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A better world through a systems approach

Interview with Clement Smartt, CSEP

Courtney Wright

Sep 05, 2021

The following questions are from an interview in 2014:

Q1: Describe your current position/role.

Dr. Smartt holds an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics from Texas A&M University, a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Southern Methodist University (SMU) and a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering with a Systems Engineering research focus from the University of Texas at Arlington. He is currently a research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) focused on Systems Engineering. He performs systems engineering research, writes journal and conference papers documenting his SE research, and performs capability assessments on systems.

Q2: What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Two of Dr. Smartt’s proudest professional accomplishments include an accomplishment applying Systems Engineering and an academic research accomplishment. Dr. Smartt’s applied accomplishment came during his time as the technical lead for the capability assessment of a major ISR platform. On this effort he applied Systems Engineering analysis techniques and quantitative rigor to develop a revolutionary technology investment roadmap that recommends investments with high ROI that had not previously been identified in past assessments.  Secondly Dr. Smartt conducted empirical academic research in Systems Engineering, conducting surveys and presenting findings from the analysis of the survey results in his dissertation and in a conference paper entitled “Exploring Beliefs about Using Systems Engineering to Capture Contracts” for the 2014 Conference on Systems Engineering Research.  Through this work, Dr. Smartt was able to provide statistical evidence supporting the validity of certain beliefs about how to use Systems Engineering on proposals.

Q3: What is the biggest challenge you face as a Systems Engineer?

Dr. Smartt believes that the biggest challenge he faces as a SE is the lack of empirically based guidance to perform the Systems Engineering tasks. Lots of lessons learned, rules of thumb, and best practices exist in SE.  There is some very serious and promising research over the last several years that is beginning to really examine the effectiveness of Systems Engineering.  More research along these lines is needed.

Q4: What advice do you have for individuals starting their career as a Systems Engineer?

Dr. Smartt recommends a strong education and work experience in a technical domain, with a class or two as an introduction to Systems Engineering.

Q5: How do you continue to learn about SE? What professional development activities do you do?

Dr. Smartt attends SE conferences, writes SE papers, performs SE research for GTRI and, on a daily basis, practices mentoring and introducing others to Systems Engineering concepts and practice.

Q6: What are the next career goals you want to achieve?

Dr. Smartt has a goal to serving as a project director on a multi-million-dollar Systems Engineering effort to gain further insight into the effectiveness and scalability of particular Systems Engineering processes.

Q7: What are some of your hobbies/interest outside of work?

Dr. Smartt has a passion for roller coasters and independent films.

Q8:  Are there any other final comments you would like to make?

Dr. Smartt believes that, as a general rule, modern systems are highly complex, and feels that Systems Engineering provides a set of technical and management process to tackle this complexity and provides an interface between technical and business disciplines.

In 2021, we reached out to Mr. Smartt to answer more questions:

Q9: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

I thought that it would help me advance in my career and help me get promoted.

Q10: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

It makes me a more desirable member to add to a project team. Including this in my bio in proposals may also help the organization I work for win contracts.

Q11: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

I have been surprised by how much progress has been made in advancing open system architectures. I am also pleasantly pleased to see the full-on DoD embrace of digital engineering (including model-based systems engineering) by very senior, influential leaders.

Q12: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

Research Scientist, Senior Research Scientist, Principal Research Scientist, Branch Chief

1 comment

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  1. Emmet Eckman | Sep 05, 2021
    If we had more empirical evidence for SE what would change? For instance, there is a lot of empirical data on program failures (Nunn-McCurdy breaches). But, the failure is to move form lessons observed to lessons learned. We seem to always make the same mistakes (over and over again). How do we break the practice. I wonder too, if this happens across domains (does the transportation of automobile domain suffer from these same issues? 

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