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A better world through a systems approach

Interview with Stephen Guine, CSEP

Courtney Wright

Sep 08, 2021

SEP Interview 17 - Stephen Guine photoThe following questions are from an interview in 2014:

Q1: Describe your current position/role.

Stephen is a Systems Engineering Integrated Product Team (IPT) Manager for the B2 platform and a functional manager for B2 Systems Engineers in Palmdale, CA. He has been doing this work for about eight years and is currently adding new capabilities to the platform while ensuring backward compatibility. He is in charge of a team of about 30 engineers.

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

As a Systems Engineer and Analyst with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Stephen developed a model of systems operation, power operation, and taxation relationships. This involved metrics and modeling, detailed understanding of the phenomenology to include fluid dynamics, and understanding of environmental and budgetary constraints across the entire life cycle. This model showed a Systems Engineering approach to understand and provide solutions to a very complex and interrelated problem. Another project Stephen is proud of is providing education/training to new engineers at Northrup Grumman Corporation (NGC) with processes and tools that provide background and insight into the program. This approach ensures that an evolving workforce can be assured for future program success.

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

Stephen is challenged by the product and the environment which acutely affect the role of the Systems Engineer. Engineers at the lowest levels do not appreciate system level implications of development and how it affects other subsystems. On the business side of the house, quality Systems Engineering is not always an integral part of every program as it is not usually appreciated as value added. On the customer side, there is a similar issue of implementation.

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

Steven advises to have respect for all disciplines involved in the development cycle of a system while appreciating that Systems Engineering provides a very valuable input to the system design. Systems Engineering needs to be viewed as an evolving practice that grows with experience, tool development, and new processes. Systems are becoming more and more interrelated as systems of systems leading to infinite complexity which requires a very disciplined approach. One needs to understand that this discipline is a moving target.

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

Stephen continues to learn by involvement with associations. Being the vice president of the INCOSE LA Chapter provides him with opportunities to meet other engineers from many industries and exchange ideas. Teaching the practice of Systems Engineering forces him to look at problems in a variety of different ways and learn from others. Getting involved in areas outside of his primary role in the aerospace industry allows Stephen to learn from other field applications and challenges. Stephen reads several Systems Engineering papers a year from publications such as INSIGHT and conference publications to stay abreast of recent developments.

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

One of Stephen’s goals is to move upward in the organization to a Systems Engineer leader and on to multi-program roles. Stephen would also like to be able to promote Systems Engineering research and participate in panels that discuss various aspects of Systems Engineering and design.

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

Stephen enjoys finish carpentry of furniture to blend the use of tools, planning of the design, and implement the process with artistic insights and ergonomic use.

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

The joy received from Stephen’s involvement in Systems Engineering is in the hard work and the rewards of a successful program where one can point and say that the process really led to the success.

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

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

I got the certification for a couple of different reasons. First off, while I generally don’t believe in the value of a certification certificate, I deeply believe in the value of the knowledge that you are forced to gain or reacquaint yourself with to get a certification. In my case, I was transitioning into a new company, into a new industry. And although I had done systems engineering for quite a while, because I was coming from a different domain, I felt that certification would be a stamp of “approval” and give me a greater amount of “street cred” in my new organization and not having to spend so much time re-proving my bona fides. Additionally, I knew that some of the systems engineering knowledge that I had was kind of stale. I saw getting certification as a useful approach to relearning, refreshing, reacquainting myself with that core knowledge, not only for my long-term benefit, but also for my immediate benefit in a new organization by being able to show that not only did I understand systems engineering in practice, but I also understood it in theory and I understood how to apply that theory to the practice.

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

The SEP is a hell of a calling card. When I meet new people from new organizations, whom I may not have worked with or I’ve worked with lightly, having a SEP is my entree into other system engineering environments and conversations. Additionally, for situations where it is necessary to regress the conversation to discussing the fundamentals of the practice of systems engineering and then extrapolating to how we might best implement it for the system at hand, having that SEP lends credence to my words, especially if someone is not familiar with my previous work.

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

I would say that the rise of easy-to-build software or low-cost software has unduly influenced some into thinking that robust systems engineering may not be necessary, because the cost of implementing and iterating through multiple software builds of a system – let’s just say an app – is relatively low. And this has tricked some individuals and organizations into thinking: “Well, let’s just go.” Very similar to the old practice of “just start coding” and we’ll see where we go. I think that many organizations, especially, with the rise of cybercrime have realized or have started to realize that in a modern cyber physical world, having an incredibly strong understanding of the system under design, the environment into which it will be deployed, the varied and myriad of user’s needs – especially, when we’re talking commercial systems – and the nearly endless number of malicious actors, actually highlights the need and the value of strong systems engineering. I feel that, maybe, we’re starting to turn the corner on that.

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

Integrated Functional Capability Manager, Incremental Verification Engineer, Mission Engineer, System Architect, Model Based Systems Engineer. But probably, the one that I think I appreciate most is, he’s the guy who gets problems solved.

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  1. Emmet Eckman | Sep 09, 2021
    Great blog! We certainly need systems thinking and systems engineering on large scale programs like the one you serve! Keep doing what you are doing to make sure that system stays safe and secure! Again, the thread across so many blogs is that people don't understand the role and impact of systems thinking and engineering. You should meet our colleague Wafa, who blends her talent for engineering with her love and passion of painting!

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