

    SEP Interview Template 2021 - Peter Graham photoThis interview was conducted in 2021.

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.

    I am a systems engineering consultant at The Energy Systems Catapult. My main responsibility is helping stakeholders in the public sector, primarily UK government departments, understand why and how to take a systems approach to solving problems around the UK energy system transition for net zero greenhouse gases.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    1. In 2019 I started my own business consulting in systems engineering. This was a calculated risk and a significant challenge. Over time, this became a genuine enabler to grow as both a person and a systems engineer. I increased my professional network, explored new challenges, and invested in my own personal development (including progressing to ASEP). I know I wouldn’t have achieved these things without the drive and opportunity of having my own business.
    2. I co-authored and presented a paper for the INCOSE UK Annual Systems Engineering Conference (ASEC) in 2020 called ‘Harambe: The Only Way to Net Zero’. I didn’t consider such an endeavor in the past but the learning process and the hard work was ultimately rewarding if a little cathartic at times. I’m proud to have an output that is available in the public domain and may go on to influence or inspire some activities that are related to its content.

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    Getting stakeholders to understand the concepts and principles of tackling problems with a systems perspective. Examples include subject matter language barriers or conflicts in working between problem space and solution space. In extreme cases, there is an active push back on taking a systems engineering approach because there is perceived to be no time and/or money. It is challenging to convince some stakeholders of the benefits that are afforded by systems engineering. We could do with more “off-the-shelf” and bitesize examples as a community to help overcome this.

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    Stick to the fundamental rule of always following your passion. It can be important to pay attention to trends in industry, skills, markets but don’t let those be the main drivers for your career decisions. Do what you love now, and the rest will fall into place over time. There is plenty scope in systems engineering to have a full and varied career which evolves over time.

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    I am the chair of the Energy Systems Interest Group which gives me regular engagement with INCOSE UK and its members. I am also a member of the MBSE interest group. In addition, I attend ASEC every year which helps networking and staying on top of the latest activities across the systems engineering community. Aside from that, I try to find the time to advance my knowledge through webinars or training courses or reading literature such as the INCOSE UK ‘Don’t Panic!’ series of books. Lastly, I find the volume and quality of online resources (e.g. SEBoK) ideal for continual learning. The challenge therefore, is reduced to finding self-motivation and time.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    Achieving CSEP is my next milestone. Beyond that, I’d like to achieve CEng status which is also now offered by INCOSE UK. I also have a growing desire to contribute to systems engineering literature but I’m still working out in what form that would be and what level of commitment would be required.

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?

    I enjoy all forms of sports and actively participate in triathlon, golf, football and mountain biking. I also really enjoy live music and play the drums in an indie-rock band. I have a love of the outdoors too and find hill-walking or open water swimming is best to get me immersed in nature. It’s surprising that I can still claim these things as I have two young children who also occupy a lot of my time in the most amazing ways.

    Q8: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

    I felt I needed to consolidate my status as a systems engineer and demonstrate some credibility for my career path and personal achievements. Almost all other professions offer a similar step and, generally, the high performing people want that recognition (and generally it’s rewarded in other professions). The SEP initiative offers a great pathway for systems engineering practitioners and my hope is that as systems engineering continues to grow, so does the presence and recognition of SEP.

    Q9: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

    In some ways the impact is internalized. I don’t sense that industry nor individuals actively seek this out yet I feel more confident and more credible within myself when putting forward thoughts and/or arguments around systems engineering. The nature of achieving any level of SEP means you need to pass the knowledge exam and without doubt the push to achieve this has helped me understand systems engineering practices and processes much better than I would have if I hadn’t embarked upon SEP.

    Q10: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

    There are two surprising things emerging. One is how instantaneously the scope of problems, complexity and interoperability has lent itself to a systems engineering approach. So, the original concepts and methodologies of what we now know as systems engineering are becoming more and more relevant over time and significantly so in the past 5 years. The other major surprise is the recognition that systems engineering is receiving from those outside of the community e.g. non-practitioners, other industries, academia, and public sector. In the UK at least, this appears to be driven by large-scale, complex problems such as achieving net zero greenhouse gases by 2050 or the transition to autonomous vehicles.

    Q11: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

    Laser systems engineer, production team lead, and graduate technologist.

    Q12: Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

    As a community of system engineering practitioners, we need to consider what the future holds, what sets us apart from others, and what is value-adding about systems engineering. The challenges I mention in Q3 are – in my opinion – a real barrier to adopting systems engineering on a larger scale. In doing so, we must remain pragmatic that it’s not a “one-size fits all” situation; so there may be occasions where systems engineering isn’t the most suitable approach.

  • Be the Blog

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 05, 2021
    We would love to include you in our SEPtember 2022 blog posts. If you are a SEP who wants to participate, please answer our interview questions in this form: https://forms.gle/KdMBknkBdtNibWuy9 In June or July 2022, our intern will reach out to everyone who has submitted a form response. 

