What is Systems Engineering.....no, really?

Looking to change career fields or contemplating to request a new assignment? Here's where you find out if the grass really is greener on the other side...
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discofishing

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Unread post07 Jul 2017, 04:25

I'm recently graduated from college and am trying to chart a career path in engineering. Tell me if I'm wrong, but it seems industry is pushing for folks to get masters degrees in systems engineering. My limited experience is this: titled and practiced as both an electrical engineer doing hard EE stuff (little under 2 years) and a position (little over 2 years - much better paying one) as a "systems" engineer doing nothing more than technical secretary work, populating excel spreadsheets and "counting" stuff which supposedly translates into "designing/updating architecture", "integrating/interfacing", and "updating processes and writing requirements". I noticed the EE job was WAY more challenging and required HARD SCIENCE/MATH KNOWLEDGE and experience with industry standard tools like MATLAB, Labview, PSPICE, etc etc. The systems engineering position did not seem like REAL engineering at all. Instead it felt like technical program/project management or "engineering awareness" using MS Office as our "engineering tool". I got paid much better as a systems engineer than an electrical engineer, but I can't understand why. The job was boring and didn't require much thought, as all of that was shipped to the folks called suppliers, some of which are overseas. I'd have to say the EE work was awesome, while the SE work was beyond dull. Where is the US industrial base headed?
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neptune

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Unread post08 Jul 2017, 11:13

discofishing wrote:I'm recently graduated from college and am trying to chart a career path in engineering. Tell me if I'm wrong, but it seems industry is pushing for folks to get masters degrees in systems engineering. .....


In most cases, the college degree shows the willingness to work to learn and sometimes even a basic foundation on which to build for today's career requirements. I heartily encourage all to continue education credentials and MS and PHD in the core disciplines and are always rewarded and thus worthwhile. I am a technologist and am always interested in learning new information every day. Even when participating in 4-40 Billion dollar petro/chem projects, I still find time to build my own home computers and stuff them with the latest hardware and software.

I took the "lite" approach and followed EE in computer and communications, with design and manufacturing in my early 8080/ Z80 years. It was very challenging and rewarding. Later, I moved into customer applications (matching the capabilities to the requirements) and because of the D and M background it gave me an edge in optimizing the projects. Now at the end, I am happy with PM and fitting the pieces together to win the competition, within the "scope, schedule and budget" world, thus providing jobs for my manufacturing engineers. The technical and management ladder breakouts are at different levels in different industries but the end result is the same, chief engineer/ CEO. Follow what's "fun", usually that will lead to bigger bucks and eventually to the more interesting career path. :)
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Roscoe

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Unread post14 Aug 2017, 04:54

Systems Engineering is really a process that goes from requirements to design to production.
Roscoe

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discofishing

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Unread post28 Sep 2017, 05:53

Thanks for the replies. I got the heck out of that position. So far, from what I've seen, systems engineering is beyond worthless. It's like trying to give common sense an engineering title. Every engineer should be able to wear the systems engineering hat at some point.
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rheonomic

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Unread post29 Sep 2017, 00:19

To be fair, good systems engineers are incredibly useful, especially for large programs. In such cases the systems engineer generally works at a higher level integrating the various subsystems (propulsion, flight control, mission systems, etc.).

But if you like to do the really technical stuff, stay away.

I will note that some companies use the title of "systems engineer" fairly broadly, so it's important to look at the req.
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