Ezra's Round Table / Systems Seminar: Cliff Whitcomb (Cornell Systems Engineering)


Frank H. T. Rhodes Hall 253


Competencies Uncovered—What Systems Engineers Need to Know

Since the original development of systems approaches to engineering, various companies, professional societies, and organizations have attempted to understand what competencies and skills are required to effectively practice systems engineering. Professor Whitcomb was the principal investigator for a comprehensive multi-year study to determine the work tasks performed and the respective competencies required for US Department of Defense systems engineers. The study surveyed 6,011 employees and 1,519 supervisors in systems engineering across the US Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Missile Defense Agency. The team of researchers conducted this study with support from the US Navy and the Office of Personnel Management. A summary of the results through a comparison of the critical tasks, competencies, knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors identified among systems engineers in the organizations surveyed is summarized. Several other current projects in the development of systems and digital engineering competency frameworks for the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the US Department of Defense are also covered. Conclusions about the importance of developing and using systems engineering competency frameworks, along with implications for developing current and future systems engineers, are presented.

Clifford Whitcomb, Ph.D., is a Professor of Practice in the Systems Engineering Program at Cornell. He was recently a Distinguished Professor of Systems Engineering and a former Chair of the Systems Engineering Department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. He is the Chair of the Competency Working Group for the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). He is a co-editor of the upcoming INCOSE book, “The Systems Engineering Competency Assessment Guide” to be published by Wiley in January 2023. Dr. Whitcomb is a Fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering and a Fellow of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME). He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Systems Engineering. Dr. Whitcomb was previously the Northrop-Grumman Ship Systems Endowed Chair and Professor of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and Professor of Engineering Management at the University of New Orleans, a senior lecturer in the MIT System Design and Management (SDM) program, as well as an Associate Professor in the MIT Ocean Engineering Department. Dr. Whitcomb is a retired naval submarine officer, with a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science and a naval engineer degree from MIT, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland.