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Creating a Win-Win Rotational Program. 4/4/2014. Janine Brown. Systems Engineer. Produce Knowledgeable Systems Engineers and Aid in Knowledge Sharing Across a Company. Need for Experienced Systems Engineers. Traditionally, systems engineers were the most experienced engineers at a company

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creating a win win rotational program

Creating a Win-Win Rotational Program


Janine Brown

Systems Engineer

Produce Knowledgeable Systems Engineers and Aid in Knowledge Sharing Across a Company

need for experienced systems engineers
Need for Experienced Systems Engineers
  • Traditionally, systems engineers were the most experienced engineers at a company
    • Extremely knowledgeable
    • Spent years working their way up
    • Many don’t have official systems engineering training
  • Today’s systems are more complex than in the past and require:
    • Top technical capabilities
    • Fast development and production
    • Low cost

Source: JSF Lightening II Photo Gallery

Systems engineers with extensive knowledge are more crucial than ever

traditional education helps
Traditional Education Helps
  • Universities are helping with the education of systems engineers
    • Degrees at the undergraduate, masters, and doctorate levels
    • Curriculums often include projects to simulate real system challenges
    • Many professors have worked as systems engineers for large companies and bring real world experiences to their courses
but nothing replaces experience
But Nothing Replaces Experience
  • The best systems engineers have many years of practice
    • They have experienced success
    • They have experienced failure
    • They understand that it takes time to learn

Source: A Case Study and Analysis of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Failure

No amount of education can teach you everything you need to know for a career in systems engineering

so how can a rotational program help fill the void
So How Can a Rotational Program Help Fill the Void?
  • Expands systems engineering skills through various projects
  • Develops the ability to learn and understand new systems quickly
  • Intensifies an understanding of different areas of the systems engineering life cycle
  • Encourages learning in a variety of domain areas

Rotational programs speed up the SE learning process

there s another benefit aside from learning
There’s Another Benefit Aside from Learning
  • Many companies have numerous sites located all over the country (and even world)
    • Each site usually provides expertise in a different domain area
    • Sites often manufacture very different products
    • Each location has their own culture
  • A rotating engineer will provide:
    • Knowledge sharing
    • Greater network to connect people

Rotational programs increase knowledge sharing across a company

experienced engineers are optimal for rotational programs
Experienced Engineers are Optimal for Rotational Programs
  • Benefits:
    • Working knowledge of the company
    • Solid technical base and experience to share with others
    • Known passion for systems engineering
  • Challenges
    • Willingness to get out of their comfort zone
    • Potentially settled with family
program logistics
Program Logistics
  • Outline how the rotational program will work
    • Duration of the overall program
    • Length of each rotation
    • Types of rotations – all technical or a mix of technical and business
    • Commitment required by each participant both during and after the program
    • Relocation policy
find qualified candidates
Find Qualified Candidates
  • Define the selection process and criteria that works for the company
    • Nomination by management vs self nomination
    • Required years of experience
    • Required education
    • Proof of technical expertise and leadership ability through letters of recommendation
    • Demonstrated interest in systems engineering

Look for candidates with the potential to become high caliber systems engineers who continually to challenge themselves

identify challenging rotations
Identify Challenging Rotations
  • Provide challenging work assignments
    • Achieve buy-in from managers that the engineer can provide value in a short amount of time
    • Ensure the rotation increases the engineer’s awareness and exposure to systems engineering and the company
    • Work with the employee to determine the experiences they need to broaden their knowledge base
      • Requirements Analysis
      • Systems Architecting
      • Integration and Test
      • Risk management

Increase the individual’s exposure to different disciplines, program sizes, lifecycle phases, job assignments, leadership styles, cultures, and customers

provide relocation support
Provide Relocation Support
  • To gain the most out of rotating, the engineer will need to physically move around the company
    • Determine if there are policies in place to support this
      • Ship/rent vehicle
      • Lodging assistance if individual has a mortgage
    • Define how this will work for single, married, and employees with children
      • Decide if there is support for spouses and children to move around too
    • Consider if trips home can be funded
obtain upper management backing
Obtain Upper Management Backing
  • Encourage management to be supportive of taking on rotating engineers
    • Reassure teams that the engineer will also be sharing their knowledge from another site
    • Recommend managers utilize the engineer for challenging short term tasks
  • Provide financial support for relocation
    • Projects providing the rotational experience are not likely to also pay for the relocation
    • Host organization may need to pay for employee’s relocation (housing, car, etc.) if they are already paying a mortgage

Upper management needs to support the rotational program in both technical and financial areas

  • Rotational programs can help fill the need for experienced systems engineers
    • Quickly increase the technical development and systems engineering proficiency of employees
    • Strengthen the knowledge sharing network around the company.
  • Management support is required to keep the program effective and feasible for employees
about the author
About the Author
  • B.S. Electrical Engineering
  • M.S. Systems Engineering
  • Northrop Grumman Systems Engineer
    • Started rotational program with 6 years of experience as an integration and test engineer
    • Participated in 4 rotations over 2 years
      • New technology development and customer demonstration
      • Requirements development
      • Modeling and simulation
      • System architecting
      • Program audits
photo credit
Photo Credit
  • F-35 LIGHTNING II PROGRAM Photo Gallery
  • A Case Study and Analysis of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Failure
    • Smith, Doug, 99.497 Engineering Project, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, March 29, 1974, Supervised by Professor G. Kardos.