Systems engineers must be effective communicators, facilitators & integrators
"Systems are useless if you don't understand how peoples' jobs work and what they value as an i mprovement." � Philip Ryan, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America
"Half the job is communicating and being sure everyone understands what is going on." � Mary Schubert, Pratt & Whitney
By Dan Margherita
'Many government and industry enterprises are finding that the systems approach is essential to solving the complex problems and challenges of this century," says Dr Donna H. Rhodes. "Good systems engineers have the natural abilities, education and experience to effectively apply systems approaches, as well as the insight to engage specialty disciplines when needed throughout the systems life cycle."
Rhodes is director and principal research scientist for the systems engineering advancement research initiative at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She's also a Fellow and past president of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE, www.incose.com, San Diego, CA).
This article profiles a dozen engineering pros who are using their abilities in new and challenging systems venues. As Rhodes puts it, "There's an exciting opportunity for systems engineers to become part of organizations where systems engineering has not previously been present. Besides the technical work, these new pioneers are involved in architecting organizations and processes to achieve more effective engineering of products, systems and services."
Mary Schubert: at Pratt & Whitney, an engineer who communicates
"I find it effective to be an engineer who can communicate," says Mary Schubert, systems integration engineer at Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT). "Half of the job is communicating and being sure everyone understands what is going on. There's lots of room for misunderstanding."
Schubert works with a team of about thirty systems and design engineers in Pratt & Whitney's global services engineering group dedicated to military engine repairs. "We prepare and present internal reviews and participate in customer rep conferences," Schubert explains. "We interface with both internal and external customers including those at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, OK."
She also notes that "Our goal is to provide the customer with serviceable engines, either by supplying replacement parts or developing repairs. If a repair is the best option, our organization develops the repair, validates its application and ensures it is field-incorporated. We also make certain the customer understands the effect of the repair on the engine as a system."
Schubert has been at Pratt & Whitney since 2005, starting as part of a manufacturing engineering development rotational program. She's been a systems integration engineer for more than half a year.
She completed her BSIE from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, Worcester, MA) in 2005 and has two MS degrees, one in organizational leadership from Quinnipiac University (Hamden, CT) in 2007 and the other in manufacturing engineering from WPI in 2010. "I come from a very mathematics oriented family," she notes.
As for being a woman engineer, Schubert reports "no problems. The majority of men I work with are open-minded and recognize me as a peer."
She is particularly pleased to be part of WPI's Women's Industry Network (WIN), a mentoring program that brings together female WPI students and professional women engineers, scientists and managers.
Nghia Do: getting ready for the future at Union Pacific Railroad
"In college, I had been going to career fairs without much luck," says Nghia Do, project engineer at Union Pacific Railroad (Omaha, NE). "But one day I stopped at the Union Pacific booth because they were giving away LED pens and I really liked them.
"I didn't know railroads needed computer engineers, but I talked with their IT recruiter and the next day I had an interview."
Now, five years later, Do is a project engineer working in the railroad's IT area. "Other departments are our internal customers," he says. "We design systems, create prototypes and make presentations of results and recommendations."
For example, the claims department obtains files from the signal department after an incident like a grade crossing accident or a derailment. It's important for management to know what was going on at the time, and that the integrity of all the data is maintained as information is passed from person to person. "It's up to our department to decide the best way to capture data in the first place before anyone can manipulate it, so we created an algorithm to tell us if anything has been tampered with."
Do was born in South Vietnam and came to the U.S. when he was two years old. The family lived in Buffalo, NY where Do went to a technical high school, taking courses in electronics, electricity and programming. His uncle recommended Michigan State University and he graduated in 2005 with a BSCE.
Do liked everything about Union Pacific from the start: the company, the people and the city of Omaha. In 2009 he completed an MBA from the University of Nebraska.
He is interested in the management side of the business and in what drives the technology needs of the company. "I went for an MBA because it helps my career path down the line. It gets me ready for the future," he says.
