Thursday, July 23, 2009

What’s it like to be a…..Systems Architect/Sr Consulting Engineer?

My company job title is: Systems Architect/Sr Consulting Engineer
Current project or contract role: Lead Systems Engineer (architect & design), Information Assurance (security) Engineer, Control Account Manager (cost and schedule)

What does a normal day look like?
My current contract means that the majority of my work is paid for through a Government or Commercial contract for services or for development of a system.  System development goes through software development lifecycle phases.  So I play different roles depending what phase the system is currently in.  For example, the requirements definition phase requires that I work on system requirements, performance requirements, security requirements, etc.  In the design phase, I have to establish design goals, evaluate development methods and procedures, create architecture diagrams, define software packages, etc.  In the build phase, I review development components and update architectural views.  During integration and testing, I review documentation products for technical content, update systems documents, evaluate test results.

Is it consistent throughout the year?
There are variations which include management work to review technical personnel for promotions and salary raises.  I sometimes have to work on new proposals to acquire additional system development contracts or evaluate the proposals that other organizations have prepared.  We often meet with our customers to go over the planning for new tasks within existing contracts or to review problems and technical solutions.

If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed? 
Changes in role often are driven by the contract/project customer (current contract is a USAF system development) priorities.  Sometimes the changes in world events alter work emphasis, especially if there is conflict where the USAF plays a key role.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job?
Computer programmer
Software design lead
Software development manager
Systems development lead
Systems engineering lead
Systems architect
Technical director

How did you get to where you are now?
I have been in a lead technical manager role for 12 years.  Before that I worked in a lead technical and design role for 10 years, and prior to that I worked as software developer for more than 12 years.

What kind of training/education did you have?
I have a BS degree in Economics.  But since I started in the early years of computer systems, I have received technical specialties training as well as technical management courses as they apply to software development and systems development.

What would you suggest?
For a technical manager/lead career, seek a BS degree in Computer Sciences, with an emphasis on full software/systems development lifecycle.

For a project manager career, seek a BS degree in Business with a consulting emphasis that includes an understanding of systems development.

What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position? 
Being able to work on a team, always looking for ways to contribute and seeking new challenges or opportunities to learn something new.

What are the rewards in your position?
Travel, marketable skills, salary, workaholic opportunities, telecommuting work.

What are the challenges? 
Not becoming a workaholic.  Computer understanding, concepts and capabilities are always changing.

What makes a good day for you?
Being able to just put in an 8-hour day. 

What was your first job like after college?

I worked for 4 years in the US Navy as a computer technician.

How do your beliefs and values or worldview perspectives impact what you do at work?
They help me keep work and family obligations in balance.
They help me stay focused on what is really important.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/23 at 08:46 AM

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