Until we asked, Fred hadn’t given much thought to the crossover between his simulation skills and archeology work. It didn’t take long before he identified system of systems thinking as top of the list.

By day, Fred Hardke is an electrical engineer for one of Australia’s biggest defense contractors. After hours — and for a few weeks every March — he swaps suit for Akubra and desert gear and pursues his other passion: pre-dynastic Egyptian rock art. He’s the Indiana Jones of the engineering world — and we managed to catch him just a few days before his annual trip.

Hardtke supports Raytheon Australia’s work in developing and supporting integrated mission systems, primarily in the Defence sector. His portfolio includes an impressive range of projects specialising in systems engineering, integration, program management, and engineering management. As such, he’s a longstanding member of the Australian simulations community.

Hardtke’s doctoral studies focus on the expression of iconography through rock art, and specifically understanding the development of Egyptian culture from 3500–5000 BCE.  Since 2009, Hardtke has worked with the Hierakonpolis Expedition to locate, identify, interpret and catalog the body of rock art around Hierakonpolis. This year he clocks up 15 years in archaeological fieldwork, having started with a Macquarie University mission to Helwan in 1998.

An archeologist might seem an unlikely candidate for a simulation job in a defence-focused engineering company, but Hardtke’s experiences in analysing, auditing, hypothesising and cataloging are as in demand at Raytheon as on the Hierakonpolis Expedition.

As well, the “system of systems” thinking required of a simulations professional isn’t far removed from Hardtke’s interest in the development of contemporary society as a progression from ancient civilisations of Australia, North and South Africa, South America, the Arabian Peninsula and India — where such cultural artefacts are relatively abundant.

System of systems thinking is:
1. thinking about the universe as a series of interconnected and inter-related wholes; best summed up by Aristotle’s idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
2. concerned with multidimensional complexity – the ‘relationships between things’ contrasted with ‘details about things’
3. focused on the examination of unintended consequences; recognizing that the world cannot be controlled, and seeking to understand how parts of a system respond to changes.

Hardtke is fascinated by the challenges cultures face in adapting to arid landscapes. Rock art, he says, goes beyond being a predominant surviving artefact of these harsh environments; as a medium, it transfers the language of the ancient cultures, just as simulation is a medium for transferring the language of multiple disciplines in today’s world.

Role: Enterprise Modelling and Simulation Manager

Organisation: Raytheon Australia

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