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April 30, 2021

E204 - How Cybersecurity Affects Smart Farms

Recorded live on April 29th, 2021, hosted by Nick…


Recorded live on April 29th, 2021, hosted by Nick Roome and Blake Arnsdorff.

 

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Transcript

| Disclaimer: Transcript provided by OtterAI and YouTube automatic Closed Caption. Any inaccuracies or errors are not attributed to the Hosts or contributors to Human Factors Cast. |


hello everybody welcome back to another episode of human factors cast this is episode 204 and we're recording this live on april 29th 2021 uh i'm your host nick rome i'm joined uh across the internet from uh me is mr blake garnsdorf how's it going nick how's everything going for you this evening aside from the awkward intro i'm good man how are you i am stellar i just realized it's actually my dog's birthday so oh happy birthday to your dog i absolutely care about the name but i will not say it on the show uh anyway uh we have a quick couple programming notes here um we if you're listening to this you probably see in your feed there's a couple extra episodes for you we have a couple extra interviews out there for you we are continuing our coverage of the hfes healthcare symposium um we have the interview with merteed alfred and our digital health student design competition winners those are both out now um and we've posted a recap on our blog of everything that we've done i think there's five separate episodes that we've covered uh elise and i during the hcs um 2021 symposium it was a great time come check out that if you haven't already lots of good stuff in there especially if you're into healthcare human factors but we know why you're here uh actually one quick programming note next week uh i am gonna be only on the pre-show blake is gonna take it away with somebody else for finding a replacement and then the week after that we're gonna be on a quick summer hiatus and then we'll be back uh the week after that i know i need specific dates um so maybe we talk about those next week i don't know this is on the fly that's not in the show notes but we're not i'm not gonna be here next week blake's gonna handle it um we'll be gone the week of the 13th and we'll be back on the week of the 20th of may thank you blake all right so with that let's get into human factors news

