While working at Rockwell Collins as a systems engineer, I have come to appreciate the value of the top-down approach to design. We are building very complex systems with large teams and it is impossible for any one person to know how every widget works and fits together. Because of this complex interaction my first boss, Bill Piche, always reminds our team that “we are all systems engineers.” When he said this he wanted to make sure that all of the software engineers, hardware engineers, and control law engineers considered how their changes impacted the rest of the avionics system, the airplane, and the crew. After participating in the development of a system from requirements capture through test, it became more apparent to me why it was so important.

When I accepted my first job at Rockwell Collins, I completely understand of the responsibilities of the systems engineer, because I had not been exposed to the discipline yet. Between on the job training, an elective during my master’s degree and independent study, I began to learn the model for systems engineering and the value that it can bring to the development process of complex products. Since I struggled to find resources when I first started as a systems engineer, I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences with other people.

I am excited to be able to share my experience by leading a workshop at the Society of Women Engineer’s Annual Conference (WE12) this November in Houston. The session description is:

“In a competitive market, we are all asked to build products that are better, faster, and cheaper. Sometimes that creates pressure to take shortcuts on important steps, like up-front requirements capture. This can create costly yet preventable challenges when it comes time to integrate and test the system. When designing a component, every engineer should understand how it integrates with the rest of the system. We might use a systems engineering model to provide a top down process to define the whole system. This interdisciplinary approach for the design and development of products allows for a complete definition of system requirements that can be allocated to each component of the system. The entire life-cycle of a product is taken into consideration with this approach. This workshop will start with an introduction to the system engineering model, followed by an opportunity to practice capturing requirements of a system, and will conclude with a discussion about verification and validation.”

Follow me (@RebeccaEE) on Twitter for updates and interesting facts as this presentation comes together this fall. I hope to see you in Houston.