Don Winter Teaching ISD 520, Introduction to Systems Engineering in Fall 2013

The Honorable Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy, speaks with officers during a pier-side visit to the hospital ship USNS Comfort. Photo by Tyler Jones, US Navy, June 6, 2007.

The Honorable Don C. Winter, Professor of Engineering Practice and Former Secretary of the Navy, describes himself as an advocate for systems engineering. In his Fall 2013 course, ISD 520, Introduction to Systems Engineering, he truly is the voice of experience as he shares lessons learned throughout his rich and diverse background in industry and the military.

Professor Winter served as the 74th Secretary of the Navy from January 2006 to March 2009. Previously, he held multiple positions in the aerospace and defense industries as a systems engineer, program manager, and corporate executive.

In ISD 520, he focuses on the mindset and perspective of systems engineering and presents many examples of how systems engineering works in the real world where very few problems are well posed, data is often insufficient, and many times the requirements are conflicting and involve different groups and agendas. Based on his experience, the flow of systems engineering in practice is very different from teaching people how to answer in a classroom environment. Feedback from students indicates that this class has helped them immeasurably in understanding how industry works.

Before beginning his professional career, Professor Winter spent the late 60s and early 70s in Ann Arbor, earning his master’s and doctorate in physics.

His first position in industry was with TRW Systems where he was mentored by Simon Ramo, one of the founders of TRW, and a principle developer of the construct of systems engineering across engineering and non-engineering domains. After this, Prof. Winter became involved in a wide range of activities including satellite systems, large information technology programs, and ship building activities. Throughout his career, many of the issues and challenges associated with the development of very large systems and very complex products have illustrated the need for systems engineering, and he uses many of these as examples in class. As Secretary of the Navy he reviewed many different ongoing development programs such as ships, air craft, and IT systems and found that the programs that used a reasonably developed engineering systems approach were doing far better than those in which the process was short circuited or ignored entirely.

Although Professor Winter says that he can’t teach students in a single three-credit course how to become systems engineers, a significant fraction of College of Engineering graduates will go to work in major development activities that invariably will involve systems engineering. Even if those students initially become component engineers or product engineers of various forms, understanding how their tasks interrelate with everyone else, how the overall systems engineering process is being employed, and what their interface needs to be with systems engineers provides tremendous value.

Don Winter will share lessons learned throughout his rich and diverse background in industry and the military in the Fall 2013 session of ISD 520.

Don Winter will share lessons learned throughout his rich and diverse background in industry and the military in the Fall 2013 session of ISD 520.

About Don Winter

Donald C. Winter is Professor of Engineering Practice at the University of Michigan. He served as the 74th Secretary of the Navy from January 2006 to March 2009. Previously, Dr. Winter held multiple positions in the aerospace and defense industry as a systems engineer, program manager and corporate executive. Dr. Winter received a doctorate in physics from the University of Michigan in 1972. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2002, and was the chair of the NAE committee that investigated the Deepwater Horizon incident for the Secretary of the Interior.

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