WiSE Feature Interview- Chantelle DuBois

How did you get started in the field of systems engineering?

I think my first real introduction to the concept of systems engineering began during my time in undergrad when I was a member of the University of Manitoba Space Applications and Technology Society (UMSATS). At the time, this group participated in the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, which is a competition for university team's to build nanosatellites. Part of our responsibilities while competing was to define our system requirements, and then build our nanosatellite accordingly. I became really interested in the idea of systems engineering as a career from that point, since it appeared to be a very versatile role that involves having a really good top-down view of an entire engineering project and coordinating with different technical teams. This intersection, which was technical but also people oriented, really appealed to me.

What do you find interesting or exciting about working in the field of systems science and systems engineering?

I find systems engineering interesting because, no matter what domain you work in, every engineering project needs (or could use) a systems engineer (or many). The process and skills won't differ that much, even if the quirks of the project do. Space systems engineering, as a process, probably looks a lot like agriculture systems engineering, and so on. What I think makes systems engineering exciting, is that in my experience you meet other systems engineers who often simultaneously have really deep domain knowledge, but now are applying it in a systems way to support a project. I love seeing how that intersection changes your perspective on engineering problems and the solutions that you come up with. It's moving from the micro-details to the macro-details.

What advice do you have for those just starting out in the field of systems engineering?

I'm an early career systems engineer, so I can only speak from my limited experience: if you are still a student, get involved in an engineering student group. Ideally, one that is actively building something and involves other types of engineering students. Learning about systems engineering in a classroom is one thing, but seeing it in action for an actual thing you are building and applying the principals is another thing completely. For those just entering the work force, I'm finding that not being afraid to ask your more senior colleagues for advice is very helpful. Additionally, not being afraid to take initiative, and not to worry too much if you don't know something. There is a learning curve, and the more complex a project is, the bigger that curve will be.