    Are you a student who would like to be our next paid intern? Look at the INCOSE Volunteer Opportunity Board to see the listing for position CER-007. We hire interns twice per year, with the resume submission date listed at the Volunteer Opportunity Board site. https://www.incose.org/about-incose/volunteer-opportunities/vo-request 

    The Volunteer Opportunity Board is where we list other volunteer opportunities, too, including creating exam questions and volunteering as an application reviewer. 
  • Interview with Clement Smartt, CSEP

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 05, 2021

    The following questions are from an interview in 2014:

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.

    Dr. Smartt holds an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics from Texas A&M University, a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Southern Methodist University (SMU) and a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering with a Systems Engineering research focus from the University of Texas at Arlington. He is currently a research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) focused on Systems Engineering. He performs systems engineering research, writes journal and conference papers documenting his SE research, and performs capability assessments on systems.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    Two of Dr. Smartt’s proudest professional accomplishments include an accomplishment applying Systems Engineering and an academic research accomplishment. Dr. Smartt’s applied accomplishment came during his time as the technical lead for the capability assessment of a major ISR platform. On this effort he applied Systems Engineering analysis techniques and quantitative rigor to develop a revolutionary technology investment roadmap that recommends investments with high ROI that had not previously been identified in past assessments.  Secondly Dr. Smartt conducted empirical academic research in Systems Engineering, conducting surveys and presenting findings from the analysis of the survey results in his dissertation and in a conference paper entitled “Exploring Beliefs about Using Systems Engineering to Capture Contracts” for the 2014 Conference on Systems Engineering Research.  Through this work, Dr. Smartt was able to provide statistical evidence supporting the validity of certain beliefs about how to use Systems Engineering on proposals.

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    Dr. Smartt believes that the biggest challenge he faces as a SE is the lack of empirically based guidance to perform the Systems Engineering tasks. Lots of lessons learned, rules of thumb, and best practices exist in SE.  There is some very serious and promising research over the last several years that is beginning to really examine the effectiveness of Systems Engineering.  More research along these lines is needed.

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    Dr. Smartt recommends a strong education and work experience in a technical domain, with a class or two as an introduction to Systems Engineering.

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    Dr. Smartt attends SE conferences, writes SE papers, performs SE research for GTRI and, on a daily basis, practices mentoring and introducing others to Systems Engineering concepts and practice.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    Dr. Smartt has a goal to serving as a project director on a multi-million-dollar Systems Engineering effort to gain further insight into the effectiveness and scalability of particular Systems Engineering processes.

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interest outside of work?

    Dr. Smartt has a passion for roller coasters and independent films.

    Q8:  Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

    Dr. Smartt believes that, as a general rule, modern systems are highly complex, and feels that Systems Engineering provides a set of technical and management process to tackle this complexity and provides an interface between technical and business disciplines.

    In 2021, we reached out to Mr. Smartt to answer more questions:

    Q9: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

    I thought that it would help me advance in my career and help me get promoted.

    Q10: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

    It makes me a more desirable member to add to a project team. Including this in my bio in proposals may also help the organization I work for win contracts.

    Q11: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

    I have been surprised by how much progress has been made in advancing open system architectures. I am also pleasantly pleased to see the full-on DoD embrace of digital engineering (including model-based systems engineering) by very senior, influential leaders.

    Q12: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

    Research Scientist, Senior Research Scientist, Principal Research Scientist, Branch Chief

  • Interview with Ramakrishnan Raman, ESEP

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 04, 2021

    RamkiThis interview presents information from 2014 and updates from 2021.

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.

    2014: Dr. Raman is currently a Practice Head, championing Knowledge Based Development in his organization.  He coaches product development teams across multiple businesses, ensuring robust optimal architecture/design of complex systems and systematic closure of prevalent knowledge gaps through rapid learning cycles in presence of uncertainty and variability. He also champions core platforms and core architectures and systematic/strategic reuse practices.

    2021: I am currently Principal Systems Engineer at Honeywell. In this current role, I serve as a Technology leader driving strategic technology areas across multiple Centers of Excellence (COEs) in Aerospace. I lead an organizational level technology leadership council, comprising senior technologists towards influencing and driving technology strategically in the organization. I serve as Systems Engineering and Software Architecture technical leader, ensuring overall architecture design robustness for complex systems. Further, I also lead the adoption of Artificial Intelligence - Machine Learning in complex cyber-physical systems.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    2014: Dr. Raman is involved in developing systems in very diverse areas.  He has had a lot of technically complex subjects to resolve, and he is proud of his involvement in overcoming the challenges. In recent times, Ramakrishnan has been instrumental in driving significant transformational initiatives in his organization. These initiatives had to be driven with significant responsibility in the change transformation, but very little authority. Ramakrishnan is also the first CSEP from India.

