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What is a systems engineer?

A systems engineer plans an organization's software systems, how those systems integrate, and how they'll be supported and maintained over time.
A computer surrounded by tools

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

The era of technological development and change has paved the way for new ways of working and thinking. In years past, businesses were mainly responsible for their physical infrastructure. Today, their purview includes nonphysical components such as software and applications, which are often referred to as systems, and they are the workhorses of the organization. These systems exist in various industries, including medical, business, education, engineering, transport, and even gaming.

A systems engineer plans for what software systems an organization uses, how those systems integrate, and how they'll be supported and maintained over time. It's more complex than browsing through lists of software and choosing the one that seems most appealing. A systems engineer gathers input from users, developers, and managers to define requirements, considering reliability, longevity, maintainability, risk management, and more. A systems engineer identifies the problems that need to be solved in an organization and then finds the most reliable and efficient solution.

Where does the systems engineer reside in the IT organization?

A systems engineer often occupies more than one role in the organization. In fact, many systems engineers have general responsibilities in other IT areas, including operating systems, databases, web development, and networking. They can contribute to any aspect of IT architecture and infrastructure, depending on their skills. In short, the systems engineer is there to make systems run as smoothly as they're designed to, as well as try to make improvements that help the enterprise gain more from its IT infrastructure.

Systems engineers work closely alongside IT managers, engineers, and computer scientists. They are responsible for setting up, maintaining, and troubleshooting computer systems and networks. Systems engineers must have an in-depth understanding of computers and software systems, so employers tend to prefer hiring people who have at least a bachelor's degree in IT.

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Unlike IT architects, who may work in one particular business domain, systems engineers often work closely with other engineering team members. As engineers, they perform quality assurance and control and support the systems they often help create. These responsibilities may include creating products and services. In addition, like an IT architect, a systems engineer knows about the various systems in place, as shown by their duties in designing and developing new systems.

IT systems are complex and often comprised of various parts. These systems are also ever-changing, as they are updated and modified to incorporate the latest technological advancements. The changing nature of the systems means that the people responsible for their management and maintenance must keep up with the changes.

What does a systems engineer do?

The above basically defines my role as a systems engineer. I focus primarily on the business of streamlining IT integration and implementation. I work with enterprise customers who are deploying a new network or upgrading and expanding an existing network, including the Internet of Things (IoT). These customers need to reduce costs and improve their network's efficiency, uptime, and reliability. I am essentially an experienced network engineer empowering organizations to embrace the potential of applications, automation, and infrastructure for the network, IoT, and DevOps.

I am passionate about IT solutions and front-end technologies. I am also interested in developing customized strategies that help companies reduce IT infrastructure costs, align IT applications to support the business proactively, and achieve the business' strategic goals.

Systems engineering is a broad domain in which an engineer has to develop interdisciplinary skills to understand the concepts and work in different environments, including hardware design, software design, development, and testing, to name a few.

To become a systems engineer, you need to have a good academic record in your undergraduate studies. It took me six years to become a systems engineer. I spent four years earning my degree in systems engineering and two more years earning my master's. It takes years of hard work and dedication to become an expert in this field.

The field of systems engineering is quite broad and is not limited to computers and software. You need to be able to work in different environments. You may need to take internships and part-time jobs to experience working in different areas of systems engineering. To become an expert, you need to work, and you need to work hard.

How do you become a systems engineer?

Many companies are looking to fill system engineer roles, and more will follow suit soon. The primary route to becoming a systems engineer is completing a bachelor's degree in computer science. Earning a formal education can give you the necessary background in various topics, such as computer programming, software engineering, and networks. Of course, everyone's path is different, and many people build thriving careers on a foundation of self-learning.

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Engineering is a lucrative field. It's a highly sought-after job that offers a lot of freedom, options, and career growth. It isn't without its challenges, but what makes it fun is that you constantly have to be creative and solve problems, which definitely keeps you on your toes. Most of the time, you'll probably be working on a team that includes developers and others from the operations side of the organization. At the end of the day, your goal is to support systems and ensure they serve their intended purpose for the organization.

Topics:   Career   Software   Collaboration  
Author’s photo

Yasser Al-dhamary

Yasser Al-dhamary is an experienced Senior Network Automation Engineer for SkillsBuild Training. More about me

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