that's right this is the part of the show all about human factors news uh this could be anything uh as long as it relates to the field of human factors it's fair game for us to sit here and talk about blake what do we got up this week up this week nick we've got cyber security and how it affects smart farms so some have dubbed this era of smart agriculture with farms around the world scaling up their use of things like the internet internet of things big data cloud computing and even ai to increase yields and sustainability of farms yet with so much digital technology natural also also comes a heightened potential cyber security set of vulnerabilities there's no scaling back at smart agriculture either now that we've turned it on so by the end of the decade we'll need to produce that extra food for as we start crossing the world's population of nearly 8.5 billion people and unless smart agriculture can dramatically increase the global food system's efficiency the prospect of doing something like reducing global hunger is going to be very very difficult so agriculture 4.0 or smart ag aims not just at growing more food but also doing so at an increased efficiency with more powerful data analytics and more intelligent automation and decision making behind the scenes although smart agriculture has been extensively studied the security issues around smart agriculture have really not been research has mostly focused on it involved applying conventional cybersecurity wisdom things we know today um in large tech systems to agricultural tech and agricultural cyber security by contrast just doesn't get as much attention so nick this is a kind of an interesting take on cyber security because we've talked about that a lot in the past and it's implications to both people that work in the security field as well as those that work in tech focused on the human factors aspects but now we're kind of applying it to a completely different world where from my perspective at least i don't think about the amount of technology involved in a farm much less a smart farm yeah so let's just recap what this article here says so basically the problem statement is that there are technologies being implemented in smart farms and the same care and attention to detail when it comes to cyber security aspects of those technologies are not being uh paid much attention to in terms of smart farms and so the whole thesis of this article is that because we're not taking this care and attention into the devices that you have on smart farms they are then hackable and i thought what would be kind of a good idea is if we back up let's remind ourselves of some of the human factors principles as it pertains to cyber security and talk about sort of what the vulnerabilities are of these smart farms and how maybe they can be solved by implementing some of these um some some of these human factors principles and of course it's going to i hate myself for this it's going to depend on the on on the technology and it's not just a one size fit all like you and i were talking about this in the pre-show right you can't just take one set of cyber security principles and slap it onto another thing and have it be good it has to be tailored for it um and so i i guess i don't know where do you want to start blake there's we have a ton of notes in here that we can pull from where do you want to start so that's the biggest one right i think that's a mistake that a lot of us make when we think about cyber security and it's it's a problem i think a lot of human factors for professionals also kind of run into whether it's from the design aspect or you're trying to design like a space or you're doing a like a risk analysis whatever it may be a lot of people will try and retrofit you know pre-existing practices or a design that already exists to do a completely different task in some ways that's happening here so you're just taking existing knowledge is applied largely to very high tech fields when we talk about cyber security and try and say like okay we can use the same mitigation strategies and we only have to worry about the same types of issues um with smart farms too right but the problem becomes is there's specific kind of contextual factors that make the the problem set that i guess these smart farms really face different from you know a a high-tech company so not kind of looking in the looking at the i guess contextual things and the additional problems that come up kind of allow for this hacking problem to be even worse for something like a smart farm and i think the the biggest part that kind of like ties it back to the article too is this is one of those problem sets where you can't go really backwards and just start turning technology off and go do the research like in a vacuum because now it's a nes it's a necessity to have smart farms in existence to kind of scale up and continue adding technology to them so we can feed more people do more things like that so that's a really big issue there um one other kind of thing to consider is what do you do to kind of train people to deal with cyber security issues in farming i mean you're introducing a lot of different types of technology a lot of different constraints that maybe the farm technicians didn't have to deal with before so i think that's another big one too in terms of when we think about human factors so taking your existing knowledge base and trying to grow it in terms of what you already know and how you understand a problem and then what happens when you start introducing new technology and stuff like that yeah so i do want to talk about the problem space um because it's a little hard to conceptualize because even even you blake thought when you thought smart farms you thought of something else entirely so i want to absolutely yeah talk about this problem space and just give a couple examples of how agriculture might be shaped by these technologies and how they can be hacked right so let's start there we're talking about smart agriculture smart ag as they call it um and so there's a bunch of different security issues that you might actually run into right there's all the internet of things issues that you might run into with any other internet of things thing especially the technologies that come into that right so there are certain different ways in which these devices communicate with each other um one of them being like uh you know like zigbee technology which is kind of like this it's almost like bluetooth but it it just can communicates through these wireless signals that bypass wi-fi and so it's actually device-to-device communicating with each other and the reason i know this is a long story but the um that's less of an issue than some of the human factors aspects and we'll get to those in a minute but um there are certainly human factors issues with internet of things if you have these smart listening devices that control things we've talked about this on the show where people have been hacking them with lasers with you know if you keep them in the wrong space somebody can shine a laser onto it and communicate with it that way there's also you know how do you voice protect something if you have these voice control devices um so there's ways in which the internet of things can be shifty uh let's talk about some of the other stuff um you know there's there's uh

