Monday, November 30, 2015

President's Message

This year’s election for INCOSE officers is closed but the chapter’s election will soon be open.  We will have two members that will be on the ballot for first time.  Write-in candidates are also welcome.  They will be joining the other members of our Board of Directors to provide a program which promotes systems engineering here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The monthly chapter meetings are just one way to provide value to our members.  We have discussed conducting workshops on a variety of topics but we need your input on what is of interest.  We are also collaborating with Los Angeles Chapter on a mini-regional conference to be held next year.  This will not only provide a learning opportunity to members who may not be able to make the International Symposium but also an opportunity to share your expertise by publishing and presenting your own paper (see the notice about the Regional Mini-Conference 2016 for more information).  We are also discussing plans for a social event and are looking for members who would volunteer to help organize.

Last month’s chapter meeting “Leveraging Space Resources as a Humanitarian Tool” presented by Allan Sison was well attended at San Jose State University, at the Lockheed Martin satellite location and remotely through GlobalMeet.  We are trying to provide a variety of forums for members to engage.  There were also several San Jose State University students in attendance.

These are just a few of the ways that the chapter works to provide value to members.  There are also the INCOSE central efforts.  

I have attended a couple of the webinars which provide information of current practices in systems engineering.  I found the webinar by candidate for President, Rick Dove, on “The Art of Agile SE” to be quite engaging.  It confirmed an aspect of systems engineering that Ihave always believed to be a central element which is user engagement.  I consider the user to be not only the end user of a system but also the engineering, manufacturing, and service organizations involved in realizing the system.  

Rick pointed out three design quality principles:  Harmony of delight (emotional); parsimony (economic); and requisite variety (functional).  My experience had been that these are: cost; schedule; and function.  While I realized that there was another element at play (for example resistance to change or preference for particular design), I had not identified it until this webinar as the emotional quality.

Another point that Rick made is the expectation of consistency.  Systems need to be evolutionary not revolutionary.  I have some difficulty accepting this.  In my experience with defense and medical devices, this is the case.  But Steve Jobs was quite successful in his vision as a revolutionary that cannot ask what a user wants then develop the product, because by time it goes to market, the user’s wants will have changed. 

Besides offering members information on current practices in Systems Engineering, these webinars also provide members who are certified the opportunity to earn PDUs to maintain certification.

INCOSE provides numerous opportunities for members to exchange knowledge and systems engineering information.  The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter is at the foreground for our members to offer quality professional development.  The chapter endeavors to engage all members and asks for your response to the upcoming election, attending chapter meetings, answering the requests for input on topics of interest and volunteering to support.

By Rollie Olson 

INCOSE SFBAC Blog Seeking Feedback

INCOSE SFBAC is approaching its two year anniversary of having a blog/digital newsletter. During this time we have published nearly 65 articles and have had 2000 views. A typical newsletter consists of a chapter president's update, section updates, and 2-3 other articles relating to INCOSE or systems engineering. 

We are seeking feedback on the blog to see what our membership enjoys about the blog and any suggestions you may have to improve. Please comment below or submit a comment via the "Contact Us" form.

The current Communications Director, Cassi Janakos is moving onto other opportunities at the end of the year and we will be welcoming Olga Jilani as the nominee for 2016 Communications Director.

Thank you for reading the blog! 

Systems Engineering in Retirement

There are many opportunities throughout our society for experienced systems engineers to continue to apply their engineering skills in retirement.  It might be that most of these activities won't have a large impact, and will be primarily for your own entertainment.  But that's not all bad, either.  Studies shows that keeping one's mind active with games, puzzles, learning a new language, etc. is important for seniors, to maintain mental acuity and prevent or delay dementia.  My preference of “games” are Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, and my puzzles are public policy issues in which I have been applying my skills in small to larger activities.

On the small side, online surveys and web sites provide many opportunities to help companies make incremental improvements.  Many online surveys don't satisfy a key requirement:  the range of potential answers they provide is incomplete, and they don't provide a mechanism for the survey responder to provide an accurate answer.  Often, the survey lacks a fill-in answer.  More often, the survey lacks the "not applicable" option, which applies far more frequently than the survey designers seem to expect.  In these cases, I send a message to the survey organization, informing them of their omission; usually, I receive at least a courteous response.

Free wi-fi at coffee houses and stores is another area where a key requirement is sometimes not satisfied:  data transfer speed is sometimes too slow to be usable.  At a popular chain of coffee houses and at a well-known department store, I noticed the wi-fi speed was slow.  I measured it at about 1Mb/s, which is much too slow for any useful web access.  I sent messages to both companies.  The coffee house sent a response that they plan to upgrade the wi-fi in all of their stores by the end of 2015.  I have not yet heard back from the department store.