Lilith Terry: AECOM technology keeps airport traffic running smoothly
Lilith Terry, PE, spends a lot of time in airports, but not the way most of us do. Terry is a VP at AECOM (Los Angeles, CA) and for the last ten years she's been working at a number of airports including Ontario International, San Francisco International, Van Nuys, Oakland International and, most recently, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Terry is a special systems expert with detailed knowledge of the telecom, security and many other low-voltage systems at these facilities, including paging, access control, cable TV, telephone, fiber optic, emergency power, flight information display, baggage information display, common use terminal equipment, networking and fire alarm.
In her current assignment she's leading AECOM's airport development team in the system integration effort for a billion-dollar program to let LAX handle more of the new large-aircraft traffic like the Airbus A380. "Currently LAX only has two gates that can handle this aircraft," Terry explains. "They are expanding their international terminal so most gates will accommodate them." One side of the terminal is scheduled to open in late 2012; the other in 2013.
Before this LAX project she led AECOM's systems integration team on a project at Los Angeles and Ontario International Airports to replace old, stand-alone baggage scanning machines in the lobby areas with new CT-scan machines behind the airline check-in, so luggage will not have to be handled as often.
Among other responsibilities, Terry was the single point of contact for Los Angeles World Airports (the oversight and operations department for the city of Los Angeles, which owns LAX), with explosives detection system vendors and the Transportation Security Admin. She developed whitepapers and technical correspondence on baggage handling, communications, on-screen resolution rooms, network infrastructure, baggage inspection rooms and other technical issues.
Terry joined AECOM from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Before that she worked for a former AECOM company.
Early in her career she moved from St. Petersburg, FL to California, where she thought more technical jobs would be available. Jobs were still scarce for a while, "so I worked as a bookkeeper for Dolly Parton's business manager for a couple of months," she says with a smile. Then she was a construction inspector in the Los Angeles subway.
She received her BSEE from the University of South Florida in 1989 and an MSEE in 1990. "I left high school after my junior year and enrolled at USF, then transferred my credits back to high school so I would have my diploma," she explains.
Engineering is in her blood. "My dad is an EE and I was always doing things with him. Before integrated chips came along my sister and I would make money assembling PC boards.
"No one ever told me I couldn't do something," says Terry. "I never got special treatment in school or in my career just because I'm a woman."
Still, she admits it may be harder being a woman in the construction field. "You deal with a lot of differing attitudes," she says. "Some people outside the company will try to make it harder.
"Women who make it in construction are smarter than the guys and more patient, too," she declares. "They have to put up with all the BS!"
But that's seldom a problem for a technical woman at AECOM. "AECOM is very sensitive to issues like gender-based harassment. We have Web video-based training that demonstrates good and bad behavior and how to handle it."
Terry is on the board of directors of the ASCE's Air Transport Technical Group and a member of WTS International. As for the future, "I'd like to spend the next three or four years completing this project," Terry says. "We're integrating ten-plus systems and it will benefit the flying public tremendously.
"After that, I hope to be on a track to executive management."
Dr Michele Motsko: collaborative leadership at NSG
Michele Limoges Motsko, PhD is chief of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) systems engineering division at the acquisition directorate of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA, Reston, VA). It's her job to lead end-to-end systems engineering for the NSG. "My projects span a wide variety, from technical to managerial and supervisory," she says.
Most of her current work is considered the early part of the systems-engineering life cycle, she explains. "I and my team closely interact with military and civilian customers to understand their needs, translate the needs into technology solutions, coordinate the development of the solutions and plan for the evolution of capabilities over time."
One of her most significant recent projects was co-leading the intelligence community's Joint Architecture Working Group, chartered by the office of the director of national intelligence to design a federated intelligence community architecture to improve information integration. "The success of this work was recognized with the award for collaborative leadership from the director of national intelligence," she notes.
In engineering management, much of Motsko's focus is on improving the way NGA conducts systems engineering, and on developing sound designs with sufficient flexibility to accommodate future requirements.