    2021: I received the INCOSE Outstanding Service Award in 2016 for sustained outstanding and significant contributions towards the growth of systems engineering awareness, adoption, and practice in INCOSE and India. The Editorial Board of Systems Engineering journal had selected my paper "Decision learning framework for architecture design decisions for complex systems" (the paper is based on research done as part of my doctoral thesis work,  and co-authored with my thesis supervisor) to be among the best from those published in 2019.

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    2014: Driving change, in the way engineers think about a problem and architect/design the system, has been one of the biggest challenges for Dr. Raman. Other challenges include meeting the ever-shortening project lead times, ever increasing complexity of system-of-systems, and dynamically adapting to ever-changing situations.

    2021: Challenges are what makes a systems engineer learn, and a positive approach to each challenge invariably leads to the possible solutions

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    Dr. Raman advice to individuals starting their careers as Systems Engineers is to keep an open mind, look at the big picture, and try to keep things simple. Systems Engineers need to strive to arrive at the simplest workable solution for complex problems, by finding the right questions to ask and right problems to solve.

    2021: To reiterate, systems thinking and “big picture” perspective are the distinguishing value-added considerations that the systems engineer possesses—factors which individual discipline engineers might often lack. Systems engineers develop the power of abstraction as applied to multi-disciplinary knowledge, but aptitude of science, engineering and mathematics helps.

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    2014: Dr. Raman is active in the local INCOSE chapter. He interacts with multiple people in industry and academia.  Ramakrishnan teaches part-time on a Masters Engineering Program on Avionic Systems (one semester per year).  As part of teaching, he has to keep up with the latest thought processes and trends in systems engineering so that he can bring that to the classroom.

    2021: I continue to actively participate in professional societies, including INCOSE, IEEE and SAE.  I am currently the Assistant Director – INCOSE Asia Oceania Sector, where I work along with Sector Director and Chapter Presidents to further INCOSE vision, mission and goals. I am actively engaged in prestigious international conferences, where I have delivered invited/ plenary talks, and chaired tracks. I have also been the Technical Program Chair for international conferences including 2016 & 2019 Asia Oceania Systems Engineering Conference, and 31st  INCOSE International Symposium. I actively interact with students and faculty in various academic institutions, and am currently Guest Faculty at IIT Bombay Aerospace Department, where I teach engineering masters course on systems engineering.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    Dr. Raman would like to continue to progress in Systems Engineering by handling more complex systems and playing a larger role in driving change in the way systems are designed and built.  He would like to capture his learnings to-date in a more formal manner such as a technical paper.

    2021: I aim to contribute significantly towards addressing systems engineering challenges pertaining to engineering of new technologies in complex systems and system-of-systems, specifically on Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning.

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interest outside of work?

    Dr. Raman likes to read philosophy books and travel to historical places both within India and abroad.

    In 2021, we reached out to Mr. Raman to answer more questions:

    Q8:  Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

    Applying system thinking on every scenario is motivating, and Ramakrishnan would like to continue to progress in that area.

    Q9. Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

    SEP certification provides the required international recognition for my systems engineering knowledge, education, and experience. I was the first CSEP from India early in 2005, and in 2018 I was the 8th ESEP certified in Asia Oceania Sector.

    Q10. What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

    The pace at which systems are being subject to ever increasing footprint of product functionality, inter-connectivity, and differentiation has surfaced many challenges. Now, modern systems are envisioned to emulate and simulate beyond human intelligence to achieve their goals and perform better than their “traditional” predecessors. The need for such modern systems to have enhanced self-awareness, self-control and self-evolution requires enhancements in conventional systems approaches.

    Q11: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

    Knowledge Based Development Practice Leader, Practice Head - Reuse Engineering

  • Interview with Cecilia Haskins, ESEP

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 03, 2021

    SEP Interview - Cecilia HaskinsThe following questions are from an interview in 2014:

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.

    Dr. Haskins is currently an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). She teaches students courses in Systems Engineering and systems thinking, which she considers two distinct parts of the Systems Engineering discipline. Cecilia has taken on large roles with INCOSE where she serves on the Board of Directors as Director for Communications and has been the INCOSE New Chapter Coordinator since 1999. In addition, she has been part of the INCOSE Events Committee since 2004. Cecilia is one of the original 37 INCOSE CSEPs. She took the original six-hour beta exam in 2003 and has just been awarded the Founders Award while attending her 22nd consecutive INCOSE International Symposium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    Dr. Haskins' biggest accomplishment has been to inspire young engineers as an educator. This opportunity derives from a career move from industry to academia after moving to Norway and allows her the opportunity to pass on the importance of and an appreciation for Systems Engineering. Her classroom is international and stimulating.  It is like having a mini-United Nations teaching environment. She is also extremely grateful for the leadership, friendship, and learning opportunities afforded to her through INCOSE.