In a medium scope instance:  The City of Palo Alto wants to make certain streets safer for bicycles.  Their initial solution for our street, somewhat of a thoroughfare for two elementary, one middle, and one high school plus Stanford, would have made driving and even biking on our street very slow and possible even more hazardous.  My opinion was that the solution, transferred from more densely populated towns in Europe, far exceeded the requirements for improved safety on our street.  I expressed that opinion to the planning department.  I don't know if my opinion carried any weight, but the city is now proposing a much simpler and less intrusive solution.

On the larger side, I am interested in public works and public policy issues.  In one instance, I am disappointed with the current high speed rail / Caltrain solution for our Peninsula.  The current plan is that in 2029 - another 14 years from now - all that will be achieved is an electrified "blended" solution using mostly the current Caltrain tracks.  This will not achieve at least what should be three major goals of Peninsula transportation - truly high speed transportation (grade level crossings reduce allowed speeds), less noise (more trains will mean more train horns at those crossings), and reduced automobile traffic impacts (grade-level crossings interrupt traffic flow).  I am revising a PowerPoint presentation to encourage the reconsideration of an elevated solution along the Caltrain right of way, but one that would address the visual esthetics of the solution, to counter some of the primary objections from past years.

Our nation's legislators - at the state level and Congress - also need solutions based not just on platitudes and ideology, but solutions that are based on engineering approaches and data.  Perhaps one could call this, not political science as taught in universities, but "political engineering".  I intend to analyze problems, and then develop, suggest, and discuss with community leaders and legislators politically-engineered approaches to taxation, the Federal budget and debt government regulations, and other issues.

However, our nation certainly has many small to very large problems that need well-engineered solutions for the 21st century, and the insight of retired systems engineers could well help achieve those solutions.

By Mike Forster

Membership Meeting: December 14, 2015

This is an early announcement concerning the 14 Dec chapter meeting.  Scott Workinger will be talking about Transformational Systems Engineering.  We will be trying a new location: Rinconada Library, 1213 Newell Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303. We will also work on setting up satellite location at Lockheed Martin.  

Introduction to Transformational Systems Engineering

Scott Workinger

In recent years, many of our colleagues have observed that, “There is no one-size-fits-all systems engineering.”  This observation has arisen as the complexities in our world have multiplied and organizations have been experimenting with multiple innovative practices that could, in some sense, be identified as “Systems Engineering” (SE).  Such practices go by a variety of names, such as Model Based Systems Engineering, Agile Systems Engineering, Enterprise Systems Engineering, Design Thinking, System of Systems Engineering, Business Model Engineering, Complex Systems Engineering, Organizational Development and others.  Of course, Classical Systems Engineering, as it has been practiced in the Aerospace and Defense Industries, is not going away.  Each of these practices has been tried successfully in certain situations.  Each is intended to apply a holistic approach to problems with significant scope and extend the reach of Systems Engineering.  Typically, they offer new paradigms.  But these practices vary considerably as do the contexts in which they are normally applied.  Moreover, often, the practitioners do not self-identify as systems engineers.  For instance, to quote an experienced Apple engineer, “Apple doesn’t hire any systems engineers.  However two thirds of the people at Apple are doing Systems Engineering.”
 In 2013, members of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (SFBAC) of INCOSE became interested in the problem of describing a “Systems Engineering” that is sufficiently inclusive to embrace all of the practices that offer systems engineering functionality, even though practitioners may not call themselves “SEs.”  At that time, we formed the Systems Engineering Transformation Caucus, a loosely knit organization whose mission was to define a larger body of systems engineering practice and make it more accessible to working engineers.  We refer to this rapidly evolving body of practice as “Transformational Systems Engineering” (TSE).
In October, the Caucus members collaborated to create a themed issue of INCOSE INSIGHT, entitled "Systems Engineering in Transformation."  This issue is intended as a snapshot of Transformational Systems Engineering as it exists at this point in time.  Upcoming SFBAC chapter meetings will discuss various aspects of TSE.  This first meeting will give an overview of Transformational SE as it exists today.  Upcoming meetings will describe a variety of TSE practice paradigms, going into more detail in each focus area.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Event of Interest: BIOMEDevice San Jose

INCOSE members will receive free expo admission when you use source code ‘TC’ when checking out, and will get 20% off conference content when you use promo code ‘DISC20’.