She oversees a team of sixty people, about half government people, both military and civilians, and half contractors. "A big part of my job is supervisory which I really enjoy," she explains. "I'm very involved in workforce planning and recruitment. I just participated in the NGA 'hiring blitz' and extended offers to seven job candidates."
As a supervisor, she works with her senior staff to help them develop as better leaders and managers. "I have the joyful task of recognizing high performers through NGA awards and performance reports," she adds.
Motsko grew up in Ann Arbor, MI and became interested in cartography as the family navigator when they went for car rides. In 1984 she received a BS in geography with a minor in cartography and remote sensing from Eastern Michigan University. In 1993 she completed an MS in geography with a focus on automated cartography, geographic IS and remote sensing from San Diego State University (San Diego, CA).
The MS, she says, was a key aspect in developing expertise in software functionality and design for computer cartography. "It provided a strong basis to begin doing more systems engineering work at the agency," she explains.
In 2000 Motsko completed a master's certificate in systems engineering. Building on that she completed her PhD in systems engineering in 2006 at George Washington University (GWU, Washington, DC).
She began her career as a cartographer. "In the mid-'80s I started out working on a light table doing image analysis and cartographic production. This was pre-computer!
"Just as I was moving into a junior engineer role the mapping process was being computerized at our agency. When the developer was testing the mapping software I was a 'test witness' to assess whether the requirements were being met. I became very interested in how the software worked and would spend hours reading the software design documents."
After achieving journeyman status in three or four years she began doing software testing assessments for the computer systems that were automating much of the cartographic work. Between 1996 and 2003 Motsko was an R&D; project manager, managing increasingly large and complex projects.
"The final one was more than $250 million and I oversaw a government and contractor team doing R&D; for a range of things like holographic storage technology, image processing and application of e-commerce for our mapping products. From there I entered GWU and completed my doctorate."
About eight years into her career, when she began to oversee the software testing, she realized she was doing the work of a systems engineer and really enjoying it.
"I am still thoroughly enjoying the blend of systems engineering, engineering management and supervisory work. I hope to continue building on these interests and competencies, blending systems engineering with strategic planning and policy work to provide a better and broader contribution to our mission."
Motsko lists the skill sets required for systems engineering: requirements elicitation with the customer, requirements analysis, architectural design and analysis, system performance modeling, security engineering and data engineering.
Plus, "A critical basic skill important to engineering is writing," she adds. "I've developed other related skills by taking courses and doing self-study in program management, project management, technical writing, briefing and leadership."
TEMA's Philip Ryan: the huge responsibility of managing CAD
"Digital engineering is a multifaceted area," explains Philip Ryan, manager of digital engineering at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA, Erlanger, KY). "My work involves management of technology and CAD requirements for the TEMA production engineering division, and for manufacturing engineers at all Toyota's North American plants."
It's a huge responsibility. Toyota produces sixteen vehicle variations in North America at seven assembly plants. "My team has twenty-six members, including three assistant managers," Ryan says.
"We manage the digital engineering infrastructure and implement the tools and technology our engineers need to be effective. This infrastructure is the DNA that allows TEMA engineers to analyze and confirm the development of new models in nearly every fashion without need for a physical part."
Day to day, Ryan relies on a lot of hands-on experience. "Systems are useless if you don't understand how peoples' jobs work and what they value as an improvement," he believes.
"One of my projects was developing an advanced cross-site engineering environment to allow efficient communication and collaboration of Toyota engineers worldwide without loss of time due to travel," Ryan reports. This means that CAD models and prototype mockups can be reviewed concurrently by many sites.
Ryan was born in the Bronx borough of New York City, and grew up in Winter Springs, FL. He was always heavily interested in computers and technology and started in the auto industry while he was still in school. "I got a co-op job at Honda while I was at Florida A&M;, followed by three terms as a co-op with Toyota," he explains.
As a Toyota co-op, he worked in the "body shop": the body-welding department. "When I was there I worked on the Toyota Andon process monitoring system. It's designed to call attention to a production process and help line workers if they need assistance. In the body shop it was usually a robot that detected a quality issue or incurred a fault."
