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Boeing hires former SpaceX software engineer

Capitalism in space: Boeing has hired a former SpaceX software engineer to head software development for the company.

Boeing on Friday announced it hired Jinnah Hosein as vice president of software engineering, a new role at the aerospace giant. The job will lead a centralized organization of engineers developing software across Boeing’s portfolio of products. Hosein will report to Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief engineer and senior vice president of engineering, test and technology.

…Hosein’s resume reads like a defense industry wish list of Silicon Valley stops. He worked as Google’s director of software engineering for cloud networking, helped design Tesla’s autopilot software and most recently worked as software lead for self-driving startup Aurora.

But it’s his experiences at SpaceX — where he was key to software development for the Falcon, Falcon Heavy, Dragon and Crew Dragon vehicles — that Boeing may look to draw from the most. Boeing and SpaceX have fiercely competed over NASA’s manned space programs, and SpaceX is a competitor for military space launches against the United Launch Alliance, which is co-owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Since software was the main issue that grounded Boeing’s 737-Max airplane as well as caused the serious problems on the first unmanned demo flight of the company’s Starliner capsule, this hire appears to be aimed at fixing these software issues. In both cases the management philosophy behind developing and testing software was very flawed, leaving the product saddled with software that either didn’t work properly or was not tested properly in development.

I imagine Boeing’s top management is hoping Hosein can bring to Boeing some of the agile, focused, and very successful management style found at SpaceX.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Diane Wilson

    Software is where the error showed up, but the root causes of the 737 Max problems was not software.

    The 737 Max was rushed through development and test, to compete with Airbus 320neo.

    Boeing customers demanded a new 737 that would require no pilot training. Boeing agreed.

    The failing software was needed because the new engines shifted the balance of the aircraft nose-forward.

    Boeing cut corners on costs, and turned a blind eye to problems that cropped up during flight testing.

    The FAA relied too much on Boeing for test certification.

    A new head of software development can’t fix any of those issues.

  • Andi

    It was my understanding that the new engines were mounted lower than the old ones, so when they exerted thrust it tended to push the nose of the aircraft up; the software was designed to push the nose back down to compensate. Unfortunately, it relied on a single sensor to determine the aircraft’s attitude, so when that sensor gave erroneous nose-high data, the software kept pushing the nose further down.

    And it certainly did not help that Boeing did not tell the pilots of this new “feature”. As Diane pointed out, the customers demanded that no new pilot training be needed, so none was given.

  • Ian C.

    Without a change in culture/mindset (and incentives) this guy might do some good but will have a hell of a job to turn things around. Esp. when the existing teams of (software) engineers will insist on doing it the old ways and will find ways to invisibly resist. I wonder how long he can stand it, esp. after working at Google, Tesla, SpaceX, this Boeing thing will be a huge culture shock.

    Bob, the link includes a couple characters in front (“http://[“) that don’t belong.

  • Ian C: Link fixed. Thank you!

  • Ray Van Dune

    “Program Management” is a religion at Boeing. A Program Manager whose program is making money is God, and can do what they want, corporate standards be damned, as long as they follow PM standards. #1 of which is… Make Money! “Manage Risk” must have slipped down the list.

  • John Fisher

    He won’t last a year. The culture mismatch is too large.

  • DJN

    He must be the low bidder.

  • sippin_bourbon

    “He won’t last a year. The culture mismatch is too large.”

    Depends on his previous experience. He might have some time in such an org.

    Who knows. I truly wish him luck, and hope he can help get that program back on track.
    I live Dragon, but would love to see Starliner get up and running as well.

    You cannot have true capitalism and competition in space with only one horse in the running.

  • Icepilot

    “Boeing and SpaceX have fiercely competed over NASA’s manned space programs, and … for military space launches”

    More like SpaceX has smashed Boeing’s rice bowl with innovative & world-changing engineering, even as Boeing has pulled every political lever possible to remain in the game. Having moved from Texas Instruments to Boeing in the late 80’s, I can confirm that the culture shock awaiting Jinnah Hosein will be massive.

  • Diane Wilson

    He may be a program manager, but he’s still in software. Boeing is not a software company; they are a hardware company. A program manager in a major hardware product line (737 Max, for instance) can have a goal of “Make Money!” The 737 is a revenue center.

    Software is a component of the 737 (and Starliner, and everything else these days). But as a internal component supplier, software will never be a revenue center or a profit center. Software is a cost center, and as such, the program manager’s goal is not “Make Money!” but instead it is “Cut Costs!” Every extra dollar spent on software is a dollar less profit on the product, and the program managers on revenue-making products know this.

  • Steve C

    I’m afraid hiring Mr. Hosein is putting a bandaid on a sucking chest wound. When you’re getting mistakes like not attaching the parachute to the space craft and not catching it, you have a deeply incompetent corporate culture. They should start with firing everyone with a corner office then create a fully independent QC dept that institutes a reign of terror worthy of Stalin himself.

  • Edward

    Steve C suggested: “They should start with firing everyone with a corner office …

    There are some who believe that Boeing’s problems began when they moved from Washington state to Chicago. How many of the experienced corner office people followed?

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