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A Systems Engineer Grows Up

by jsili

By Jeff Sili, Vitech Principal Systems Engineer

Silicon Valley icon and industrial designer Steve Jobs had a favorite dictum when he spoke to young audiences. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

By way of introducing myself, I’d like to take you along as I reflect on my journey through the wilds of systems engineering, an adventure that has brought me to where I am today—the newest team member in Professional Services at Vitech.

I’m Jeff Sili, and I’ve been a systems engineer for nearly three decades. I hail from the "Rust Belt" near Cleveland, Ohio and had a great time growing up in a big, blue collar neighborhood. The community was interesting and diverse—a place where first and second generation grandparents were still speaking languages like German and Italian. My dad was a machinist-mechanic, and he gave me my first taste of what it was like to "take it all apart and put it back together again." As a teenager in the ’70s, I watched the collapse of the economy in big cities like Cleveland, the demise of steel and other industries and with them, jobs. More...


Breaking Systems Engineering (and Three Ways to Bind the Fractures)

by dlong

By David Long, Vitech President

“The biggest errors are made on day one.” Sadly, those involved in systems engineering live this every day, but not necessarily in the manner we think. Though we strive to avoid this pitfall and address it in the systems we develop, the very way we approach our practice is often flawed. We break systems engineering from day one by our flawed practices, many times not even recognizing that we have done so.

In talks and tutorials, I frequently ask how many in the audience are applying a waterfall process. The general response is a hand or two timidly raised with the rest of the audience proudly asserting that they execute a spiral, incremental, or agile process – anything but waterfall. I then ask an individual “If I wanted to know about your requirements, who would I talk to?”  More...

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Categories: MBSE | Misc


Precision and the False Choice

by dlong

By David Long, Vitech President

Just like simplicity, not all precision is helpful. Heresy? Not for engineers. Engineers are taught to use the appropriate degree of precision for the circumstance at hand. Unfortunately, as systems engineers, we too often forget those lessons. The quest for precision can lead us astray, and some of our processes, methods, and tools actually feed this negative tendency. 

At its very foundation, systems engineering is both systems (the big picture, holistic thinking, and emergence) and engineering (rigor and analytics). It is the second aspect – the need and drive for rigor – that can be a source of trouble. Rigor correctly understood leads to the appropriate level of precision given the current level of knowledge and the task at hand. Rigor misunderstood leads us to prematurely delve into detail design while still working at the systems level, to project precision where analytics don’t support it, to overwork a problem when a higher level statement of feasibility is more appropriate.

Too often, we present ourselves with a false choice. The alternative to precision is framed as “ad hoc” or the absence of rigor. That false choice is used both ways – to engage in analyses that are premature or unwarranted and to avoid all rigor because the time is not right or detail is absent. But the choice is not about precision vs. ad hoc. It’s about accuracy and the right degree of accuracy for the circumstances. More...

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Categories: MBSE

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