The interview presents information from 2014 and updates from 2021:
Q1: Describe your current position/role.
2014: Gabriela is a Deputy Manager in a Systems Engineering department of about 20 people. Her primary responsibility is to keep track of the development processes used in order to ensure that that the team is consistent and that all the Systems Engineering artifacts are systematically developed (e.g., use cases, requirements).
2021: Gabriela is a Consulting Systems Engineer and Technical Fellow at Northrop Grumman. As a senior technical advisor, her current assignment allows her to drive systems engineering and software development discipline across the organization. Her areas of focus include digital transformation and software modernization and sustainment.
Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?
2014: Getting respect from peers and having peers come to her for advice and feedback on how to do certain things is Gabriela’s most proud accomplishment. Additionally, Gabriela is proud of being able to work with her team and guide the less experienced Systems Engineers through the process including what to look at, influencing how they go through the process, and how to work with the team.
2021: Obtaining the INCOSE Expert Systems Engineer (ESEP) certification and being selected as a Technical Fellow, an elite group of technical experts within her company, have been two of Gabriela’s proudest professional accomplishments. Additionally, Gabriela is proud of influencing leaders, peers, and early career engineers within her organization to develop solutions for tough customer problems.
Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?
2014: The biggest challenge that Gabriela faces is budget restrictions. Another big challenge she faces is having higher level management appreciate the System Engineering processes. When management wants something quicker, she reinforces that it is the process that drives quality and that shortcuts sometimes sacrifice quality. The challenge is to try and negotiate the lead times to ensure that all the basic processes are covered adequately to ensure quality.
2021: One of the biggest challenges that Gabriela faces is change management especially when working with dated systems and methodologies.
Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?
2014: Gabriela advises to look at the big picture and drill down into the details. Additionally, Gabriela suggests obtaining assignments in different areas of the system life cycle such as development and testing to get more of the big picture and to get to know every fact of the lifecycle of the program to become good Systems Engineers.
2021: Gabriela’s advice for early career Systems Engineers is to take every opportunity, no matter how big, small, or glamorous to make a difference within their organizations. Sometimes doing a great job with a small task or less glamorous assignment can turn into an opportunity that propels one to discover people, and new solutions and challenges.
Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?
2014: Gabriela attends INCOSE webinars on a regular basis. She is the lead for the INCOSE Community of Practice at her organization. She coordinates with different speakers/presenters and hosts webinars for her community of practice.
2021: Gabriela is the chair of the INCOSE Training Working Group where she volunteers her time to provide and coordinate training to other INCOSE members, she attends INCOSE International Workshops, continues to lead the INCOSE Community of Practice at her organization, and mentors other engineers on their systems engineering journey. Additionally, she attends INCOSE and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) webinars.
Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?
2014: Gabriela would like to continue to progress in Systems Engineering. She would like to become a Systems Engineering manager who has authority to make decisions.
2021: Gabriela would like to continue to mentor early- and mid-career engineers so that they can make an impact in their organizations.
Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of work?
2014: Gabriela enjoys travel, exercise, triathlons, and being in the outdoors.
2021: Gabriela continues to enjoy travel (within pandemic boundaries!), exercise, and most recently launched her Keys to the Future podcast which provides advice and tips on staying focused on one’s education journey targeting under-served student communities.
Q8: Are there any other final comments you would like to make?
2014: Systems Engineering goes really well with interpersonal skills, since System Engineers have to be able to influence people to achieve common goals (e.g., on time, under budget). Interpersonal skills are something that the Systems Engineer should have in their bag of skills.
2021: Gabriela encourages early career engineers to start out by obtaining their ASEP certification and building the skills and experience that will set them up on a course to get SEP certification and beyond!
In 2021, we reached out to Ms. Coe to answer more questions:
Q9: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?
I decided to get the SEP certification initially because I felt it provided additional pedigree to my systems engineering experience. When I became eligible to pursue the ESEP certification, it really was the next logical step to take to continue having the certification from a world-renowned organization.
Q10: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?
I think having the CSEP and ESEP certifications have impacted my career in several positive ways, including meeting a lot of like-minded and SE-passionate individuals, applying the knowledge gained through having obtained the certifications to solving tough problems for our customers, mentoring young professionals on systems engineering activities and topics, and being recognized as a leader in my organization.
Q11: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?
What has surprised me in the past five years is how much systems engineering has evolved and the realization, by some leaders, that systems engineering is needed as the cornerstone of any system development.
Q12: What job title have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”
I’ve had “Systems Engineer” included in my title most of my professional career. I’m a Systems Engineer by training and at heart. Most recently, my title is “Consulting Software Engineer”, that is Systems Engineer of software systems.