This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview “Esteemed Executive, Scientist, Engineer, Educator; Dr. Art Pyster Distinguished Research Professor Stevens Institute; Deputy Executive Director SERC, Department of Defense; Fellow and 2008/9 Chairman Corporate Advisory Board INCOSE.”
Dr. Art Pyster is a Distinguished Research Professor in the School of Systems and Enterprises at Stevens Institute of Technology, and the Deputy Executive Director of the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC). In a career spanning almost 35 years, Art has held many roles, including educator, researcher, manager, systems engineer, executive, scientist, and programmer.
Today, Art spends most of his time operating the SERC at Stevens Institute on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense. The SERC is a university affiliated research center serving as the primary engine for systems engineering research for the Department of Defense. Its diverse research portfolio ranges from rethinking how to specify what systems must do, to defining what the next generation of chief systems engineers should know, to discovering how to secure system enterprises.
Before joining Stevens Institute in March 2007, Art served as the Senior Vice President and Director of Systems Engineering and Integration for Fortune 500 company SAIC., as the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Federal Aviation Administration, where he oversaw information technology investment and policy, created and operated the agency’s information security program, and operated their process improvement program; and as the Chief Scientist for Software Engineering for the Federal Aviation Administration, Chief Technical Officer for the Software Productivity Consortium, Director at Digital Sound Corporation, Manager of Systems Engineering at TRW, and Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Art’s career includes overseeing more than $10 billion in capital investment, managing more than $40 million in systems and software engineering research, directing the creation of three Capability Maturity Models for process improvement, delivering commercial telecommunications systems with extremely low defects, and managing training programs for thousands of engineers and managers.
His professional and research activities emphasize systems and software engineering, especially the integration of those two disciplines and their application to enterprise operations. Most recently he has focused on improving how systems and software engineers are educated and trained. In late 2009, he completed an international project that created the standard reference curriculum for graduate software engineering education. Notably, that reference curriculum explicitly integrates systems engineering into the education of software engineers. Art is now leading a second project that is creating the standard body of knowledge for systems engineering as well as the standard reference curriculum for graduate systems engineering education.
During 2008-2009, Art was the chairman of the Corporate Advisory Board of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and a member of the INCOSE board of directors. He is a fellow of INCOSE, a member of the IEEE Computer Society Educational Activities Board, and a distinguished alumnus of the Ohio State University School of Engineering, where he received his PhD.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Art, can you discuss your prior roles and the key lessons that you wish to pass on?
“….Focus, clarity and persistence….Foster diversity in building your team….Work on things that matter….”
You talked about working on things that matter and that leads to this whole idea of volunteerism. Can you speak more on that whole aspect of volunteerism?
“….Probably on my most interesting projects, most of the people who have been involved in it have been volunteers. One project that I’ve recently completed built the next generation of reference curriculum for graduate programs for software engineering….They (people who volunteered) did it because they had a passion for what we were trying to do. They thought that educating the next generation of systems engineers was a really important thing….”
What do you consider to be your top contributions?
“…The one thing where I had the most personal satisfaction was pulling together the information security system for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)….The software engineering reference curriculum was also one of my most satisfying contributions….”
Can you share from your experiences the kinds of technologies that would be useful to the audience when they are trying to manage global teams?
“…..Being able to have collaborative work spaces so we can put documents into the same place, comment on them and share without having to email massive amounts of information all over the place….”
In your prior roles, what were the most difficult challenges that you were not able to overcome at that time? What would you do differently now?
“….Part of the challenge sometimes is when you work for an individual that you don’t trust who isn’t an honest and honorable person….Another of the issues that you may have to deal with when you join an organization is whether you fit into the culture. What you have to figure out when you are looking is not only is the work good, the pay good, but are you going to be in an environment that is going to be nurturing to the style with which you do work….”
What were the key disruptive forces driving change in your life and how can we learn from your experiences?
