Photo Caption: David Long (right) is presented with a plaque honoring him as an INCOSE Fellow by Garry Roedler at a plenary session of INCOSE’s International Symposium in Orlando on July 23, 2019.
For “advancing the state of systems engineering practice through methods, processes and tools, especially in support of model-based systems engineering,” David Long was conferred the prestigious INCOSE Fellow award by the International Council on Systems Engineering at its annual gathering on Tuesday, July 23 in Orlando. Long is president of Vitech and the 2014-2015 president of INCOSE.
The award of Fellow is bestowed only on those individuals “with significant verifiable contributions to the art and practice of systems engineering in industry, government or academia,” according to the organization’s website. “This award recognizes practitioners from government and industry applying knowledge and contributing to the practice of systems engineering in designing and acquiring systems, researchers developing new knowledge, pushing the theory forward, and teachers disseminating knowledge and developing the next generation of successful systems engineers.”
In David Long’s case, his contributions to systems engineering are manifold and longstanding. His entrepreneurial drive within the systems engineering community, his long-time service to INCOSE, and his passion to serve the greater community have made him a revered figure in the world of systems engineers—a sought-after teacher and speaker as well as a thought leader.
Entrepreneurial drive within the systems engineering community
Long founded Vitech in 1992 as a recent college grad at a time when INCOSE itself was only two years old. (At that time, the organization was known as NCOSE—the National Council on Systems Engineering.) He built Vitech from nothing, inspired by the experiences of his father Jim Long and his studies at Virginia Tech under Ben Blanchard and Wolter Fabrycky—all three seminal figures in the field of systems engineering.
His vision was to create a tool to support the full systems engineering process, bringing computer support and automation to address the challenges of engineering complex systems. The software program that he wrote became CORE, which has gone on to become a leading systems software environment used around the world.
At Vitech, Long has served in a range of positions, all of which, he believes, have developed him as a leader. “In each position, I applied my systems engineering mindset. In developing and specifying software, it helped me understand and support both the practice and the user. This then helped me as a leader build an organization aligned to help others advance their systems engineering capabilities,” Long said. He has been lead developer, director of product development, executive vice president, and, since 2005, president at the company.
Long-time service to INCOSE
At the same time that he held a variety of roles at Vitech, he was also contributing to INCOSE. He joined the organization in 1992, and over the years has served as the first Member Board Chair (2003), Director of Communications for the Board of Directors (2004 – 2007), and Director for Strategy for the Board of Directors (2007). In 2014, Long was named the 17th president of the organization, serving through 2015.
During his tenure as president, Long led a number of initiatives. He helped INCOSE celebrate its first 25 years while positioning the organization for the future. During his term, INCOSE increased its publication of impactful products, alone and in partnership, including technical guides, frameworks, and the fourth edition of its foundational Systems Engineering Handbook. He led INCOSE in diversifying its publications, developing a new practitioner’s magazine emphasizing the applications dimension of the profession.
He supported the development of the Systems Engineering Vision 2025 to guide systems engineering as it rises to the challenges of the future, and chartered the INCOSE Institute for Technical Leadership to help develop the next generation of systems engineering leaders. Perhaps most importantly, Long led the redefinition of the organizational core values, principles, long-range plan, and strategic objectives for INCOSE’s second quarter century.
While Long worked to advance INCOSE and its products, he also served as an ambassador and advocate for the greater systems engineering profession. During his presidency, Long delivered over 100 keynotes and presentations while visiting over 75 organizations on five continents. He counseled senior leaders around the world in government, aerospace, automotive, health care, energy, and transportation on the value, practice, and future of systems engineering. Long’s signature address, Building for Tomorrow: Towards 21st Century Systems Engineering, delivered at the 25th anniversary INCOSE International Symposium in 2015, was referenced across systems engineering as a unifying challenge to advance the systems engineering practice.
Passion to serve the broader community
Long’s commitment to systems engineering, though, extends beyond INCOSE and beyond his company.
He serves on the advisory boards for the Systems Engineering Research Center (a university-affiliated Research Center of the US Department of Defense) and the Industrial and Systems Engineering program at Virginia Tech.
He is a sought-after speaker, called on to deliver keynotes and tutorials on such topics as introductory systems engineering, the value of systems engineering, the advanced application of MBSE, digital engineering, and the future of engineering systems. He has given addresses around the world—in Japan, South Korea, Israel, South Africa, France, and Australia.
Long is a co-author, along with his colleague Zane Scott, of the popular Primer for Model-Based Systems Engineering, and author of many blog posts for Systems-Wise, a blog about all things systems.
His passion to support the next generation of systems engineers inspired him to create a program at Vitech that offers the Vitech software free to universities for education and research. Since the program launched in 1999, it has served over 32,000 students at 80 universities, including the University of Virginia, the United States Air Force Academy, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins, and MIT.
With 96 Fellows in the history of INCOSE, Long’s award makes him one of 80 living Fellows, and part of the first father-son pair. Long’s father Jim Long was named an INCOSE Fellow in 2005.
“I’m grateful and humbled to receive this award,” Long said. “I could not imagine another field I would more love to work in. I had the good fortune to study under two systems engineering pioneers and to collaborate with many passionate individuals committed to the field. It has truly been a pleasure to contribute in whatever way I can to advance the state of the art and improve the state of the practice as we broaden an appreciation and understanding of systems engineering.”
Long sees a bright future for the field. “I believe that we are on the cusp of a great adoption of systems engineering that will be both broad and deep, and I feel proud to have been a small part of that. As the world becomes more and more complex, I believe that systems engineering will lead the way.”
To learn more about David Long and his thought leadership in the field of systems engineering, see Thought Leadership for a Developing Discipline.