Helix – Phase 3
Human Capital Development
Report Number: SERC-2014-TR-038-3
Publication Date: 2014-04-19
Project: Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers
Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers
Dr. Art Pyster
Helix, a project of the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), is a multi-year longitudinal study designed to build an understanding of the landscape of the systems engineering workforce, what enables and inhibits the effectiveness of systems engineers, and how organizations are attempting to improve their effectiveness.
Helix is exploring three research questions:
- What are the characteristics of systems engineers?
- How effective are systems engineers and why?
- What are employers doing to improve the effectiveness of their systems engineers?
The first Helix Report (Pyster et al. 2013) was published in December 2013, which provided an overview of the motivation and methodology for the study as well as some preliminary results for Phases 1 and 2 of the project; one of the findings on ‘What makes Systems Engineers most Effective’ was the importance of diversity of experiences and mentoring. This report presents findings in Phase 3 and explores these two themes in more detail. The analysis is based on the data collected during Phases 1 and 2 plus follow up interviews conducted during Phase 3.
The career path analysis looks at several aspects of work experiences relevant to the development of systems engineers. This includes experiences across the system life cycle as well as different types of organizations, domains, programs, and roles. This analysis also includes the development and application of seniority levels – junior, mid---level, and senior – for systems engineers. Finally, the Helix team analyzed the careers of chief systems engineers to determine a common path, summarized below.
Additional analysis includes a definition of mentoring and a classification for mentoring approaches, the benefits of mentoring, why mentoring is important for systems engineers, requirements for successful mentoring, and recommendations on mentoring for organizations.
The Helix team will use the results of the first two reports, additional data collected, and future analysis to build a theory of systems engineers that offers explanatory and predictive power to guide career decisions by individuals, and to shape policies and initiatives by organizations with respect to their systems engineering workforce. The first thoughts on this theory – including the importance of personal experiences and characteristics, and the environment – are outlined in this report. Broadly, effectiveness in a systems engineering role would be defined or predicted based on these variables:
Effectiveness in a role = f (experiences, characteristics, environment)
The team will use this starting point to build a role-based theory of systems engineers that can be used
by individuals and organizations to enable career planning.