Digging into Complex Systems Challenges with Rigorous Analysis

December 2016
Gina Guillaume-Joseph
Gina Guillaume-Joseph

Systems engineer Gina Guillaume-Joseph could hardly predict that a contract assignment for the federal government would lead to a stellar career at MITRE.

Six years ago, while working alongside a team from MITRE at the Department of Homeland Security, she was impressed with our staff's commitment to getting at the truth of several complex technical challenges.

"The truth was really important to them—even if it was difficult for the sponsor to hear or even if it meant giving the sponsor hard-to-take recommendations."

This commitment to truth stuck in Guillaume-Joseph's head and brought her to MITRE five years ago.

Uncovering Facts to Strengthen Government Decisions

Fast forward…. Now, Guillaume-Joseph is a systems engineer in the Center for Connected Government supporting the Center for Enterprise Modernization, the federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) MITRE operates for US Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service that's also co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her expertise helps our sponsors acquire and implement emerging technologies and enterprise-wide critical information technology programs.

Guillaume-Joseph explains, systems engineering is a discipline that examines complex systems from start to finish. In her work, she undertakes a rigorous analysis of the people, processes, and technologies to uncover the best approach, process, or service for the sponsor.

"The systems we analyze can involve millions or billions of dollars of government funds—so getting at the truth of the matter is crucial," she says.

Guillaume-Joseph's recent project focused on acquiring an eDiscovery replacement solution for a federal government sponsor organization. This enterprise-wide system will enable legal staff to electronically gather, secure, and search documents, artifacts, and data used as evidence in court cases. The sponsor was under a specific time frame to comply with a federal mandate to automate processes—and turned to MITRE. She worked with the sponsor stakeholders to accurately capture the complex technical, infrastructure, and integration components within their systems environment—a vital part of any successful acquisition program.

"MITRE's unique position of operating FFRDCs allowed us to be a non-biased partner. Since we had supported the acquisitions of data discovery systems for other government agencies, we came to the project with much of the market research already completed.

"We used our special FFRDC relationship and shared the knowledge gained from other sponsors and applied it to this project to assist the decision-makers in making cost-effective choices in systems acquisition and integration."

A Recognized STEM Leader

During her time at MITRE, Guillaume-Joseph has won numerous awards, including a Modern-Day Technology Leader Award from the 2016 BEYA (Becoming Everything You Are) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Conference.

"Having the support and backing of MITRE's leadership [for the BEYA Award] was one of my proudest moments," she says.

Even with all the accolades, Guillaume-Joseph insists she doesn't always get it right.

"I'm human and I make mistakes, but I learn from them and apply that knowledge to the next project. MITRE is a company that allows you to try out different approaches because we're always exploring the best ways to help our sponsors." For example, Guillaume-Joseph developed a statistical model that predicts the likelihood of software project failure. The model analyzes factors uncovered during the research phase, with the goal of reducing overall financial risk.

A Systems Engineering Ambassador

Guillaume-Joseph's passion for engineering extends outside the workplace. For example, she started a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) club with her children and their friends. She currently serves as director of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Foundation STEM Initiative to advance these efforts within the organization. And she was recently appointed the assistant director of Standards Initiatives at INCOSE. (Standards provide the platform to design globally accepted, highly interoperable products and services to ensure safety and quality of products and services.) Guillaume-Joseph will lead the prioritization of standards development activities and funding across INCOSE.

She also takes every opportunity to represent MITRE at career recruiting events. Guillaume-Joseph is an adjunct professor at The George Washington University supporting the next generation of engineers and computer scientists.

Reflecting on her own career path, Guillaume-Joseph is thankful she was nudged out of her comfort zone and encouraged to do things that stretched her growth. And grow she did—recently earning her Ph.D. in systems engineering with the help of MITRE's accelerated graduate degree program.

"I'm where I am today because of great mentors who have helped me along my career path. So I'm happy to provide advice and guidance to others."

—by Lisa Pacitto

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