Well planned rotational programs can benefit both engineers and companies by increasing an engineer’s breadth of experience and aiding in knowledge sharing across a company. Formal training, such as graduate school, is often thought of as a great way to increase subject understanding, but systems engineering is extremely broad and nothing can replace the value of personal, on-the-job experience.
Rotational programs allow an engineer to move around a company can be beneficial both to the individual and to the company. The engineer is able to increase their systems engineering skills by learning different parts of the systems life cycle, while also gaining experience in a variety of domain areas. The company is benefitted because the engineer is broadening their network across the corporation while also sharing knowledge from one site to another.
Engineers taking on the challenge of rotating should already have a few years of experience to ensure they have a solid technical base and working knowledge of their company. For example, an engineer who has worked integration and test (I&T) for five years will have a strong knowledge base in how challenging it is to build a system and get it working; however, it would be extremely beneficial for them to see how a system is originally architected and designed. They have felt the pains of early design decisions and how I&T is impacted, so now they can share that experience while learning why and how design decisions are made. The added bonus is that many companies have numerous sites not co-located because of the systems they build. They are often organized by domain experience, and by rotating the engineer to different company sites, the employee is also going to learn varying domain knowledge. This will broaden how they think about systems engineering and how to solve the challenges of today’s most complex systems. While this sounds like a great way to train systems engineers, the logistics behind implementing rotations can be challenging.
The implementation of a rotational program for systems engineers needs to start with support from top management. They need to be behind the program both from technical and financial standpoints. For an employee to rotate around to various work sites, they will likely need to physically move and require financial support in order to do this. However, the engineer will also be sharing their knowledge from site to site. One of the most challenging things for a large company is knowledge sharing and a rotational program can greatly aid in breaking down this barrier.
Companies are in need of experienced systems engineers and rotational programs can aid in the technical development of employees as well as strengthen the knowledge sharing network around the company.