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    Dr. Haskins' greatest challenge is communication. To expand on Scott McArthur’s keynote address at the INCOSE IS 2014, communication and interpersonal skills are often described as “soft” skills while engineering and design are considered “hard” skills. In practice, most engineers are good at the “hard” skills. These are what they have been educated to do. Often they have little or no training or practice in the soft skills. Even recognizing the importance of these soft skills does little to prepare a Systems Engineer for some of the communications challenges they will face. To paraphrase Scott, these soft skills must be deliberately practiced to build up the scar tissue of experience.

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    Dr. Haskins' career has been very atypical. She has always considered herself a Systems Engineer from day one on her first job. If she were to give advice to a new engineer desiring to become a Systems Engineer, she would tell them to be curious and get in touch with their inner three-year-old. Three is when most people learn that magical word “why.” If one is asking why and exploring their first job with curiosity, they are engineering in a systematic way. Cecilia believes in consistently acting this way and to find oneself in a System Engineering job before long.

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    Being in academia is a constant learning experience. Dr. Haskins learns at least one thing from students every day. Students have a different perspective and different ideas. Part of her learning comes with the research she does, which means she reads a lot. INCOSE is also an important source of her good learning opportunities.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    Dr. Haskins is very happy in academia.  Her participation in INCOSE will continue. Prior to retirement, Dr. Haskins would like to establish a curriculum and Master of Science in Systems Engineering program at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interest outside of work?

    Dr. Haskins enjoys crime novels, travel, and spending time with her growing family.

    Q8:  Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

    The 25th anniversary INCOSE symposium will be held in Seattle, Washington next year. Dr. Haskins plans to be there, and she hopes each SEP considers going as well to enjoy the advantages of networking with each other.

  • Interview with Wayne Biden, CSEP

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 02, 2021

    SEP Interview - Wayne Biden PhotoThe interview presents information from 2014 and updates from 2021:

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.


    2014 - Wayne is a Combat Systems Architect and a Systems Engineering manager for the group he works in. He has been with Thales for 25 years. In his role, Wayne is responsible for ensuring changes made to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Adelaide Class Frigate (FFG) Combat Systems are robust and satisfy legacy and new customer requirements, safety standards, fitness for purpose expectations, and environmental regulations.

    2021 - I am the Systems and Specialty Engineering Manager for the business unit I work in.  I have been with Thales for 32 years.  In my role, I am responsible for ensuring that the Systems and Specialty (Safety, ILS, Cybersecurity) engineering capability is aligned to deliver the projects to their customers, ensuring resourcing, tool, practice and process are optimized.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    2014 - Wayne was responsible for designing upgrades to the “identification friend or foe” (IFF) system for the RAN FFG to integrate the system with the Combat Management System. He was also responsible for negotiating and obtaining agreement with the customer for acceptance of the overall Combat System upgrade as part of a major overhaul of RAN FFG vessels. Not all of the requirements for this system supported straightforward verification – some were ambiguous which made outcomes subject to interpretation, some were too abstract and impossible to fulfill. The project customer, representing the user, didn’t want to change the requirements during contract establishment. Wayne led the effort to negotiate agreement of satisfying users need rather than the explicit requirements as the means of gaining acceptance for completion of the upgrade. Adding complexity to acceptance were problems with legacy systems that impacted successful completion of test activities.

    2021 - In a previous role as Engineering Manager, I was responsible for achieving a resolution between international business units on remediation activities to fulfill a system capability involving an acoustic sensor system for a submarine.  The project and their partner were unable to agree on the problems, nor the path to resolution within the time frame available.  I brought the key stakeholders together and through facilitated workshops prioritization was given to which issues would be resolved and how to enable delivery.

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    2014 - Knowing the correct amount of tailoring to apply to any given project or activity. This is something one often learns through experience, since the challenges for each project aren’t the same time to time. It’s often a hard sell to the company as well as the customer. To satisfy the company’s business objectives, management would like the minimum effort (cost) and risk possible, but as a Systems Engineer, you know that risk aversion can only be fulfilled through implementing SE processes and activities. The challenge is to select the correct amount of these to ensure an acceptable level of risk for the project.

    2021 - Including the right amount of resource allocation for specialties.  Often specialties, like safety, security, ILS, etc. get minimal budget.  During projects, when their input is needed it is not often planned or time-aligned resulting in extra effort and schedule delays.

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    2014 - Wayne’s advice to an individual starting their career is to: question your understanding of the problem holistically, not just by looking at the requirements. Look at how the customer intends to use the product or service, how they want to maintain it, and how they want to dispose of it. An SE needs a thorough understanding of the customer’s overall needs. As an example, Defense customers often want product support through the end of life, and if this need is not considered early enough in the development, you won’t have a satisfactory product or service at the end.