one of the uh people in this paper say that one of the most pressing security issues with smart agriculture is the physical environment so things like a factory control system you know being intruded or uav false positioning now what what does that mean hold on so yeah imagine somebody hacks into your control system they can do weird things with your farm uh they can waste your resources if you're a competitor um they can if it's an unmanned aerial vehicle and they're able to hack into your system um with a bad password that you've set like farmer123 exclamation point you know like if that's your password somebody gonna hack in and and control your uav to fertilize their crops and not yours and waste your resources on their stuff uh and so there you know and and false position it so that way you think it's fertilizing your crops but in fact it's over here on my farm so exactly there's there's that aspect of it um and and the reason that would work is that the network out there is not as good as like it is in the city uh you know the positioning out in in the uh rural areas is not that great um so basically you know there's there's also the equipment itself um so we've talked about the control systems the uavs the internet of things but there's also the equipment itself right so um you know making sure that the physical security of these equipment is is um taken care of as well so i'm thinking like a tractor which has the appropriate security measures to keep somebody from getting into it somebody that's not authorized to get into the tractor or other pieces of farm equipment you know i'm not a farmer i don't know what the pieces of equipment are but you can imagine that these are the types of questions that need to be answered um and the fact that none of these things are being paid attention to um is is sort of why these are hackable farms uh and i'm doing that in air quotes for anyone who's listening um you know they also mention a couple other things here i there's a solar insect insecticidal lamps um so you can imagine if you had control of the voltage somewhere you could uh turn those down so it wouldn't necessarily kill the the bugs right um that are potentially harming your crops so there's a lot of unique unique challenges here that you have to consider and then how does the human interact with all those things right so i i think that's a pretty good survey of the problem space um anything else to add there blake before we like continue on to some of these applications of or problems within uh cyber security with human factors i just think you brought up some interesting points that might be worth kind of exploring a little bit so one big kind of misconception i had is the amount of technology that's being used on smart farm i mean we're talking about like uavs doing specific tasking like i would imagine for agriculture or even you know spreading fertilizer whatever it might be but in terms of stuff actually we talked a little bit about last week if you're thinking about supervisory control systems in this this is another one of those cases where we have to have a lot of automation in place because without it you're dealing with a lot of loss of signal and all sorts of stuff in terms of transmitting because of network issues you know the quality of the instruments whatever it may be but that actually leaves a kind of like entire set of like human factors issues right in that you have to be able to communicate to both to and from the operator in some case who's like putting together at least initial automation uh for what the uav needs to do and then on top of that you've got to actually be able to communicate back problems the uav may be having through some piece of software an application whatever it may be but actually this lag time between communication that i i is like a normal person and i would imagine i don't know anybody else may not think about the fact that that that like lag and communication can actually be a really vulnerable time for something like a uav or an automated system in which you have the capability of a hacker being able to take it over and do something either malicious or hold it ransom or whatever it may be um and then we even have like different sensors that are attached to you know parts of different different parts of the farm like i know the article mentions about sensors that are for cows so that you know like when they need to be fed when anything else is going on with them based on like heat heat and temperature and that kind of stuff so being able to hack those kind of sensors that could affect not just livelihood but also could affect the health of another animal um so this just has like a lot of interesting and far-reaching implications here um and it's it's funny how it's it's related to cyber security but it has so much more to do with just a lot of equipment being added to a context where it was much more manual labor but to scale we need a lot more automation in place yeah so there's i i always struggle with human factors in cyber security because there there's obviously the security aspects there's uh privacy and security uh as it pertains to your data and who has access to that data and what they're doing with that data and that's a big question that touches on human factors a lot of that is driven by the frameworks by what you're using and so this is this is a complex problem so we'll try to break it down in terms of what is technology and what is human factors here but there's that privacy and security aspect um there's the authentication aspect the two-factor authentication that's a whole process for people to do um if you're unaware what two-factor authentication is it's where you log in with one device and then you verify that with another device that is paired with a login key from that first device so in practice this might be logging into a website and it says hey we've just texted you a code could you just give us that code to make sure that you're you and you're not somebody else from a remote location that doesn't have access to your phone um and two-factor authentication has been shown to be really effective in reducing the amount of unauthorized logins right so that's that's the authentication uh piece that's the human factors piece you might be able to apply that to something like the access control protocols um or like the the you know controls to the uav you might be able to do something like that where you need that physical second device a token authenticator which is like kind of older school like it's like 2000s tech where you have this you know this little device that you press it and it comes up with a little code that you put in and it's linked and it's just a digital thing it's not even connected to the internet so that that might be another way to do it um you have uh the other aspects of this where you have kind of these um intrusion detection systems that's a potential countermeasure to um some of these uh threats in cyber security now that i feel like the um intrusion detection systems that kind of with two-factor authentication uh but i feel