Event: BIOMEDevice San Jose
Date: December 2-3, 2015
Location: San Jose Convention Center, San Jose, CA


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Silicon Valley Engineering Council (SVEC) Open House 2015

The SVEC is hosting their complimentary Annual Open House event! Join them for a complimentary light buffet and an evening of exciting information and engineering camaraderie. Colleagues and spouses are invited to enjoy the festivities. The welcome reception will be from 5:30pm - 7:00pm and presentations will be from 7:00pm - 8:30pm. Register by November 17, 2015.

  • Welcoming Remarks
  • Keynote Speaker: Mahmood Khan, MBA, PMP, BSc
  •    "Future of IOT(Internet of Things): Industrialize and Automate Everything."
  • Report from John J. Kowalchik, VP, Lockheed Martin Space Systems
  •     "Boy Scouts Engineering Explorer Post at Lockheed"
  • Acknowledgement of Sponsors
  • SVEC Discover “E” Outreach
  • Call for Applications for 2016 Scholarships
  • 2016 Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame Inductees Announcement
  • SVEC Engineers Week Banquet, February 2016

Bio of Speaker:
Mahmood Khan has over 18 years of experience in transforming business IT to generate new top line growth, reduce operation costs and improve profit margins. He has held leadership positions at CSC, HP/EDS, IBM-GS as a Client Principal, Practice Director, Solution Architect, and Program/Project Manager. He is a co-founder of G-ESI, an IT Professional Services and training company.

Mahmood is passionate about education and skills training to improving people’s  careers and life.  He has taught software program development and programming language skills development courses at Berkeley,  Santa Cruz Universities and at special events. He is a Board member at San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School.

From John Kowalchik:
Lockheed Martin in conjunction with the Boy Scouts of America (Learning for Life) operates an Engineering Explorer Post here at our Sunnyvale facility.  This year we had about 50 future engineers and scientists in the program, and we've seen one of our past graduates return as a summer intern this year!  We'd like the opportunity to talk about the program in order to encourage other Bay Area companies to consider Exploring as a potential STEM activity.  The BSA makes all the logistics very easy and we simply administer the program via our staff engineering folks.  It turns out that we're the one and only Engineering Explorer Post in the entire Silicon Valley Monterey Bay area.  We'd like to see more.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Regional Mini-Conference 2016 (RMC16) - Extended Abstract Deadline

Regional Mini-Conference 2016 :

Planning for the Regional Mini-Conference is moving full steam ahead. The leadership team, consisting of representatives of the co-hosting chapters (Southern Arizona, Central Arizona, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, plus the INCOSE Student Division), meets weekly, with sub-teams also meeting weekly to keep the preliminary tasks on track. The two-day conference will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, 2016, in the Los Angeles area.

Call for papers:

We have all had professional issues as systems engineers, either a question begging an answer or an answer begging a question. Why not preparation a presentation on your issue?  Please write up a summary of the issue and what you would like to say about it, and submit it to the Technical Review Committee. Instructions for submitting presentations, including a link for submitting them is on the conference website: Abstracts are due by December 11, 2015. Acceptances will be sent January 15, 2016. Final presentations are due March 15, 2016.

As the RMC16 comes to fruition, we will need more volunteers. Want to help?
During the time until the conference, more opportunities to contribute to the success of this conference will open up.  Volunteers are needed to help with coordinating with the venue and lodging. One of the next areas of opportunity is to join the review teams from participating chapters. In the future there will be opportunities to help in the run-up to the conference itself – opportunities from coordinating last minute details with sponsors (IBM is on board) and exhibitors to stuffing gift bags and registration materials.  Interested? Contact Terry Rector at or Dick Emerson at

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

INCOSE SFBAC 2016 Election: Opportunities in Leadership

The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of INCOSE is looking for people interested in leadership opportunities. Elections will be held in November for Officers and Board Members.  If you have any interest in participating in chapter leadership, please contact Rollie Olson at rollieolsonjr [at]  If you have an INCOSE colleague who you think should be considered for an INCOSE leadership position, please ask them if they are willing to serve — if they are, please email Rollie to let him know of their willingness to serve, and give him their contact information.

Please watch your email in late October and early November for your ballot.  All chapter members listed in the INCOSE membership database as affiliated with the SFBAChapter will be receiving a ballot by email.  We plan to complete the election within about a month, so please vote once you receive your ballot.  Thank you in advance for your willingness to participate in shaping the future of our chapter!

INCOSE Certifications

Interested becoming an INCOSE certified systems engineer? Check out the INCOSE website to find out what level of certification is right for you and the correct process, Many engineering companies have agreements with INCOSE and provide discounts for their employees.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thinking About a Masters in Systems Engineering?