    Wayne began his career as an electrician, worked for a defense company, then completed an Electrical Engineering degree. In a discipline degree program, one learns techniques for doing detailed research and investigation, but not necessarily to have the “larger picture” view of the Systems Engineer.

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    2014 - Recently completed online refresher course in SE; and does short course training. He attends conferences such as those held by the Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA) which is an affiliate of INCOSE; is writing CSEP exam questions for INCOSE SE Handbook V4; and does document research via standards.

    2021 - Currently undertaking online learning and local (company) short training on systems engineering topics including practice and tools. Some of this is extension training (eg. Cybersecurity), some reinforcement.  I attend conferences such as those held by the Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA) which is an affiliate of INCOSE.  As the current Chartered Australian Systems Engineer (CASE) manager for SESA, I participate in a number of interviews with Australian systems engineers and learn about the types of systems engineering they perform.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    2014 - Wayne plans to teach Systems Engineering theory and practice as part of an in-house program for Thales. He is working toward becoming an internationally recognized SE expert within the company.

    2021 - I am working toward becoming an internationally recognized SE expert within the company.

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interest outside of work?

    2014 - Outside of work Wayne enjoys playing football, attending musical theater, bush walking, family outings, camping, and watching motorsports.

    Q8:  Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

    2014 - It’s very fulfilling for Wayne to participate in the extra-curricular activities of Systems Engineering such as attending conferences, working on the SEP exam questions, and conducting training to further develop other SE practitioners.

    2021 - It’s very fulfilling for me to participate in the extra-curricular activities of Systems Engineering such as attending conferences, performing SEP reviews, and conducting training to further develop other SE practitioners.

    In 2021, we reached out to Mr. Biden to answer more questions:

    Q9: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

    2021 - I got SEP certification to enable recognition of the standing within the systems engineering profession by external entities (customers, industry) and also for the pride of achieving a benchmark of capability in the profession.

    Q10: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

    2021 - It has enabled me to participate within the systems engineering domain with respect and recognition from peers and customers and has enabled my company to delegate responsibility for solution acceptance and sign-off.

    Q11: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

    2021 - There has been a greater push to systems of systems engineering involving autonomous equipment focusing on large amounts of information acquisition for consumption, processing and use.  Also, the move to digital twins and greater model-based simulation of systems for risk reduction and ongoing system support.

    Q12: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

    2021 -

    • Requirements Engineer
    • Combat System Design Authority
    • Systems Engineering Manager
    • Engineering Manager
    • Systems and Specialty Engineering Manager
  • Interview with Laurie Nasta, CSEP

    by Courtney Wright | Sep 01, 2021

    SEP Interview 04 - Laurie Nasta photoThe following questions are from an interview in 2014:

    Q1: Describe your current position/role.

    Laurie is a senior systems engineer for a major defense contractor in the Washington D.C. Area.   She supports a Government IT program in a governance role, where she performs requirements analysis, architecture implementation, strategic planning, and outreach to the larger IT user community.

    Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

    One of Laurie's proudest accomplishments was when she made a convincing argument, backed by systems engineering analysis, to cancel a program that was duplicating what an active program already effectively performed. She faced tremendous resistance, from both inside her organization and outside, to keep the other program alive. No one ever likes to see work eliminated, but this decision, while difficult, saved the Government (and therefore the U.S. taxpayers) millions of dollars.

    Another example was when Laurie was working in Configuration Management (CM) and Logistics.  She had a boss who had no idea what she did, or what the value of her role was as Lead Engineer on the program. Laurie educated her boss on the importance of CM and how involving CM earlier will save a program time and money.  Her boss allowed her to implement early CM audits, which uncovered a major defect at Preliminary Design Review (PDR), which would have been very costly to correct later.  Correcting the defect delayed the completion of PDR for a month, but reduced cycle time in the operational program from three weeks to three days.  Afterward, her boss told Laurie, “You were right – it was worth it!”

    Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

    The biggest challenge Laurie faces is when she knows something is wrong, but it may not be politically correct or accepted to say so.  A Systems Engineer has to have the integrity to stand up for their convictions and get the point across.

    Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

    Laurie advises new Systems Engineers not to get stuck in a rut doing the same thing.  Instead, gain experience in multiple areas to truly understand what it means to be a Systems Engineer.  Do not knock the approach of “learning by doing” as experience is the best teacher!

    Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

    Laurie continues her professional development by continuing to add certifications (she has five at this time), attends conferences (she has presented at several), taking advantage of the wealth of on-line learning resources, and participating in other related associations (such as the Innovative Solutions Consortium).  Laurie was also the president of the Washington Metropolitan Area (WMA) Chapter of INCOSE during 2012-2013.

    Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

    Laurie is working to obtain her INCOSE ESEP certification.  She wants to have a research paper accepted at the INCOSE conference and stay gainfully employed in a rewarding and interesting job!

    Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?