How does it work? For the production team member, it's low-tech. A rope, the Andon cord, is strung along each line, just above the workers' heads. They pull the cord when they need assistance. If the problem is with a robot or other equipment, built-in intelligence alerts a maintenance worker to the problem.
When he got his BSME in 1998 Ryan joined Toyota's engineering division and the digital engineering group. Today, he has added to his CAD responsibilities a leadership role in the African American Collaborative, one of Toyota's diversity partnering groups that work to advance business interests and support the development of other associates within the organization.
He's also involved in the Toyota LeMons ("Lemons"). Based very loosely indeed on the serious LeMans sportscar race in France, Toyota LeMons begins with a group of Toyota engineers and University of Cincinnati "Emerging Ethnic Engineers" engineering students working together to get ordinary old junker cars ready to race. "No car can be worth more than $500," Ryan explains. "It's a lot of fun and a good way to teach principles of the 'Toyota Way' to engineering students."
Looking to the future, Ryan hopes his systems engineering experience will lead to a CTO-level job. He wants to take part in advancing technology and incorporating it toward higher productivity and higher-quality vehicles and engineering.
Margherita Eastman: systems engineering support at the Aerospace Corp
"I was really good in math and science, and in tenth grade my teacher told me I should look into EE," says Margherita Eastman, principal director of enterprise engineering in the systems engineering and ground division at the Aerospace Corp (Los Angeles, CA). In this job she manages Aerospace resources supporting the office of the chief engineer and office of enterprise processes in her customer's systems engineering directorate.
The work done in this division provides systems engineering support over the entire life cycle of space systems acquisition, Eastman notes. "We execute the systems engineering processes to ensure end-to-end closure of space systems. We use the same processes to assess systems requirements satisfaction and expected performance. We assist the specific program offices and, finally, we validate requirements satisfaction."
Born in Ebensburg, PA, Eastman went to Pennsylvania State University where she earned a BSEE with a minor in math in 1987. Her first job out of school was with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL, Washington, DC) where she worked on digital hardware and software projects for mobile satellite ground systems. On one project she developed a mobile communications system for a customized Humvee.
This led to other assignments at NRL before she joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA, Langley, VA) as a software engineer.
Eastman moved to Aerospace Corp in 1998 as an engineering specialist in the engineering and technology group. Her work included requirements development and support for ground software acquisitions.
Several promotions followed and in 2005 she was selected as systems director for strategic planning in the systems engineering and technology group, supporting her customer's systems engineering organization in the development of systems engineering processes and future architectures.
Just before she was named principal director, Eastman was systems director for systems closure, supporting the systems engineering processes that ensured delivery of effective systems capability. "Working in a systems engineering organization, I was finally able to support multiple programs rather than just one in particular," she says.
Looking back on the advice given by her teacher, Eastman says with a smile, "At the time, I had no idea what electrical engineering was, but I said to myself, 'I'll do it!'"
Marianne Yarbrough: testing at GDC4
"In New England, a year and a half is considered 'new,'" says Marianne Yarbrough. That's how long she's been at General Dynamics C4 Systems (Scottsdale, AZ).
Yarbrough works at the company's Needham, MA facility. She's a senior systems engineer focused on computer modeling, architecture, design changes and impact. "We get involved in testing to make sure that we did OK," she adds. "Right now I'm doing a lot of testing!"
Her clients are external departments of the U.S. government and branches of the military. "The products we make for them are software-built, sometimes from the ground up and other times modified off-the-shelf." Her group handles the design requirements, "mindful of the platform on which the app will be running and the software surrounding it."
Yarbrough's career had been a series of commercial contracting posts in Maryland and Virginia, all involving government clients. Her first job was as a technical support specialist for R. M. Vredenburg & Co, now a subsidiary of CACI International (Chantilly, VA). She was working on a proprietary software app for file management, and eventually moved to project lead and tech support manager responsible for customer relations and service for all technical and installation support needs.
