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Career Story: Systems Engineer For A Defense Contractor

Systems Engineer For A Defense Contractor

Job Title: Lead Systems Engineer

Type of Company: My company builds communication systems for the U.S. armed forces, allowing commanders to send data securely using the internet, phone lines and assorted broadcast media.

Education: BS, Systems Engineering, Boston University •• MA, Systems Engineering, Boston University

Previous Experience: My first job out of college was testing a communication system that the Army hoped to use to communicate with troops in the field. Later on, I worked on writing the system requirements for these and successor projects and in drafting proposals that were used to win contracts.

Job Tasks: I manage a group of systems engineers employed on very large projects, ones that often take a year or more to complete. But while the projects themselves are often long-term, we have month-to-month goals that we have to achieve, and one of my most important responsibilities is insuring that we do -- foreseeing what the obstacles are that we are likely to encounter and finding ways around them.

Systems engineers try to break a project down into its elements and figure out which of those components the company can buy and which it will have to develop or "build" (this includes software). Once we've figured that out, we can assign personnel to tackle specific tasks.

At the end of the project, we're also responsible for testing what was built and making sure that it satisfies the customer's specifications.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with people who are technically savvy. Every year I learn more and more about technology and about how a large company's run.

The worst part of my job is how much of my life it consumes. Leading a team of engineers means always being a step ahead of them.

Job Tips:
1.) Get your masters degree. Having a masters degree in Engineering (or any other profession) will make you more desirable.

2.) Be a team player.

3.) Stay current. This'll make you more marketable. If you don't have experience, volunteer. And hone your organizational skills.

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