    Laurie enjoys bike riding, Pilates, yoga, karaoke, and keeping up with her teenage boys and their activities.

    Q8:  Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

    Laurie encourages young Systems Engineers to find a mentor they respect that they would like to emulate to help them excel in their careers.  Experienced engineers need to find ways to get connected with younger engineers. It is a challenge because of hectic schedules, but very important. Do not be afraid to fail because that is how we learn. If one does not learn from their mistakes, they are doomed to repeat them!

    In 2021, we reached out to Ms. Nasta to answer more questions:

    Q9: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

    First of all, I was in the original 'beta' class for the earliest SEP tests; the test was over 400 questions, and we were given 8 hrs.; I finished in 4 or 4.5 hrs.  At this point in my career, I had been doing systems engineering work but was called by different names:  logistics analyst/engineer, configuration management analyst/engineer, and program management analyst.  But I was doing technical work on submarine communication and combat systems.  However, I found that those other 'titles' were often construed as administrative, or non-technical.  I felt I had experienced the whole systems engineering life-cycle in the many programs I supported, and understood multiple areas of SE and could demonstrate my knowledge to prove it.  So, while others, including my manager at the time were hesitant to take the test, I felt it could truly demonstrate my knowledge and experience was more than my job titles.  I passed that initial test (believe I was CSEP #47), and continued to demonstrate my knowledge, experience, and leadership by being certified as an ESEP a few years ago.  I also passed the Acquisition Extension, which is no longer offered as an exam/certification, which has also demonstrated my knowledge and experience in this specialized domain as well. 

    Q10: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

    Being among some of the first SEPs in the field, initially it had more intrinsic value then overt career benefits.  I had 'bragging rights' and was sometimes cited as one of a few certified SEs in the company.  It also gave me confidence, and I used my platform as a certified SEP to persuade others of the certifications value.  I can remember working in a government program office and managing to persuade two of my government customers that they should get certified.  I would say it has only been in more recent years -- maybe last 10 or so, that I have really seen job requirements actually called for CSEPs or ESEPs.  I have also advocated to government folks and government HR folks to recognize it from an equivalency perspective for some government engineering positions, but that is a hard field to plow.  Would love to see INCOSE do more to convince the government agencies we SEs support recognize the certification in a meaningful way, especially for those of us who are non-traditional (traditional = education) SEs.

    Q11: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

    I would say that the recognition of SEs importance in many more domain areas than the longstanding DOD/military/aerospace.  Also, that the need for good SE just seems to continue to increase as the complexity of systems increase, as well as world problems/crises.  It bodes well for the profession.  I also am heartened to see more focus on the 'soft skills' side of SE and the rise of SE competency models for use in hiring and advancement.  Sadly, there is still a huge gap in the HR world on what an SE is, and how they can help projects....we are not coders, modelers, Systems Admins, etc...there are some SEs that might have these skills or do these types of functions, but it does not represent the full nature of a trained SE, esp a certified one with experience in multiple SE disciplines.  This is another area where an INCOSE public relations campaign can change a world of perspectives. 

    Q12: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

    In earlier response I noted some of those other titles, some of which came with other certifications (e.g. PMP, Agile), but to reiterate:  Project Manager (PM), PM analyst, Acquisition Engineer/Analyst, Systems Analyst, Configuration Management Manager/Analyst, Logistics Engineer/Analyst, and Supportability Engineer.  But my favorite title is MOM; and, yes, SE has helped me be a better Mom too!

  • How long is the exam?

    by Courtney Wright | Aug 27, 2021
    The exam, plus registration and instructions, typically takes between 2 and 3 hours.

    Every version of the exam has 100 scored questions. This is true no matter how many exam questions are given to each candidate. All candidates are given at least one minute per exam question.

    Candidates whose native language is English are given as as many minutes for the exam as they have questions. This is 100 minutes for a 100-item exam, 120 minutes for a 120-item exam, or 150 minutes for a 150-item exam.

    Candidates whose native language is other than English are offered additional time. They get 30 minutes extra for 100- or 120-item exams and 40 minutes extra for 150-item exams. They are given 130 minutes for a 100-item exam, 150 minutes for a 120-item exam, and 190 minutes for a 150-item exam. Most exams have either 100 or 120 items.

    A candidate should expect 20 to 30 minutes of instructions and registration before an exam starts.
  • Meet our first intern, Daniela Cantarino

    by Courtney Wright | Aug 20, 2021

    Daniela Cantarino had the opportunity to intern for the INCOSE Certification Program during the second and third quarter of 2020, mentored by Courtney Wright. However, her story does not quite begin in the United States. She is originally from Spain but had a multicultural upbringing, living in different countries including U.A.E, Switzerland and Italy. She has been therefore exposed to multiple cultures, languages and traditions, making her a “melting pot”. Ultimately, she ended up in the land known as the “melting pot” itself, the United States. In particular, she got her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. Although the latter is a great accomplishment, Daniela constantly seeks challenges to expand her knowledge and further understand her passions. This led her to continue her studies, pursuing a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering at the University of South Florida, where today she is concentrating her research in the Healthcare System. Her interest in the latter was mainly fueled by her involvement in different healthcare systems around the world and the inevitable comparison among them.

