Clearance Jobs recently had the chance to sit down with Mariel Cisneros, Systems Engineering Manager at Northrop Grumman, to talk about the career path that led her to Northrop Grumman.

Role at Northrop Grumman

As a Systems Engineering Manager, Mariel has the chance to take care of the people-side of her job as well as the technical part. In the people-side of her position, she’s responsible for leading the team and ensuring they have the right tools, processes, and training. Her duties include everything from approving timecards to helping employees find the next step in their careers.

But she’s also a technical leader within the company, working as the systems architect lead on a program working with sensors to complete a process. She works to understand the process details and develops software simulations to guide the team. This information is then used to analyze and help military stakeholders understand how long these processes are taking and how to improve them on the battlefield.

The path to systems engineering

Mariel earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from California State University, Long Beach. She loved building electric harnesses and thought she’d do that forever but found the opportunity to work in modeling and simulation after two years of building harnesses. She then began a master’s degree in Systems Architecture at UC San Diego. “The first day I walked into the class, they said ‘Okay we’re going to be studying architecture. What is architecture?’ I had no idea what it was, or what I was getting myself into!” She got a job at Northrop Grumman, working full-time on a program there while also being a full-time student.

The systems architecture program opened her eyes to becoming a big picture thinker, instead of just thinking about the functions of one part of the system. After graduation, she applied for a job as a Junior Systems Architect at Northrop Grumman since she had taken modeling courses in school. She was called in for an interview with the director of multi domain modeling and simulation while she was in the middle of building harnesses in the lab and upon a successful, yet intimidating, interview, she was hired.

Advice for job seekers interested in systems engineering

Mariel’s experience working with different platforms and projects, including satellite communications and air programs, made her a good candidate for the systems engineering position. She could draw from her previous knowledge in a variety of fields. Now, when she’s reviewing resumes, she’s looking for a wide variety of experiences that candidates can draw from to help solve problems. If candidates have skills such as coding and the ability to communicate big ideas, then basic modeling and simulation can be taught. Certification in model-based systems engineering and using tools like Cameo Systems Modeler can also provide helpful experience.

Aside from technical skills, one of the most critical skills candidates can hone is their curiosity and voicing their unique perspectives from their diverse backgrounds. “People’s ability to innovate is the most exciting piece for me,” she said. Northrop Grumman encourages every employee to bring their voice to the table. They rely on everyone from junior engineers to the management team to work together, empowering employees to solve problems and design solutions.


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