WiSE Women Share Wisdom

Somayeh Sojoudi

University of California, Berkeley
United States

 

 

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

I got my master’s degree in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Control Theory and System Dynamics at Concordia University and this was the first time I started studying and doing research on systems engineering. After getting my master's degree, I attended the PhD program at California Institute of Technology, where I worked on theoretical aspects of control theory and optimization together with their applications in power systems, communication networks and medicine.

 

 

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

We are living in an era where almost every system is getting smarter. The legacy power grid is changing to smart grid to have more sustainability and resiliency, and smart transportation systems aim to enable the dream of driverless cars and automated highways. More generally, we are moving towards smart cities with many sensors, a lot of data to process, and many decisions to be made in real time. The operation of smart cities relies heavily on computational tools. Because of that, we need to have computational tools that are reliable and efficient so that they can be used for safety-critical systems, such as transportation and energy systems. With that in mind, my research has been focused on designing such algorithms and it is very exciting to see how that will help with transitioning to smart cities.

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

Engineering is all about details, but it's important not to lose sight of the big picture. It is an exciting time to work in the field of systems engineering.

Holly Handley

Old Dominion University
United States
2 (Eastern U.S.)
How did you get started in the field of systems engineering?

Back in 1999, I was a military spouse with three children ages 3, 5 & 7. We moved to Northern Virginia when my husband was stationed at the Pentagon. I decided it was a good time to go back to school to get a PhD - I have bachelor and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering. George Mason University, the nearby state university, only had an umbrella PhD program called Engineering and Technology. I applied to the program and was accepted - but I needed to find a graduate assistantship to cover the cost of childcare while I was in class. I went to campus and knocked on the doors of both the Electrical Engineering Department and the Systems Engineering Department. Only the System Engineering chair answered the door. He had an assistantship available earmarked for a US woman student – he offered it to me immediately with the caveat that my dissertation had to have something to do with Systems Engineering. 20 years later I am an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Systems Engineering Department at Old Dominion University. My research program investigates the intersection of System Engineering and Human System Integration, with a focus on System Architectures and Model Based System Engineering.

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

Everything is a system! The system boundary is where you as the engineer define it. I always define the boundary with the human operator inside the box – this forces me to think through how the human is part of the system and how that influences the system design. Now I am expanding my vision to have automation and artificial intelligence replace the operator; this increases the design space even further as I seek new ways to define how this impacts our understanding of the system and its relationship to humans “outside” the loop.

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

Say yes more often than you say no. Don’t be afraid to say yes to something that is outside your area of expertise or you feel you might be under-qualified. Just say yes and learn along the way.

Sarah Sheard

Carnegie Mellon University (Retired)
United States
How did you get started in the field of systems engineering?

After leaving graduate school I spoke with a former office mate who was working in satellite systems engineering and had this extremely attractive job doing the overall system, and I met his boss. I consider myself very fortunate to have been introduced to this early in my career.

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

No two days are alike. The range of things you can do in any one year is practically unlimited, and the field changes from year to year in an increasingly rapid fashion. It is impossible to be bored. You can, indeed must, combine learning from multiple fields and use all your brain. Technology, people skills, business, what you know about law, math, everything is important. That little snippet you heard two years ago in a hall becomes important when tracking an anomaly. That person you met over coffee holds the key to getting hold of some parts you need. All your skills are important.

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

When you don't know what to do and feel paralyzed because of it, ask yourself, "What would I do if I DID know what to do?" I did this once and realized that was easy, I'd ask around to find out who were the experts, call a meeting, send some emails,... and boom, I was off and running again. Our range of responsibility is so broad we can't be the experts and so it is no shame when we don't know something. We have to be used to just pushing through the uncertainty. Often just doing SOMETHING will get us the information we need to get closer to where we need to be.

Stephanie White

Senior Professor
Long Island University – Post Campus
United States
1 (Northeastern U.S.)
How did you get started in the field of systems engineering?

I worked for Northrop Grumman Aerospace in the Software Systems Department and became Head of Requirements Engineering and Architecture, working closely with the Systems Department on aerospace programs. I was fortunate to work with excellent researchers at the Software Productivity Consortium, NRL's Software Cost Reduction Project, and was the User Group Chair for the University of Michigan's Problem Statement Language/Problem Statement Analyzer Project. These groups recognized the importance of systems engineering in improving the outcome of software projects.

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

Systems scientists and systems engineers work on complex systems that are difficult to understand and build. The problems are interesting and diverse and the field is relatively new, so there is a lot that one can contribute.

 

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

Study in at least one related field prior to studying or working in systems engineering, as you will need that background to contribute to the understanding of a system. If possible, select a position where others are excited about what they are doing and learning.

Dr. Kanika Singh

American Bureau of Shipping
South Korea
10 (Asia and Pacific)
How did you get started in the field of systems engineering?

In my life, there is an ever-growing list of role models of extraordinary engineers who helped me to shape up to the technological career. Though my first inspiration is my father who paved my path towards engineering field. My father’s remarkable achievements during his lifetime and now, still impact me to be a better Engineer. While pursuing Electronics and Instrumentation system engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Delhi), my first research paper on piezoelectric system, presented at IEEE International conference, Atlanta, USA 1999 was awarded as best paper. I was selected to pursue further studies in University of Karlsruhe, Germany where I got exposure to micro/nano sensor system integrated with Automation & Control Systems. IEEE society membership since 1996 gave me several platforms and opportunities to interact with the pioneers of system engineering from various interdisciplinary field. During my Ph.D, from Pusan National University, South Korea, I was awarded the IEEE outstanding young engineer award. Further, my job as Senior Project Manager at ABS has broadened my horizon for sustainable digitalized marine & offshore system engineering.

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

System Engineering is a broad terminology which incorporates several multi-disciplinary fields. Effectiveness of systems engineering methods and innovative techniques are shaping the future and changing the world towards a sustainable world. It has several areas for which I am passionate especially for working in augmented reality, artificial intelligence system, and digitalization. Digitalization is the key to overcome industrial system challenges, eliminating duplicative efforts and providing data accuracy with IOT’s billion of smart sensor system analysis and data management system. It provides increased agility and better business model for Oil and gas industry. Digitalization of project management creates transparency in working process, accelerates delivery and pace up the business competitiveness.

 

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

Systems engineers are the pillars of developing the efficient new systems. They design, conceptualize, integrate, and manage complex systems over their life cycles. System design needs to be backed up with market & risk assessment so that the innovative system can be deployed to appropriate applications. The key success factors are enabling a variety of feedback, tremendous insights, and professional peer support to help tackle specific problems to take your job to new heights. Position yourself to lead and ferment sustainability system project initiatives through your organization and try to the edge your way across.