    Focusing on her tasks and achievements during her time at INCOSE, Daniela analyzed and interpreted data associated with 450,000 Professional Development Units (PDUs) from over 1,000 members with 40,000 activities claimed. Her work, alongside Courtney Wright and Rusty Eckman, was then presented during an INCOSE webinar (#141) aided with visual representations of the data trends. Prior to this presentation, Daniela also participated in another INCOSE webinar (#139) where she and her mentor Courtney Wright explained all the Engineering Certifications offered by INCOSE. Lastly, she gathered data and created a Change Request Log to efficiently reflect the Certification Advisory Group updates and modifications to internal documentation.

    If you wish to connect with Daniela, you can find her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielacantarino/

  • Meet our second intern, Bhautik Vadher

    by Courtney Wright | Aug 13, 2021

    Bhautik Vadher is a graduate mechanical engineer. He pursued his Bachelor’s (Honours) degree from the University of South Australia. Before going to Australia, he completed his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from UKA Tarsadia University, where he was awarded with 4 golden academic excellence award consecutively, for his excellent performance in the study of mechanical engineering. He has great passion for Computer Aided Design and has in-depth knowledge of Finite Element Analysis. He has led many academic projects as project manager and a leader. Some of the academic projects are: Warman 2019, Adelaide Hills Sewage Storage upgrade, MARS habitat project and Optimization of motorcycle’s engine. He volunteered as a UniMentor at University of South Australia, where he provided ongoing support, offering a friendly face to new students and helping to make their transition to University easier.

    He was INCOSE’s first certification intern from Australia. The Certification Program Manager identified his skill in creative tasks so asked him to develop INCOSE’s certification videos, illustrations, power point presentations and to create the Certification Blog. He contributed his perspectives on the Certification web site map, performed data analysis, and hosted two international webinars, working with other members of INCOSE on the preparation and delivery.

    The recordings of the webinars are posted here:

    https://connect.incose.org/Library/Webinars/Pages/INCOSE-Webinars.aspx

    147 Best Practices for Global Business

    146 Online Testing for Students and Professionals

    He also reached out to Kerry Lunney (INCOSE president) and other INCOSE leaders around the world to know their perspectives on global business. During his final semester at school, one of his INCOSE connections hired him for part-time work in website development and help starting up a new business, based on his exemplary work for INCOSE. 

    As he recently graduated from University of South Australia, he is excited to work with organizations and industry where he can contribute his CAD and engineering knowledge to complete projects successfully. In his leisure time he improves his skills on AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS for 3D Model development and Photoshop, Illustrator and Premier pro for media development.

    You might want to connect with him after reading his information and work. The best way to reach him is via LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bhautikvadher47

  • Meet our Recent Intern, Jonatan Loaiza

    by Courtney Wright | Aug 06, 2021
    Jonatan Loaiza is a graduate student from Peru. His bachelor degree is in Industrial Engineering from the Andean University of Cusco. He also has an MBA from the Rey Juan Carlos University of Spain.

    Before coming to the United States, he worked in several companies of different economic sectors such as financial, health, mining, and electric power distribution. 2021 marks his second year in the PhD program in Systems Engineering and in the U.S. His research interests are manufacturing systems, quality assurance, and risk management. His goal in the program is to improve my research skills and gain experience in the academic field. He is highly interested in studying new manufacturing approaches such as digital manufacturing and automated systems. His hobbies are playing sports, and computer games, reading books and listening to all kinds of music.

    Jonatan performed several tasks for the INCOSE Certification Program during the second and third quarter of 2021. He developed a new method of volunteer training using Google Forms and coordinated with 30 engineers from around the globe. Those interviews will appear as blog posts in September 2021. He also created online forms for submission of content from INCOSE volunteers and proposed future posts for the Certification blog. 

    Those wishing to connect with Jonatan can reach him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jhloaiza/

  • Will INCOSE accommodate my medical needs?

    by Courtney Wright | Jul 30, 2021
    Yes. Please tell us what you need (certification@incose.org), and we will help. 

    For the application paperwork, let us know if you use a screen reader and need help viewing the forms.

    For the exam, we can add give you extra time or breaks, and allow medical equipment, if you ask us in advance. 

    During the ESEP interview, it may be helpful to have extra time or to have the questions communicated visually as well as verbally.

