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What is a good background to have as a Systems Engineer?

I came across a job description for a Systems Engineer, and it seems like something I might be interested in. I have a lot of on-the-job experience with project management and communication, and I'll be graduating with a bachelor's degree in physics next year. Is this an appropriate background for a systems engineer? What else can I do to determine if this career is right for me?

#physics #undergrad #undergraduate #systems-engineer #project-management #engineering

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Jason’s Answer

The key mindset for a successful Systems Engineer that spans the various industry definitions is never being satisfied with how much you know about how something works. Regardless of the item or procedure related to the job, there will always be a deeper level of understanding to the core components that could be studied much further (down to quantum mechanics!). Additionally, it will be part of a larger system, including human interaction, which will deserve equal understanding. And every new understanding is subject to future evolution! So no matter the stage of your career or the complexity of the task at hand, a systems engineer comes to work every day to learn new things, and a passion to improve them, because just working through the current task will not result in exciting creations. Actual demonstrations of this pursuit are foundational to entering this field.

Jason recommends the following next steps:

Create something that interacts with other things to produce a predictable result.
Figure out why something complicated doesn't work or how to improve something complicated and think about how you would describe the steps you took to explore it and improve it.
Take something apart, understand how each part is made and what kind of limitations for how precise it would have to be, successfully put it back into working order, and try to describe how it works to a young child.
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Rebecca’s Answer

Hi, System Engineering is usually coming from Computer Science or Computer Engineering background. But, it is not a must indeed. In the job description, it usually includes the academic and experience requirement. Can you meet the requirement?
If you think yourself can fit the position, you can try to submit your application to the job.
However, I also would like to highlight that the requirement and job nature of the same position may be different among different companies. You may need to read through the job description each time.
Hope this helps! Good Luck!
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HanSon’s Answer

Hi Abby, the system engineering role is different from company to company so it really depends on how they define the role. Typically speaking, they system engineering roles require you to be analytically minded and strong at problem solving. I would recommend connecting with folks at that particular company (via linkedin?) to gain a better perspective of the roles and responsibilities. Your physics background would definitely be helpful, but just like physics, it can be applied in different ways.
Thank you comment icon Definitely try to communicate with other System Engineers to help you determine if this is a good fit. Kevin Brown
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Kevin’s Answer

Your current background may or may not be relevant. The most important thing for you is the desire to do well in whatever role you chose. From there, do all that it takes to learn the role and educate yourself on what it takes to be successful. Talk to others that are in the role and take and complete what ever education the company offers to be successful in that role.

You might consider spending some time with someone in that role to see what they do everyday, so you can be sure it is something that excites you everyday. You will be most successful if you are passionate about the position and love to do that job.
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Michael’s Answer

I spent a large portion of my career as an Electrical Reliability Engineer. This provided me the experience of reviewing entire solutions and how they were interacting (or not).
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CARL’s Answer

Hi Abby, like many have said the role of a Systems Engineer vary greatly from company to company. The role may be different even within in a company if it's large enough. My advice is that the most important skill to have when taking a job as a systems engineer to the willingness to learn. I worked for IBM early in my career and the best systems engineer I ever worked with had a degree in culinary arts! But he was a gut that had an insatiable appetite to learn new things. That's' what made him the best. Also, in today's world what you decide to do after graduation will mostly change over time. Good luck!
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Nayyar’s Answer

System Engineering have different requirements at different companies. Generally, it involves building and delivering an application or a service. A System Engineer defines design, allocates responsibilities, prepares implementation plans. A project management background would be certainly helpful and communication skills to keep everyone informed can be valuable. Although, at entry-level, most companies will provide training, I believe some understanding and training in application and system design/development, as well as Software Development Life Cycle would make you a good candidate. Physics background would not necessarily apply to System Engineering, but would still be helpful.
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Tom’s Answer

Abby,

Congratulations on preparing to graduate from college and a physics degree will be helpful in any technology field. I don’t agree a System Engineering career would come from a Computer Science or Computer Engineering background but it can assist. A college degree provides you with the basics in many areas and prepares you for many different opportunities. The main focus is the willingness to learn and to spend time working diligently to learn your new occupation. Remember, you are starting at an entry level meaning it will require you to attend formal training, on the job training and following the company standard operating procedures. When you start, look for a mentor who can help guide you in the job, next steps and career progression over time. This does not happen immediately but having someone to guide, provide experience, and help you through the corporate politics.

Wish you a great start and hope to hear you are enjoying your new career choices.
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Sheila’s Answer

Hello Abby,

The systems engineering role requires someone to understand and how to give a solution to "make something work". Depending on the company business case, it can be required to have prior knowledge on a particular technology or tool that they need for the job opening. This is however not always the case, as some companies will have training plans to get you up to speed.

What is essential is being analytical, having a problem-solving mentality and ability to collaborate with different teams to get the job done.

Good luck with the search and good job!
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