Monday, June 13, 2011

Ziya Deniz Eralp, SDM '11: To Succeed, Spread Systems Thinking

By Eileen McCluskey


Ziya Deniz Eralp
Photo by Kathy Tarantola Photography
Ziya Deniz Eralp says he found the SDM program through his passion to become a manager with strong skills in systems thinking.

His journey from his homeland of Ankara, Turkey, to MIT's Cambridge campus began in 2008 when he won a position managing the development of an important subsystem of a $2 billion submarine program. "I had to write out my responsibilities, so I decided I'd create my ideal job description," Eralp explains. He conducted Internet searches to help him flesh out his dream job, "and SDM kept coming up in my results. The program provides a holistic approach, a blend of skills that all good managers must have."

In 2010, the Torpedo Countermeasure Subsystems project was delayed for a year, and Eralp recognized a golden opportunity to apply to the SDM program.

Ziya Deniz Eralp (far right), with SDM colleagues
Sergey Naumov, Claude Mbayia, Karthikeyan
Rajasekharan, and Mona Masghati Vernon.
Photo courtesy of Stuart Darsch Photography
"I was very excited about coming to MIT," Eralp says. His career has included designing and developing an armored vehicle simulator system and serving as a senior systems engineer on a $1.5 billion Boeing Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft for the US Air Force. "As I worked on these projects, I tried to teach myself the systems approach through direct experience. This has been helpful, but I was missing the theoretical framework — and that is what the SDM program is giving me."

Eralp has long appreciated the value of sharing knowledge with others who do not necessarily adhere to his perspective. This is why he has volunteered as a teacher in a variety of venues. For example, Eralp taught mathematics and physics to 8-year-old elementary school students in Ankara in 2008 and 2009. "I learned a lot, because kids ask so many questions," he says. "They don't take anything for granted. Their perspective forced me to think about how to explain physics more clearly."

Eralp also taught a course in system architecture to undergraduates at Ankara University. "Electronics engineers can graduate knowing how to design circuits," Eralp explains, "but they will not see their circuits as part of a system unless they gain that additional knowledge." The course got the nod, and Eralp found the students eager to gain the system architecture skills.

Within a few shorts months of enrolling in SDM, Eralp volunteered with the International Council of Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and was subsequently named director of the New England chapter. He also helped establish the MIT student chapter of INCOSE this year.

Eralp explains that through events such as a recent model-based systems engineering seminar, "INCOSE brings together deeply experienced professionals, professors, and students to share knowledge and learn new approaches. If we don't share our knowledge, we get locked into narrow perspectives in our separate organizations, businesses, or schools. INCOSE provides a free exchange of perspectives and ideas."

Eralp looks forward to sharing the broad view he's gaining at MIT in his next job. "I plan to help spread systems thinking throughout the organization," he says.

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