    To request these or any other accommodations, use the Special Accommodations Form posted at the Certification Forms page: https://www.incose.org/systems-engineering-certification/certification-forms  and submit to certification@incose.org before you apply or at the same time you submit your certification application.
  • May I claim PDUs for participating in the INCOSE International Symposium?

    by Courtney Wright | Jul 23, 2021
    Yes! You may claim PDUs for time you spend watching presentations (live or recorded) or participating in cafés. Learn more about renewal here: https://www.incose.org/systems-engineering-certification/the-certification-process/how-do-i-renew 
  • How many years of references do I need for ESEP?

    by Courtney Wright | Jul 14, 2021
    All ESEP candidates, regardless of their education or years of experience, are required to have references verify at least ten years of systems engineering experience. They do not have to verify all 20 or more years of required SE experience. This is different from CSEP applicants. There is no requirement that the references be from the most recent ten years of experience.

    Another requirement for references that differs between CSEPs and ESEPs is that ESEP references do not have to confirm a particular depth and breadth of experience. 

    Zero, one or two of the ESEP references may be interviewed over the phone as part of the ESEP assessment process. It is useful but not required to have at least two references who can speak to recent systems engineering leadership.
  • How do I know which exam I'm taking?

    by Courtney Wright | Jul 09, 2021
    Candidates for ASEP and CSEP certification take the same exam. You do not need to declare which certification you plan to get when you take the exam. It's the same questions and the same passing score required no matter which certification level you will pursue.

    Candidates testing online or on paper take the same exam ... sort of. All candidates take at least 100 exam questions, and only those 100 questions are scored. Some candidates also take another 20 or 50 questions that are not scored. Those are beta questions that INCOSE is testing on the candidate, to decide if we should use them in the future. They do not affect your score. If you take any beta questions, you may also be asked demographic questions, like how many years of experience you have. These also do not affect your score or the required passing score.
  • Who reviews my certification application?

    by Courtney Wright | Jul 02, 2021
    The volunteers who review CSEP and ESEP application packages are Certification Application Reviewers (CARs). They are CSEPs and ESEPs who have completed training about the certification application requirements. This and other volunteer roles for SEPs are listed here: https://www.incose.org/systems-engineering-certification/i-am-a-sep You can express your interest in one of our more formal roles, like CAR, through the INCOSE Volunteer Opportunity Board: https://www.incose.org/about-incose/volunteer-opportunities/vo-request
  • How can my university get an Academic Equivalency?

    by Courtney Wright | Jun 25, 2021
    The INCOSE Certification Program recognizes multiple verification methods for an applicant's knowledge of the Systems Engineering Handbook. One method is the knowledge exam. Another method is to recognize assessments done as part of a university program. Academic Equivalencies (AcEqs) are this second path.

    A university considering having its students' schoolwork credited toward the INCOSE knowledge exam should first review the information INCOSE has posted online. There are both administrative and technical requirements that can be met in parallel.

    Administratively, a university must be a member of the INCOSE Academic Council or international equivalent. They must also sign an agreement with INCOSE about the execution of the AcEq. 

    The technical requirements for AcEq approval are captured as a compliance checklist. INCOSE provides a template listing learning objectives (LOs) and asks a university to complete the list by describing which courses and which assessment methods are used against each LO. The most challenging part of this task for most universities is that they are used to describing what they teach, not what they assess. It is acceptable to INCOSE that a university assesses against topics they do not teach, but it is not acceptable to lecture on a required topic but to leave that topic unassessed. 

    Several other requirements and details are listed at this page
  • Where are the SEPs?

    by Courtney Wright | Jun 12, 2021
    As of the second quarter of 2021, the INCOSE Certification Program has over 3800 SEPs, with approximately 2/3 from North America, primarily the United States. Outside the US, the leading countries with SEPs are the UK, Germany, Australia, Turkey, France, Italy, and Sweden. All of these countries have 100 or more SEPs. 

    Employers with the most SEPs are Northrop Grumman Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC, Airbus, and Thales. They are followed by other large defense and aerospace companies.

    The Certification Program posts a presentation of SEP statistics on the INCOSE website, here: https://www.incose.org/systems-engineering-certification/SEP-Learn-and-share 
  • Who can proctor an INCOSE exam?

    by Courtney Wright | Jun 11, 2021
    The INCOSE Certification Program requires verification of SE knowledge as part of the ASEP and CSEP certification levels. This verification is typically performed by passing the knowledge exam. Knowledge may also be verified through Academic Equivalency

    The most popular way to take the knowledge exam before the pandemic was in a classroom. As the pandemic risks reduce, INCOSE is opening back up to this format. INCOSE chapters may request to host an in-person exam. They need to provide a facility and a proctor. Proctors must be CSEPs or ESEPs who are endorsed by their Chapter President, or members of the international Board of Directors. They must have no conflicts of interest with having access to the exam content. The Certification Program Manager approves all proctors.

    Individuals around the world may take the INCOSE knowledge exam online, using their personal computers and web cameras.