From there she moved to AT&T; in Vienna, VA as a data systems engineer supporting U.S. government programs for intelligence community apps that required interaction among multiple agencies and subject-matter experts.
Just before joining General Dynamics, Yarbrough was a system engineer/ analyst at Engineering Technologies Group, Inc (Herndon, VA), again supporting government programs that required in-depth application and systems knowledge. "I was doing a lot of data modeling, working on projects concerned with code and database development."
She liked her computer classes in high school but decided to major in CE in college. "Then I realized I just didn't like CE and thought back to those enjoyable computer classes." She went on to a 1996 BS in computer management and information science from the University of Maryland - University College.
She's very comfortable in her present role. "Computers give me better answers quicker," says Yarbrough.
Marsha Jones: systems engineering lead at Hamilton Sundstrand
Marsha Jones is systems engineering lead at Hamilton Sundstrand (Windsor Locks, CT), a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp (UTC, East Hartford, CT). Jones has worked at UTC subsidiaries for eight years, as configuration manager, integrated product team leader and military project engineer. She's currently in the Hamilton Sundstrand engine and control systems business unit.
"I'm a systems integrator for commercial airline engines," she explains. "With the help of the component integrated product team, I take our customers' requirements, break them down and integrate their completion among third-party suppliers. Sometimes we develop the components or software; other times we have them produced by others."
All her life, Jones says, she's crossed paths with the right people at the right time: people like the nun at her Catholic school who noticed her fascination with space-shuttle launches, and Dr Rudolf Henning and Rose Mack of the Youth Engineering Society.
"Sister Judy, Dr Henning and Ms Mack helped me develop my science and math skills," Jones remembers fondly. "They taught me how to speak, write and think critically. You need that in order to pursue a career in engineering."
Jones went on to multiple degrees in engineering, business and education: a 1996 BSEE from Florida A&M; University, an MBA summa cum laude from Florida Metropolitan University (now Everest University) and a masters in higher education leadership and admin from Jones International University (Centennial, CO). She's currently working toward a PhD in organization and management with a specialty in leadership from Capella University (Minneapolis, MN).
"I'm the first person in my family to go to college and the first engineer," she says.
Jones is a national alumni spokesperson for the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering (SECME, Atlanta, GA) and a lifetime member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE, Alexandria, VA). She also sits on the SECME board.
She credits much of her success to SECME, NSBE, FAMU and the now-defunct Youth Engineering Society. "These organizations challenged me to think and grow both academically and professionally," Jones says with loving pride.
Meina Wong combines business & technology at Boeing
"You can design the most perfect product ever," says Meina Wong, electrical design manager at Boeing Commercial Airplanes (Everett, WA). "But if you can't sell it, you have to ask whether it was worthwhile."
With advanced degrees in business and systems architecture and thirteen years at Boeing, Wong is pretty much an expert at both ends of the business model. She leads a team of twenty-two, responsible for electrical-specific processes and tools.
One of the tools they use is Computer-Aided Three-Dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA), a system that lets engineers design and manipulate a product, its components and their relationships in three dimensions. Boeing is one of the largest CATIA users in the world.
"From a systems perspective we have to make sure that there is integration," Wong says. "Electrical wiring interfaces with so many things in the aircraft. Our team ensures that the processes make the design happen."
Wong joined Boeing directly out of college after several co-ops in engineering. "Those jobs were steppingstones," she recalls. "It was my way of discovering all the avenues engineering could offer."
She was born in the Midwest, part of "the first Asian family in Davenport, IA," she says. "My parents owned a Chinese restaurant and my father told me and my brothers and sisters that if we wanted to avoid this kind of work we had to go to college and learn how to make money with less physical labor!"
So Wong earned a 1996 BSME with a minor in CS from California State University-Sacramento; a 2000 MBA in engineering management from City University of Seattle, WA; and a 2010 MS in systems architecture and engineering from the University of Southern California � Los Angeles via a Boeing tuition assistance program.
"I always enjoyed science but it was the application of science that drove me to engineering," she says.
