Hello Again! I have officially started my internship as of last Monday. Fortunately, I was already surrounded by people that work at the same place before I even started. My roommate, Sharelle, is an employee at the Space and Naval Systems Center (SPAWAR), where I will be interning for the next four months. Since I flew out to San Diego, I was without a car and she was kind enough to drive me to orientation on the first day. She even offered to give me a ride everyday, but I’ve had different plans in mind.
I found an apartment only 4 miles away from work. So on my second day in San Diego, I went to a local bike shop and bought a replacement for my Corolla. This week I have been biking back and forth between work and home, 4 miles each way. After 8 miles each day, I will not need to worry about working out, paying for gas, or finding a parking spot. There’s only one problem. I work on a CLIFF! And that is no joke. The start of my ride in the morning is at about 50 feet, and after pushing my bike… err, I mean riding my bike up daunting hills I end up at work, 400 feet above the water. Although, I can’t complain about my view. I have to force myself to do work with the entire skyline of downtown, the bay filled with sails and hulls, the approaching ocean, and stunning mountains in my window.
I was very nervous going in my first day. I started at the carding office where I got my picture taken for badges; on the positive side, I resemble Gary Busey at his current age in my photo. On a military base, you need certain forms of identification if you want to even get past the gate. Although my cards were not ready, I found another intern in the office with the same problem. It was the first day for both of us, so once we got the cards to get us through the gate we walked through the area we would be working. After a few hours orientation had started and we were briefed on the normal first-day precautions. “Don’t lend people your badge. Don’t talk about your work to friends. Don’t stare into the high frequency lasers.”
After orientation, I had my first taste of San Diego-Mexican food. Which is the best you’ll find in America. I was too excited to see my actual workplace to think about tacos, though. For my first few days, my boss was out of town. My temporary, 3-day bosses were Dan and Michael. Dan being an experienced human factors specialist, taught me some cool testing techniques I had not yet learned in my classes. With his retirement being only 2 weeks away, I tried to absorb as much of his knowledge and wisdom as possible before saying so-long. Michael is a younger employee, and more of a network security professional than a user-centered designer. The branch I work for recognized his specialty and took him in as soon as they could. I noticed that there was a variety of people with diverse backgrounds in our “User-Centered Design” branch. Anyone from computer engineers, software engineers, human factors specialists, network security professionals, or even those with a general psychology background. This made me feel better about finding a career one day.
That afternoon I walked home and managed to find my way with the help of my iPhone. By the time I got home I just wanted to eat and sleep until the next day. Therefore, I ignored all responsibilities and did just that. The next day consisted of many meetings. The first was a division meeting, so the room was filled with higher-ups and representatives from each branch. I got the chance to see the leaders of different branches and departments nervous to present, just like a college student in a speech class. So, I laughed quietly to myself at their expense (if you haven’t found out by now, I have a cynical sense of humor).
Throughout the week, I went to many different meetings exploring what the people in my branch were working on. Since this is government work and I have a secret clearance, I will not be able to write in detail about what I learned. I can give a few general ideas about the awesome work these people are doing, though. They are working on anything from designing a controller for remote operators of unmanned vehicles to designing displays for military ground and water-based vehicles. I was so surprised at how much these experienced professionals were doing the same type of work I have been learning in my classes. Upon starting the job, I thought everything would be different. Although they have different theories and work domains, a lot of the techniques remain the same.
On Friday, I was worn out from excitement overload. There is a lot to learn here and I am just getting started. I am thankful for the degree program I decided to major in. There are so many places and so many projects with open doors for human factors input.