Principal Systems Engineers

At the SKAO we are coordinating a global effort to deliver one of the largest science facilities on the planet. The SKAO telescopes will be next-generation instruments that will help to answer key questions in astrophysics, drive technological innovation and support human capital development. 

More than a dozen partner countries and over a thousand scientists and engineers around the world are already on board, making the SKA project an international collaboration like no other, and one of the most ambitious science and engineering endeavours of the 21st century.

Headquartered in the UK, with telescope sites in Australia and South Africa, the SKAO will be one observatory operating two telescopes, an endeavour spanning three continents. Multinational by design, in early 2021 the SKAO became an intergovernmental organisation, one of only a select handful of science infrastructures to do so worldwide.

Our Global HQ is located near the buzzing city of Manchester at the historic Jodrell Bank Observatory, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Cheshire countryside. It is home to a rapidly expanding international team of more than a hundred, working in a highly collaborative and inclusive way, in coordination with SKAO teams in Australia and South Africa as part of a global astronomy and engineering community.

Being part of Team SKA means contributing to something extraordinary: a uniquely exciting project to advance human knowledge that will last for decades. In return, we offer a diverse multicultural working environment, 30 days annual leave plus public holidays, a generous pension scheme, visa and support with relocation (if applicable), regular social events, a family-friendly environment and much more. Come and join us!

Principal Systems Engineers

An exciting opportunity for two Principal Systems Engineers to play a leading role in delivering a next generation radio telescope.

Job Location
All sites (UK, Australia, South Africa)
Area / Department
Contract Type
In line with Level 9 of the SKAO Career Framework & Pay Structure
Closing Date
Ref No

The Role

We are looking for two Principal Systems Engineers to lead the system engineering activities for the two SKA telescopes currently under construction - SKA-Low located in Australia and SKA-Mid located in South Africa. They will be part of a matrix organisation, working with a wide range of internal and external teams and contractors.

The roles are known internally as Telescope Systems Engineers for SKA-Low and SKA-Mid respectively, and will report to the Head of Systems Engineering.

The roles will be based either at the SKAO Global Headquarters at the iconic Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, UK, or in the telescope host country (Australia or South Africa), and occasional international travel will be required to suppliers and SKAO sites.

SKAO is committed to providing an inclusive and flexible working environment, meeting the requests of our Colleagues whilst also fulfilling the needs and objectives of the Observatory.

We encourage applications from under-represented groups such as women and individuals with disabilities, as well as open conversations during the recruitment process in relation to any specific requirements.

There may be occasions where this role requires the post holder to work across different time zones and, in line with SKAO policy, flexible working hours will be supported in agreement with the line manager.

Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

  • Leading the system engineering activities for the telescope, as part of the Telescope Delivery Team. This will involve:
    • tracking design compliance of the overall telescope to its requirements and standards.
    • maintaining the traceability of all telescope requirements from system level down to product level.
    • creating a systems model of the telescope.
    • identifying and analysing gaps and issues and then raising change proposals to address these.
    • coordinating the implementation of change proposals.
    • coordinating the creation of system-level views, such as diagrams and budgets.
  • Play a leading role within the systems engineering team to refine and maintain processes and databases. This will involve:
    • improving of databases used for requirement, interface and test case management.
    • defining process descriptions to do with: life-cycle management, data management, configuration management, release management, compliance tracking, workflows and reviews.
  • Providing coordination and guidance to the Product Delivery Teams responsible for the delivery of individual products. This will involve:
    • providing training in systems engineering processes.
    • providing coordination to prepare technical specifications and statements of work for contracts.
    • providing coordination to manage the product delivery life cycle.
    • interacting with contractors to address technical questions and participating in test reviews.
  • Acting as Design Authority for the Assembly, Verification and Integration team. This will involve:
    • playing a leading role in how to define and manage test cases, test plans and test reports.
    • ensuring the right specifications are being communicated and verified at the right times.
    • providing guidance and input during test reviews at system level.

Mandatory Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • University degree in Engineering, Telecommunications or Physics, or equivalent experience.
  • Substantial experience working as a systems engineer in complex, large-scale, technology systems.
  • Experience working as a systems engineer during the procurement, construction and verification stages of a project.
  • Ability to deliver and lead on the delivery of joined up solutions across a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Ability to see the bigger picture and hands on approach when needed.
  • Solutions oriented with the ability to apply both logic and creativity to arising issues.
  • Excellent organisational, time management and prioritising skills.
  • Good communication skills with the ability to present to international and other forums.
  • Ability to build good working relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Flexible team player who is adaptable to change.
  • Ability and willingness to travel internationally as required (typically for up to two weeks, 2-3 times per year).

Desirable Knowledge, Skills and Experience

  • Recognised systems engineering certification.
  • Knowledge of systems engineering of software systems and agile software development.
  • Experience or ability to lead a function or a cross-functional team.
  • Experience in using requirements management tools (e.g. Jama).
  • Experience in Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE).

Equality Diversity and Inclusion Statement

SKA Observatory recognises that our diversity is a strength. We aim to create a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone feels they belong, and diverse perspectives and ideas thrive. As such, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion are at the core of SKA Observatory’s agenda.

Our aim is to recruit and retain the most talented individuals, regardless of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, nationality or background.

Women have traditionally been under-represented in the fields of science and engineering; SKA Observatory welcomes and encourages female applicants. 

Where applicants with a disability need facilities or adjustments to enable them to participate in the recruitment process, these will be provided.

SKA Observatory welcome all candidates, especially those from member countries.

The “How to Apply” information contained within the SKA Observatory recruitment portal provides more detail regarding our application and selection approach.