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Everyone a Systems Engineer … or at least a Systems Thinker?

by Patrick Williams on February 26, 2012  •   Print This Post Print This Post   •   

Presidents POV

Don YorkMy first job out of college was as a Mechanical Engineer. Although I was doing finite element analysis to calculate stresses for state of the art electromagnetic devices, I was told that “every engineer is a marketer”. Our mindset was to be such that we were all to be thinking about new business and growth opportunities for the company no matter what our role, be it technical or otherwise. I thought about my charge back then to think as a marketer and want to draw an analogy to today where I believe that, in the context of the highly complex technical environment in which we function, everyone should be thinking as a systems engineer.

Should everyone, be they a software developer, a database engineer, a tester, or even a program manager, function to some degree or at least be thinking as a systems engineer? Complex systems, system of systems, the cloud, spins, sprints, sustainability and more – the quagmire of interdependencies at times seems mind boggling. For example, if I deploy or upgrade this software or hardware, what is the effect, if any, on some downstream or interconnected system? Will I negatively impact performance or bring down a critical system? What systems touch or interact with what I’m doing and how? (The old N-squared Chart for you dyed-in-the-wool systems engineers.) So, I return to my “every engineer is a marketer” analogy. In order to function effectively in the midst of the complexities and interdependencies of today’s technical world, should we adopt the slogan “everyone is a systems thinker”?

Dr. Don York,
2012 CC President,

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