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A better world through a systems approach

Interview with Alejandro Hernandez, CSEP

Courtney Wright

Sep 26, 2021

SEP Interview (Alejandro Hernandez) photoThis interview was conducted in 2021.

Q1: Describe your current position/role.

My current position is principal engineer at Roche Diagnostics International. This position is a matrix leader position, where I need to coordinate the work of my colleagues from different specialties. I am also a technical lead, with the responsibility of defining best practices, architecture and conceptual solutions for our projects.

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

My two proudest professional accomplishments were the development of a sensory feedback for myoelectrically controlled prostheses system during my PhD and the successful lead of a complex features encompassing the need to coordinate the work between chemistry, electronics, software and system integration to be implemented in several of our instruments for automated diagnostics.

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

The biggest challenge I face as a Systems Engineer is the communication between our very diverse stakeholders in our projects. Finding the right communication channels to be able to transmit the right level of complexity and technical detail is one of the biggest challenges I find in my work.

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

I will recommend patience, since systems engineering covers different disciplines and topics, and it requires time to be able to get the understanding on how everything is connected in the lifetime of a system.

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

I continue educating myself on different topics regarding System Engineering. I am particularly interested in systems architecture, and the tools that help to manage complexity. Since one of the challenges is communication, I am studying Model Based Systems Engineering, to be able to encapsulate the complexity of our systems with different levels of abstraction, so that I can address the right level to the right audience.

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

One of my personal goals is to become a Lead Systems Engineer/System Architect at my work, to be able to contribute with the tools provided to have very successful projects, such that we can continue improving people lives through our automatic diagnostics instruments.

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

I love reading, technical and non-technical literature. Depending on the mood, I might spend my time learning new technical topics, or spend some relaxing time reading fantasy or Science fiction books.

Recently, I enjoy going to the forest with my wife and daughters.

Q8: Why did you decide to get the SEP certification?

I learned about system engineering through a colleague who happened to be very enthusiastic about the topic and a CSEP. He explain to me what a system engineer does and the positive impact it has on systems development. Since I had a broad spectrum of responsibilities in my work, becoming a system engineer looked to me as the next logical step in my career.

Q9: How does the SEP certification impact your professional career?

The CSEP certification helped me to position myself in my company as a person with the required know-how to help us handle the complexity in our projects. Besides the certification, the possibility to exchange ideas with like-minded people has open several doors to my professional development.

Q10: What has surprised you in the past five years related to systems engineering?

Our systems have increased use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, software as a differentiator, and a closer interaction between intelligent machines and their users. All these factors increase the complexity for the management and development of the systems. Therefore, I am most interested in the evolution of the Model Based Systems Engineering discipline, and its impact on managing the increase complexity of our systems.

Q11: What job titles have you had other than “Systems Engineer?”

I have held the roles of Software Developer, Lead Software Developer, Research Assistant, Scientist/Project Lead, Senior Embedded Systems Engineer, Software Architect, and recently Principal Engineer.

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