How to demonstrate ‘Systems Thinking’ in your ‘Systems Engineering’ CV
Over the years we have worked with and placed hundreds of Systems Engineers into Defence, Cyber and High Technology companies across the UK and into businesses from just a few members of staff into the thousands. Systems engineering is the interdisciplinary field of engineering and engineering management that focuses on how to design, integrate, and manage complex systems over their life cycles.
However, more recently we have seen an upturn in the need for Systems Thinking as a part of the Systems Engineering skillset. We went to our network and asked Hiring Managers and Thought Leaders from the Defence and Tech industry what Systems Thinking was for them, and how someone would be able to demonstrate these skills in a CV… with some interesting results.
Here are the key points to flag on your CV, but please read through all the important points below:
- Focus on outcomes rather than outputs
- Demonstrate how you solve a variety of different and challenging complex problems
- Evidence the ability to take account of multi-dimensional views, philosophies, values of stakeholders and groups of stakeholders
- Explain how you identify and work to break down silos across the system
- Explain your strong listening /facilitation skills (critical to extract understanding from others)
- How does your work integrate into the bigger picture?
- Don't make the mistake of listing Tools of a Systems Engineer on your CV and making it look like a mirror of your job description
Perspective 1 - Defence Director in the Marine Engineering sector
For me, systems thinking is the set of behaviours at the core of what people like me purport to do for a living. Although ‘systems engineer’ is often defined so vaguely by companies that it ends up meaning ‘generalist with nous’, the ones I think of as systems thinkers are the people whose focus shifts continuously and zooms in and out in order to capture length and breadth. This is what I am looking for when I look at systems engineer CVs and the most encouraging sign is evidence of in-depth involvement in disparate areas over a condensed period.
The likelihood is that the person has turned out to be good at solving complex and heavily constrained problems and has been allowed to get on with it. I certainly wouldn’t say that all systems engineers do that.
Perspective 2 - Former Head of Systems Engineering and Capability from an international Defence Prime and member of INCOSE. Also PhD in Engineering Design and MSc in Systems Engineering
A strong characteristic of systems thinking is that it is holistic! so I look for people who can demonstrate the ability to situate themselves in complex situations (e.g. identify messes from difficulties), abstract that complexity in some way to represent essential connectedness (e.g. boundary identification to sperate from environment) and to have used a suitable method(s) to represent the system (e.g. models, diagrams, analogies).
Demonstrate an ability to both abstract from, and immerse themselves in, the situation/issue and look for ways to improve it.
To be able to evidence the ability to take account of multi-dimensional views, philosophies, values of stakeholders and groups of stakeholders. Those that talk about improving situations/issues rather than talking only about solutions. Typically, these have been more implied than explicit in CV's I have seen but this ability always comes out during interviews.
Perspective 3 – Principal Consultant from a Systems Engineering Consultancy and former Head of Architecture at a UK Based Defence Prime
I'd offer up looking for evidence of:
· Wide range of knowledge and interests (breadth of focus)
· Solving a variety of different complex problems (ability to cope with uncertainty and new challenges).
· Collaborating with others (they'll engage others to understand more).
· Strong listening /facilitation skills (critical to extract understanding from others).
· Focus on outcomes rather than outputs (focus on what's needed and not simply what is asked for).
Perspective 4 – Chartered Systems Thinking Engineer at a Technology and Strategy Consultancy
For me, it's about demonstrating you can take a holistic approach to problems. I would look for evidence of:
· Where they have considered how their work integrates into the bigger picture
· How they have considered the whole lifecycle - how they have looked to deliver benefits for the whole system and major stakeholders, rather than just the individual project they may be working on - where they have identified and worked to break down silos across the system.
This is difficult to get across in a CV and easier for in an interview. One thing that can show this on a CV though is a breadth of experiencing projects from different perspectives and across the project lifecycle.
Perspective 4 – MD of a Systems Thinking Consultancy
We don't recruit for systems thinkers directly but good engineers, with great interpersonal skills who use systems thinking. We look for the signs of great engineers first, with a broad experience and range of skills and that is what gets our attention. If they have that then we test them for their systems thinking whilst they demonstrate their interpersonal skills in an interview. Attitude is also very important. We need excellent, well balanced and higher thinking engineers to be successful with the challenging projects we take on.
Finally, Perspective 5 – Head of Engineering at an Autonomous Systems Engineering Consultancy
My favourite guide to help answer this question is the '14 habits of a systems thinker'
Click here: Habits of a Systems Thinker
Not easy to get these complex concepts across in a CV!
We hope this blog helps with your Systems Thinking CV creation, and don’t forget to send us a copy once you’re done. We have a lot of vacancies lined up for you!