Managing, designing, developing: A week as a systems engineer at Rohde & Schwarz

Systems engineering is used as an essential development method for implementing complex technical systems in large projects, and Rohde & Schwarz is no exception. And yet, describing the job of a systems engineer in one sentence is not at all easy. Always on the lookout for the most effective solution, our colleagues manage thousands of requirements, dependencies and interfaces and design intelligent systems for our customers. Our colleague Raphael is one of them. He studied electrical engineering with a focus on communications systems and has been working at Rohde & Schwarz in Hamburg since the beginning of 2022. We accompanied him for a week.

Systems Engineer Raphael

"The most important part of my job is breaking down large, complex problems into small manageable problems and solving them either independently or with the help of specialists."

Raphael, Systems Engineer in the field of Navy

Monday: New week, new requirements

The new week starts for Raphael with news from the customer: The shipyard for which he and his team are developing a communications system has provided feedback with change requests to the current technical design. Raphael looks at the feedback and checks what the implications are. He then prepares a response to the customer. Some points he can answer himself, for others he needs input from specialists: "In order to be able to evaluate in detail whether the customer's requirements are still met with the desired changes, I set up meetings with specialized colleagues." This is where the biggest challenge of Raphael's job already becomes apparent: Large amounts of information from all specialist disciplines have to be evaluated, interpreted and assigned to the relevant stakeholders.

Tuesday: Experts among themselves

At the meeting with an HF specialist, Raphael presents the changes requested by the shipyard. The two discuss all aspects of the request to analyze the technical design implications in detail. "Some points my colleague can answer, but one point is cross-subsystem and needs to be evaluated and classified separately," Raphael explains. To clarify this last point, he organizes a follow-up meeting with other specialists. It is not uncommon for experts to be consulted again and again in the course of the process: "As a generalist who holds the reins across systems, I am constantly accessing the specialist knowledge of colleagues," says the systems engineer. Teamwork is essential in this job, too.

Raphael at his work desk
As a Systems Engineer, Raphael makes sure the customer gets what they need.

Wednesday: The importance of standards

Today, Raphael has one thing on his agenda above all else: Deep diving into standards and guidelines that are demanded by the client and legislator. They contain specifications that have an influence on the technical implementation, but also on the processes to be used. For example, transmission protocols, functions, but also more abstract properties are required. Raphael keeps track of this, too: "I read a lot, ask publishing organizations if necessary, and support colleagues in efficient implementation." Staying up to date on standards is important for working with customers and finding the optimal solution. At least as important: to continue training on a regular basis. "The fact that you are always supported in your training efforts is something I particularly appreciate at Rohde & Schwarz. But I can also learn from my expert colleagues every day - knowledge is always shared in my team," Raphael is happy to say.

Thursday: Requirements engineering as a central task

The most important item on the agenda this Thursday is a follow-up meeting with two other specialists who are to evaluate the customer's change requests from a cross-subsystem perspective. The meeting is informative and Raphael now knows: a cable diameter must be adjusted. But what he also knows: this adjustment will violate one of the requirements specified by the customer. "In such a case, it's my job to convince the customer that the function and performance he originally wanted can be achieved without this requirement," says Raphael. The fact that the customer and the client do not always agree on the implementation of systems is a regular occurrence, and so it is part of the daily routine of a systems engineer to examine the facts in detail as part of requirements engineering and to be able to substantiate recommendations with valid arguments.

Naval Security
Developing complex systems from thousands of products is just one of the many challenges our systems engineers face.

Friday: Always looking for the best solution

Now that Raphael has examined the change requests from the shipyard in detail and obtained expert opinions, he can finally formulate a well-founded response to the customer. Before he sends it off, it is checked by his colleague - in line with the dual control principle. Raphael explains, "We didn't accept all the feedback from the shipyard, and the response describes what those points are and why we have a different view of them there - always in terms of the desired function, of course." His broad know-how and holistic view of the development process enable Raphael to always find the best possible solution to his customers' problems. He is particularly pleased that he is able to perform such a varied job as a systems engineer at Rohde & Schwarz: "All electrical engineers who have anything to do with communications will have a Rohde & Schwarz instrument in their hands at one time or another. This name stands for tradition, state-of-the-art technology and quality. Playing my part in this fills me with pride."