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The functions performed by a systems engineer in the military-industrial environment of the 1980s are examined. Some of the knowledge, skills, and abilities that the `ideal' systems engineer should possess are identified. The role of the systems engineer is contrasted with other professional roles such as systems analyst, operations researcher, and others that are sometimes confused with the systems engineer role. The information presented should be useful to those contemplating a career in systems engineering, practising systems engineers, and those responsible for the education, training, and development of systems engineers.