Thirteen years ago Wong was attending a SWE conference in Portland, OR where Boeing had a booth. She wound up with several offers from various parts of the company. "They offered a lot of different opportunities depending on what I wanted to do. I chose design."
Most of her responsibilities at Boeing have been on the tech side, but in 2001 Wong was one of a handful of people chosen for a two-year rotation in the enterprise auditor program, which exposed her to many of the company's programs and functions.
Wong's work toward her second MS forced her to cut back on many free-time activities, but she thinks it's worth the sacrifice. "This degree molds the business and tech sides together and makes me more sure of the larger picture," she says.
Tequilla Hurt: engineering support, analysis and planning at TVA
How has her minority status affected her professional development? "In the end, your light is going to shine," says Tequilla Hurt, senior EE at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA, Knoxville, TN). She works in TVA's Chattanooga, TN facility, and celebrated six years with TVA this past fall.
Her full title is senior power systems EE in transmission reliability and operations. It's a multi-part job including engineering support, analysis and planning for pricing apps, scheduling and cash flow forecasting; she also acts as liaison among transmission, reliability & ops, other TVA organizations and external customers for operations data and questions regarding operating unit characteristics. Other duties include conducting load data analysis for TVA's interruptible products and making strike decisions on the demand response portfolio. "Customers who allow us to interrupt their service are offered special pricing to reflect this accommodation," she explains.
Hurt also tests the automated customer telephone notification system (ACTS) to measure customer compliance with interruption notifications as well as system performance.
Born and raised in Tennessee, Hurt has a 2004 BSEE from Christian Brothers University (Memphis, TN) and a 2010 MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
"I originally was going for a degree in computer engineering and then one day I thought, 'Oh, no, I don't want to be up all night programming!' So I switched to EE.
"Since middle school I always enjoyed playing around with things," Hurt remembers, "breaking them apart to see how they work, and putting them back together." She came from a low-income family but "was always surrounded by love." She worked her way through school juggling two or three different jobs in five years.
Besides all her power system, transmission reliability and ops duties at TVA, Hurt is involved in recruiting at local colleges and churches. She's also part of "partners in education," a TVA program that helps local school youth develop social and life skills and supports character development, service learning, career opportunities and leadership experiences.
Hurt is a member of IEEE and SWE.
Nicole Borawski: expediting at CAE USA
"As a project engineer at CAE USA (Tampa, FL), I'm certainly not an expert on everything," says Nicole Borawski. "But I am an expert at getting the right people together to have the right conversation!"
Borawski works in the company's C-130J programs, providing aviation simulators and modeling technologies to customers including the U.S. military and other defense forces around the world.
"I'm an expeditor," Borawski explains. "I expedite simulators. We have to have all the data, marshal all the resources and provide all the answers. I orchestrate all technical aspects of the program, from when the contract is awarded to communicating with software experts here in Florida and monitoring our facilities in Canada where the simulator hardware is actually built."
A highlight of the work was networking C-130J simulators at Little Rock Base and Keesler Air Force Bases. "We have four full-flight simulators in training at Little Rock and one at Keesler," she explains. "We networked them all together so the student pilots could do mission training. They can communicate over the network, see each other's aircraft out the window and rehearse tactical missions. Training plays a key role in preparing the aircrews to not only fly the aircraft, but also become 'mission ready' for a combat environment."
"Different clients will have different requirements for the same simulator," she explains. "Obsolescence is the biggest problem; constant aircraft updates have to be incorporated into the simulators for the particular client's needs."
Borawski has a 2004 BSAE from St. Louis University (St. Louis, MO). Her engineering career has been anything but traditional.
"Astronomy was always my hobby. As a kid I sat for hours staring at the moon with my small telescope. When I was thirteen I found Haley's comet, which wasn't visible to the naked eye that time around, and I was pretty pleased with myself!"
She went to college right out of high school but wasn't ready for it; "I didn't know what I wanted to do." But after a couple of false starts, and stints in the Army and in retail management, she started college again when she was twenty-seven. "I had learned how limited my options were without a degree," she says.
