Working Outside of Your Comfort Zone

by Taras Alexander Mykytyn


System Engineers are very disciplined individuals that are focused on addressing challenging technical problems on any given program.  We have specific skills, knowledge, expertise, tools, processes, and procedures that we follow based on past success and experience.  How does the System Engineer adapt to the future challenges on programs while maintaining their expertise and overall skills?  Key here is to be flexible and adapt to changes in one’s environment, poised to address any new technologies and new ways to collaborate and communication with your stakeholders, partners, and program leadership. 

This article is an introduction to the various topics noted below, which will be covered in future articles.  It’s important for our discipline to take an aggressive and more bold approach to making a major impact on any program.  Technology and our environment are changing at a more dramatic pace than ever before.  Some examples of these changes are:

  1. Cloud technology and integrated services (IaaS, Paas, SaaS);

  2. Dev-Sec-Ops for quick software development and deployment of capabilities into production/operations;

  3. Time-to-market pressures where market penetration and being 1st into a market may mean survival of your company;

  4. Short-windows of opportunity for assessing and addressing technical environments for mission critical capabilities;

  5. Constant demand for advanced analytics for Big Data problems and the associated better visualization and reporting capabilities; 

SEs must learn to embrace these changes and bring innovative ideas and approaches to multi-disciplinary teams as technical leaders and as knowledge managers.  Understanding the drivers and priorities of our customers is very important.  But more important is providing the customers, users, and stakeholders a quick assessment of what the scope, impacts, and challenges lay ahead on a specific program, product development, or service deployment.  Completing upfront, very focused engineering, to bring emphasis to a desired end-state for a product, service, or capability, sets the stage for the level of complexity and engineering that needs to be addressed.  Coordination between the engineering, software development, integration, testing, deployment, support, and program management teams has to become more streamlined and adept at working more efficiently and effectively.  This is where SEs can provide “the big picture” and “focused-engineering” discipline to a program taking on more of a role as a product, services, or capability technical lead and manager.  This is not typically how SEs are viewed, but in the future, the ability to perform this role becomes more and more important for a program’s success.

Future articles for the President’s Point of View will address the challenges noted above and hopefully provide SEs a push to “think differently” as we all find ourselves challenged by the fast and ever-changing pace of today’s technology and operational environments that are present.  Change is good and getting out of our comfort zone should personally and professionally be motivating and encouraging for SEs.  Tackling new and complex challenges is what SEs should be motivated about in their careers.

Future proposed topics include the following:

  1. Diversity + Expanding Beyond DoD/IC/FedGov

  2. SE Tools of the Future – “Not Your Typical SE Toolbox”

  3. Multi-Disciplinary Integration – “Cooperation with Others at a Whole New Level”

  4. “Taking Two Steps Back to Move Forward” (an SE’s Reflection)

  5. “Who’s in Charge” – Managing Large Programs

  6. Managing Information in NRT – “Keeping All Stakeholders in Sync”

  7. “How Does SE Fit into a Dynamic SW DEV Environment”

  8. “Engineering Details – Who Cares”

  9. “Can I Make a Difference as an SE”

  10. “Fixing What’s Broken and Working”

  11. Seeing the “Technical” Forest Above the “Engineering” Trees

Soliciting feedback on which topics readers would like addressed initially, and if there are other topics of interest that should be addressed.