I started my career as an electrical engineer, but I really leaned more towards the big picture. Once I solved a problem it would be very unlikely that I will find interest in solving it again or soliving a similiar problem. The engineer in me seeks new problems, gettign down to the nitty gritty details. However those I already solved would only be interested in overlooking them, giving advice on them at a high strategic level...
Some say systems engineering is really a management discipline more than an engineering science. I tend to agree, as systems engineers we are not neccessarily developing technological or engineering-oriented systems... what I mean yes most systems engineers out there are working on a project for a missle, a space shuttle, an enterprise information management system, and e-commerce application, etc... however a system engineer could be as well developing a human resoruce organizational policy, a school governance structure, a hospital management system, or a marketing strategy for a metropolitian city.
You might ask how, the answer is simply that systems engineers master methods and approaches for dealing with the development of complex systems. A complex system is one that flows from a complex process that converts organized human thought, resources and time into descriptions of organized sets of things that function together to achieve predetermined function. This is a slightly modified defintion from what Jeffrey Grady mentioned in his book, "System Validation and Verification".
A simple fact about systems engineering that Jeffrey Grady mentions in his book, is that the amount of knowledge that humans have exposed is far in excess of the amount of knowledge that any one person can master and efficiently apply in solving problems.
The development of any system is a problem-solving process that transforms simple statements of customers into a clear description of a system realizing a solution to the customer's need. Complex problems require the understanding of different perspectives, technologies and a very broad knowledge base that any one person can master alone, hence the need for specialists as well as generalists who could control, direct, organize and plan the various activities and outcomes of specialists work towards a unified solution, that is where the systems engineer comes in... So yes, I do agree a systems engineer is a sharp manager, with engineering background, who can engineer complex solutions and architect visions to problems solutions, who can become very technical and specialized not only in an engineering discipline what whatever discipline the problem seeking a solution for involves.
I do believe there will come a day when systems engineers will be developing government strategic plans, architecting hospital management systems, developing not-for-profit organizations' policies and service frameworks and a lot more solutions to areas which most engineers do not consider to be engineering, i.e not mechanical, electrical, civil or industrial systems.
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