Hello again, Riddle fans!
While doing my work this week and throughout the summer at Gulfstream, I’ve realized that Human Factors involves way more than we’re taught in school! The major project that I’ve been working on this summer has me working with several departments within the company, but also with companies across the country. It’s taught me what, besides my formal education, can make or break your success at a company.
What could this possibly mean? Well, human factors is already a mix of engineering and psychology, so what else could possibly be thrown in this mix? Well I’ve learned this summer that Human Factors is more than that. Human Factors is more than user-centered design, maintainability, ergonomics, and all of the other subsections of the topic. To be successful in Human Factors, you have to have more than just the GPA and number of projects you’ve completed.
To be successful, you have to be a quick-thinker and decision maker. You never know when an urgent project might drop on your desk and you have 2 days to get your human factors requirements out. This happened to me this summer; I had to assist another engineer with designing a new component for a customer and had to have a quick turn around on my inputs. At the same time, you have to be great at time management; you had to balance the new project AND the other projects piling up on your desk.
You to be a fast and great technical writer. Within the HF program at ERAU, yes we do have to write a bunch, but the way the program is designed, your growth as a technical writer is very structured. You always know exactly what and how you’re supposed to be writing. The professors are amazing sources on improving your writing abilities, too. Our Research Design class, which you normally take your second or third year in the program, teaches you step-by-step the technical and research report writing methods that are commonly used in industry. I can definitely say that that class and what I’ve retained from it has greatly influenced my time here at Gulfstream. Because of my writing skills gained from that class, I have been able to work on tougher, bigger projects that not many, if any, other interns are working on.
You have to be patient with those around you. Not everyone understands HF like real Human Factors Engineers and students do. You have to be able to explain why your input and requirements matter to the overall project; how they’ll assist in the outcome and why. Here at Gulfstream, Human Factors is very well received and understood, but other smaller companies might not be as familiar.
My last tidbit of success-in-HF advice (for now!) is you have to be confident in your understanding, knowledge, and abilities with Human Factors. Others can pick up on your confusion and lack of confidence really quickly. You also might have to fight for your input to be considered seriously; sometimes HF requirements and input can be lost in the overall development of something because some engineers are more concerned with completing the project and don’t think about the user. That’s why we exist!
If you have any questions about Human Factors, leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer.
Until next time, blue skies!