Technical Report: The Helix Project

Report Number: Technical Report SERC-2014-TR-038-3

Report Name: Helix – Phase 3

Publication Date: April 19, 2014


Executive Summary:
Helix, a project of the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), is a multi-year longitudinal study designed to build an understanding of the landscape of the systems engineering workforce, what enables and inhibits the effectiveness of systems engineers, and how organizations are attempting to improve their effectiveness. Helix is exploring three research questions:
• What are the characteristics of systems engineers?
• How effective are systems engineers and why?
• What are employers doing to improve the effectiveness of their systems engineers?
The first Helix Report (Pyster et al. 2013) was published in December 2013, which provided an overview of the motivation and methodology for the study as well as some preliminary results for Phases 1 and 2 of the project; one of the findings on ‘What makes Systems Engineers most Effective’ was the importance of diversity of experiences and mentoring. This report presents findings in Phase 3 and explores these two themes in more detail. The analysis is based on the data collected during Phases 1 and 2 plus follow up interviews conducted during Phase 3. The career path analysis looks at several aspects of work experiences relevant to the development of systems engineers. This includes experiences across the system life cycle as well as different types of organizations, domains, programs, and roles. This analysis also includes the development and application of seniority levels – junior, mid—level, and senior – for systems engineers. Finally, the Helix team analyzed the careers of chief systems engineers to determine a common path.


Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers