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Interview with Wayne Biden, CSEP

Sep 02, 2021
Courtney Wright

SEP Interview - Wayne Biden PhotoThe interview presents information from 2014 and updates from 2021:

Q1: Describe your current position/role.

2014 - Wayne is a Combat Systems Architect and a Systems Engineering manager for the group he works in. He has been with Thales for 25 years. In his role, Wayne is responsible for ensuring changes made to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Adelaide Class Frigate (FFG) Combat Systems are robust and satisfy legacy and new customer requirements, safety standards, fitness for purpose expectations, and environmental regulations.

2021 - I am the Systems and Specialty Engineering Manager for the business unit I work in.  I have been with Thales for 32 years.  In my role, I am responsible for ensuring that the Systems and Specialty (Safety, ILS, Cybersecurity) engineering capability is aligned to deliver the projects to their customers, ensuring resourcing, tool, practice and process are optimized.

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

2014 - Wayne was responsible for designing upgrades to the “identification friend or foe” (IFF) system for the RAN FFG to integrate the system with the Combat Management System. He was also responsible for negotiating and obtaining agreement with the customer for acceptance of the overall Combat System upgrade as part of a major overhaul of RAN FFG vessels. Not all of the requirements for this system supported straightforward verification – some were ambiguous which made outcomes subject to interpretation, some were too abstract and impossible to fulfill. The project customer, representing the user, didn’t want to change the requirements during contract establishment. Wayne led the effort to negotiate agreement of satisfying users need rather than the explicit requirements as the means of gaining acceptance for completion of the upgrade. Adding complexity to acceptance were problems with legacy systems that impacted successful completion of test activities.

2021 - In a previous role as Engineering Manager, I was responsible for achieving a resolution between international business units on remediation activities to fulfill a system capability involving an acoustic sensor system for a submarine.  The project and their partner were unable to agree on the problems, nor the path to resolution within the time frame available.  I brought the key stakeholders together and through facilitated workshops prioritization was given to which issues would be resolved and how to enable delivery.

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

2014 - Knowing the correct amount of tailoring to apply to any given project or activity. This is something one often learns through experience, since the challenges for each project aren’t the same time to time. It’s often a hard sell to the company as well as the customer. To satisfy the company’s business objectives, management would like the minimum effort (cost) and risk possible, but as a Systems Engineer, you know that risk aversion can only be fulfilled through implementing SE processes and activities. The challenge is to select the correct amount of these to ensure an acceptable level of risk for the project.

2021 - Including the right amount of resource allocation for specialties.  Often specialties, like safety, security, ILS, etc. get minimal budget.  During projects, when their input is needed it is not often planned or time-aligned resulting in extra effort and schedule delays.

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

2014 - Wayne’s advice to an individual starting their career is to: question your understanding of the problem holistically, not just by looking at the requirements. Look at how the customer intends to use the product or service, how they want to maintain it, and how they want to dispose of it. An SE needs a thorough understanding of the customer’s overall needs. As an example, Defense customers often want product support through the end of life, and if this need is not considered early enough in the development, you won’t have a satisfactory product or service at the end.

Wayne began his career as an electrician, worked for a defense company, then completed an Electrical Engineering degree. In a discipline degree program, one learns techniques for doing detailed research and investigation, but not necessarily to have the “larger picture” view of the Systems Engineer.

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

2014 - Recently completed online refresher course in SE; and does short course training. He attends conferences such as those held by the Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA) which is an affiliate of INCOSE; is writing CSEP exam questions for INCOSE SE Handbook V4; and does document research via standards.

2021 - Currently undertaking online learning and local (company) short training on systems engineering topics including practice and tools. Some of this is extension training (eg. Cybersecurity), some reinforcement.  I attend conferences such as those held by the Systems Engineering Society of Australia (SESA) which is an affiliate of INCOSE.  As the current Chartered Australian Systems Engineer (CASE) manager for SESA, I participate in a number of interviews with Australian systems engineers and learn about the types of systems engineering they perform.

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

2014 - Wayne plans to teach Systems Engineering theory and practice as part of an in-house program for Thales. He is working toward becoming an internationally recognized SE expert within the company.

2021 - I am working toward becoming an internationally recognized SE expert within the company.

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

2014 - Outside of work Wayne enjoys playing football, attending musical theater, bush walking, family outings, camping, and watching motorsports.

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

2014 - It’s very fulfilling for Wayne to participate in the extra-curricular activities of Systems Engineering such as attending conferences, working on the SEP exam questions, and conducting training to further develop other SE practitioners.

2021 - It’s very fulfilling for me to participate in the extra-curricular activities of Systems Engineering such as attending conferences, performing SEP reviews, and conducting training to further develop other SE practitioners.

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

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

2021 - I got SEP certification to enable recognition of the standing within the systems engineering profession by external entities (customers, industry) and also for the pride of achieving a benchmark of capability in the profession.

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

2021 - It has enabled me to participate within the systems engineering domain with respect and recognition from peers and customers and has enabled my company to delegate responsibility for solution acceptance and sign-off.

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

2021 - There has been a greater push to systems of systems engineering involving autonomous equipment focusing on large amounts of information acquisition for consumption, processing and use.  Also, the move to digital twins and greater model-based simulation of systems for risk reduction and ongoing system support.

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

2021 -

  • Requirements Engineer
  • Combat System Design Authority
  • Systems Engineering Manager
  • Engineering Manager
  • Systems and Specialty Engineering Manager
images of ASEP, CSEP, and ESEP badges
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