As Systems Engineering is becoming a more common area of study at many universities across the United States, online graduate programs geared towards working systems engineering professionals have sprung up as well. Now there are a variety of flexible options for professionals looking to go back to school to earn a graduate degree in systems engineering and related fields.

I initially went back to school for my Masters of Science while working at Lockheed Martin several years ago, and was surprised by how many schools offered flexible, affordable, and systems engineering oriented degree programs. Not all degree programs were called systems engineering, but I included them based on the classes offered and the online rankings websites (U.S. World & News Report and who consider them in systems engineering family. Looking back, here are the top programs I found in terms of quality of education and flexibility with your full-time engineering job. Please note that this article is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of INCOSE, the universities listed are not in any particular order. All universities listed offer 100% online programs.

1. UCLA Masters of Science Online Program - MS Systems Engineering

UCLA's online program was ranked by U.S. News and World Report 2015 as the #1 Online Engineering Degree Program. Their MS in Systems Engineering offers 9 domains of specialization making it even more focused on the area that interested you most. They also offer a MS in Engineering Management. You apply specifically for the online program, you only need 2 letters of recommendation and the GRE is sometimes waived if you are an exceptional applicant. What makes this program appealing is you only need 9 courses to earn your MS degree, the entire program costs around $33,000 not including course material. Overall, this program is very customized for professionals and focuses on making the program convenient.

2. Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD)/Honors Cooperative Program (HCP) - MS Management Science & Engineering  (MS&E)

This is the program I personally chose because I loved the flexibility that comes with being local in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students usually have the option of attending classes in person or online, what ever works best for them. You have the option of switching your status to a full-time on campus student part-way through the program if you desire. In addition that have networking events and a SCPD community for professionals to connect with. The program requires 3 letters of recommendation, but you have the option of submitting additional. You apply with the normal applicant pool of MS students, you specify you would like to be part-time and in SCPD by checking a box in the application. Please note that SCPD students must work for a member company and once enrolled/accepted you are considered part of the Honors Cooperative Program (HCP). The one down side to this program is the cost, when I attended it cost $1,340/unit for a 45 unit program that comes to over $60,000 not including fees and other coarse material. You do get to be part of the Stanford Alumni Asc. when you graduate, which has a very strong community in the Bay Area and beyond.

3. University of Southern California (USC) Online - MS Industrial and Systems Engineering or MS Systems Architecting and Engineering

I was very impressed with the huge selection of online programs USC offers in engineering and other fields. They have four MS degrees and a certificate in their Industrial and Systems Engineering category, including an MS in Engineering Management. When I was accepted into the Industrial and Systems Engineering MS program, I was surprised that my BS in Mechanical Engineering and BA in Business Management Economics wasn't enough to fulfill all the program prerequisites and my admission offer required I take additional undergraduate level courses closer to the systems engineering discipline. This meant it would take more time and money to get through the program, but on the bright side this ensures you have a very strong background in systems engineering. USC was another more expensive option on a per unit basis, at $1,706/unit. The 30 unit MS costs around $51,000 plus the cost of prerequisite courses you may need to take, fees and course material. This program was ranked #3 in Online Engineering Degree Programs 2015 by US News and World Report.

4. George Washington University (GWU) Online Programs - MS and PhD in Systems Engineering

What is most interesting about GWU is that they offer both a MS and a PhD program in either Systems Engineering or Engineering Management. I've seen very few PhD systems engineering programs, let alone a SE PhD program online. The PhD program does require you to have 5 years of related professional experience. Tuition at GWU is extremely reasonable at $833/unit, which is only ~$30,000 for a MS degree. Their website says there are no additional fees beyond the unit cost and course material is included in the cost. You may also be able to transfer a few courses, cutting down on your overall cost even more. This is probably the best value for an online MS degree you are going to find, which makes it an excellent option if you will be paying for this out of pocket, but still want to attend a high quality university.

5. Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Online - MS Systems Engineering and MS Engineering in Systems Engineering

JHU offers two similar Masters, one in Systems Engineering and another in Engineering in Systems Engineering. They also offer a MS in Technical Management. In order to be accepted you must have completed 1 year of work in systems engineering. If you are hesitant about jumping into a MS program this university allows you to start with a certificate program, and if you decide to pursue an MS you can apply your courses to the Masters. JHU requires 10 courses for a Masters at $3,710 per course, the program comes to ~$37,000 plus fees and course material.

There are many other universities out there that offer systems engineering or online programs, but these are the 5 that stood out to me as being the most interesting and flexible for a working professional. If there are other programs you recommend please feel free to post information about them in the comment section. Good luck on your graduate education journey!

Cassi Janakos, ASEP
Cassi's Bio/Background