"My sister encouraged me to take a math class in college, then another and another. I'd had no interest in math in high school, so this really built up my confidence. Eventually I decided to major in aerospace engineering, and was I blown away when I discovered that I could actually do it!"
She's been at CAE for six years. She started as a communication and navigation systems software engineer and worked as a proposal engineer but soon realized she wanted to be in systems engineering.
"I'm at my best when my plate is full and in flux. Most project engineers have that trait, I think."
Borawski believes that being a woman in what is considered a "man's world" has helped her. "I think it's easier for my personality and skills to shine."
She sees herself growing into business development over time but likes where she is for now. "My future is a big question. Do I stay on the technical side or move back over to new business? I haven't decided yet but I take great comfort in knowing I can count on CAE to support whichever path I choose.
"CAE does an excellent job of fostering an environment in which you can grow in the direction you want," she says.
Debbie Bittner: transportation/technology liaison at CSX
At CSX Corp (Jacksonville, FL), Debbie Bittner is director of positive train control/transportation systems. "There are two components to my job," she explains.
"First, our group initiates the CSX implementation of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (HR 2095)." Among other mandates HR 2095 seeks to ensure safety on the nation's railways and increases penalties for violations of safety laws. It also has provisions to improve rail bridges and tunnels.
There are many different technologies in the railroad industry, and Bittner is the liaison between the CSX transportation division and CSX technology for issues like train dispatching and management of crew, locomotives and trains.
"We are federally regulated and safety is a major part of our oversight," she adds.
Bittner received her BSCS with a minor in math from Florida State University in 1987 and joined CSX as an MIS trainee right out of college. "I had several job offers," she remembers, "but I wanted to stay in north Florida."
Since then Bittner has been successful in many areas of CSX. Just before her current job she was IT director for transportation apps. She managed and supported apps development for terminals, crew management, taxi, locomotive management and public safety, as well as vendor relationships, day-to-day resource management, contract negotiations and budgeting.
Bittner is working on an MBA at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business. She expects to have it by spring 2011. "All my business know-how has been learned on the job," she says. "I believe the MBA will benefit both me and CSX by giving me a broader perspective. One reason they asked me to move to transportation was to learn the business I was programming for."
She appreciates the diverse culture at CSX. "We are one team regardless of where we are from. CSX has truly embraced diversity."
As for being a woman in a traditionally man's field, she is optimistic. "There were more hurdles when I started than there are now," she says. "People learn to respect you and pretty soon they're on the phone calling you for advice."
DIVERSITY-MINDED COMPANIES EMPLOYING SYSTEMS ENGINEERS
Check websites for current openings.
|Company and location
|AECOM (Los Angeles, CA)
|Technical and management support services
|The Aerospace Corp (Los Angeles, CA)
||National security, civil and commercial space programs
|Boeing Co (Seattle, WA)
|Commercial jetliners and military aircraft
|CAE INC (Montreal, Canada)
|Simulation and modeling technologies and
integrated training solutions for the civil aviation industry and defense forces
|CSX Corp (Jacksonville, FL) www.csx.com
||Rail-based transportation services
|General Dynamics C4 Systems
(San Antonio, TX) www.gdc4s.com
|Secure communication and information systems and technology
|Hamilton Sundstrand Corp
(Windsor Locks, CT) www.hamiltonsundstrand.com
|Advanced aerospace and industrial products
|National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (Reston, VA) www.nga.mil
||Geospatial intelligence supporting national security
|Pratt & Whitney (East Hartford, CT)
|Aircraft engines, space propulsion
systems and industrial gas turbines
|Tennessee Valley Authority (Knoxville, TN) www.tva.gov
||Federal corporation; public power provider
|Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing
North America, Inc (Erlanger, KY)
||Engineering design, development,
R&D; and manufacturing of cars and light trucks
|Union Pacific Railroad (Omaha, NE)
||Railroad operations across the western two-thirds of the United States
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