“….In terms of lessons, not to be afraid to make changes and to build on adverse situations….Learn from the troubles in your life and use them to grow….”
What are some lessons for effective leadership?
“….If I look at my top five things: Respect your team members….Begin with the end in mind….Communicate….Lead by example….Know what to delegate….”
In each of your current roles, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions?
“….The Department of Defense has about fourteen different research centers that it sponsors in different fields – one of them is systems engineering and I run that particular one on behalf of Stevens Institute of Technology….The biggest challenge is taking this very broad pool of talent and figuring out how to deploy it to work on the research problems that the Dept. of Defense has….”
How are the disciplines of software and systems engineering increasingly entangled — that will dramatically improve their practice and the way they are taught?
“….That’s a new thing for a lot of organizations which historically have had those populations be fairly separate. They would have very different career paths and the thinking that they really are highly entangled and highly dependant on each other may not be present in the educational, career path, training, etc. of those organizations and that’s a challenge….One of the specific objectives of the reference curriculum was to begin the integration implicitly of systems and software engineering education….”
Where can one get this reference curriculum and guidelines and other kinds of products that your group has produced?
“….They are freely available on the web at: http://www.gswe2009.org (Graduate Software Engineering)….”
Why is systems engineering at a “break” point where it must change dramatically to maintain its value in the face of rapid innovation in systems development?
“….It has to be much more agile, a much speedier process, much more tightly integrated into all the other types of engineering, and not relying a lot on paper but relying on things that might be modeled dynamically….Nobody has quite figured out how to do that well. That’s some of the research that the systems engineering research center that I lead is trying to address….”
Can you share your views on the “Open Academic Model” which blurs the lines between academia and industry and is reshaping how graduate systems engineering is taught?
“….The ‘Open Academic Model’ is built around five principles: Partnership with industry, government and academia….Blurring boundaries around the academic settings and those of the ‘consumers’, industry, government….Being agile in how you deliver education….Openly sharing materials….Trying to hire not only the classical professors but also non-traditional faculty….”
Can you tell us more about new educational standards in Graduate Software Engineering?
“….What we’ve come up with is a set of guidelines and recommendations that include a number of different components…..That speaks to understanding a certain set of core knowledge and we’ve identified a common body of knowledge that we would like every single student who graduates with a Master’s degree to know….”
What are the challenges that governments face in reforming how they acquire large complex software-intensive systems?
“….Speed, agility, and having the workforce that is able to deal with all of this….The government really needs to reform their approaches and they are trying to do this in both systems and software engineering so that the workforce is much more capable, much more confident than they have historically been….”
How can partnerships improve computing education in general?
“….Having those partnerships has the advantage that it helps the university produce courses that are much more relevant, because they get a deeper understanding of what’s important to the companies that would be hiring their graduates. It increases the likelihood that their students will be attractive to those companies; the faculty may get research funding as a result of those ties as well….”
You choose the areas–provide your predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
“….I think the biggest trend is in having more complexity, more challenges, and ensuring safety and security in all of these systems that are being created by hooking things up that were never intended to be hooked up when they were designed….I see that as an enormous problem, because of the way we are integrating everything is far outstripping the fundamental systems science that’s allowing us to understand what will happen when we hook everything together….”
Which are your top recommended resources and why?
“….It’s mostly the network of colleagues that I have….Keep cultivating your network. I strongly recommend that people do that as a way of ensuring that they’ve got enough brain power to focus on any problem they face….”
Steven’s Institute is the heart of many research projects and you are involved with the reference curriculum and many other areas. Can you give the audience the web address?
“….http://www.stevens.edu….Systems Engineering Research Center: http://www.stevens.edu/serc….”
Art shares an inspiring story from his work.
Please provide your views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession and how it could improve the IT industry? [http://www.IPThree.org].
“….I applaud that in general but it is very tough in some of these newer fields, because it is very hard to reach community consensus about what it is that people should know. It’s one of those things that is imperfect but over time it gets more and more perfect….”