like that is more technology if you know a device senses that somebody's outside your system and again like blake and i are not experts in cyber security so we're just kind of breaking this down if anyone is an expert in cyber security please reach out to the show because we'd love to have a conversation about that there's cryptography and key management that's kind of the same thing with two-factor authentication a lot of it comes down to verifying that the person accessing the system is in fact the person that needs to be accessing the system and not a threat elsewhere accessing that system which can be really hard to do because i mean you've got to think about the context that we're working in now so we're not so much limited to you know you and i carry our phone all the time like i always have my phone when i'm at work because i have to tooth factor authenticate various things that i access during the day so it's not as big of a deal but one big problem in kind of like the human factors space that i think a lot of people face is when we're introducing a lot more potential workload that can undermine how somebody's able to perform and it's the same thing we're talking about security too so if we're implementing more technology that's supposed to be helpful but there's a large gap in the understanding and kind of like mitigation strategies for something like cyber security you have to kind of moderate that because you want to make sure that whatever solution you're providing is kind of like hitting both of the horns of the bull right so you want to be able to make sure that an operator in this case a farmer has a manageable farm that does it and the technology added is not adding you know in an adverse way to their workload because you got to think about these these are people that are getting up spending you know 12-hour days managing a farm on top of new technology so adding something like two-factor authentication to so many um so many of these different smart farm systems like you kind of have to think about like okay how do i do this in a way that makes it so it is secure and we can notify them of actual you know cyber threats without making it too complex so something like what you've suggested nick about basically giving them almost a authenticator fob like that feels like 2000's tech that may work really well in this environment where we're dealing with degraded networks or you know different lags in terms of communication times between software systems so it's a it's a cool space to work in for sure to think about some of the ways you can mitigate the smart farm problems for cyber security anyway yeah so i i think we've done a good job of explaining what the problem space is we've explained kind of how the human factors uh fits into it i want to talk briefly about some like classic human factors cyber security problems and we can apply it to this context right so with respect to this this smart farms aspect let's let's look at some classic um human factors applications here so first up usability accessibility uh this is something that you know when you think about usability patterns uh there's a lot of things that are just baked into kind of the way that we use devices right two-factor authentication like we we keep bringing that up but it's it's almost baked into nearly everything that you have now and so being able to um sort of use the uh use those baked in options as a way to keep people from choosing less secure options um because it's designed to make them choose the more secure option uh from sort of one context to another you can kind of think of that in terms of the usability and accessibility with respect to cyber security so basically designing to make something by default more secure by implementing some of these design changes right so that's that's kind of one problem space um i also think like a big thing with accessibility and usability when we're talking about like a cyber security issue like definitely yes provide the capability to deal with that and make sure like you're giving people the correct technology to ensure this is the person that should be using it but also i think it leads to a need to really focus on some of the um what like what i always think of is like error trapping from don norman so building in those security routines that can help the operator kind of not have to deal with all of the kind of potential issues that may run up or if somebody is trying to do an attack on something like a uav system so building in those i guess mitigation routines into software to help improve overall usability for something like this yeah so i do want to talk about the usability and accessibility still with one more kind of point and i guess the issue in cyber security is that the option for a more secure connection a more secure system typically interrupts a user's flow and so the user friendly option might not necessarily be the quickest it might not necessarily be the most efficient but it's the most secure so if you think about a user's workflow going from you know setting up my uav control system um and it's like hey would you like to enable two-factor authentication no i don't need to that will make me go to my phone and my phone's in the other building i left it there oops i'm not gonna do that and then you know so it's like do you design it to where they have to it still interrupts the flow but it's gonna be more secure and it's that whole battle between what do you like how do you make it easy enough for somebody without disrupting their flow um so you know keeping that in mind if you are designing a cyber security system or just any system design it with that interruption of flow in mind right like save their options beforehand allow them to leave if anything goes wrong they can pick back up from where they left off um those types of considerations right another thing there is to think about are there other alternative solutions that are different than what you would typically do in that situation like for instance could we use voice instead of requiring to have them to have their phone um something like that in this this kind of specific case if we're doing different types of authentication um but i think it does lend itself to finding unique solutions when like you don't want to interrupt workflow all the time yeah so the next kind of um piece of the human factors aspect and this is this is more of like a i don't know we'll talk about it so this is imagine there are problems on a farm right there are problems that need solutions so a product design team comes in they design a solution it's technology it's a uav instead of you know your biplane um and they've designed it it's a cool piece of technology but was human factors considered was usability considered during the design process of this well in most cases yes but was it considered with the context of a farm in mind um you know if you're using internet of things there was probably security considered at some point was it considered for a farm probably not so you need to consider that the solutions that you have to some of the problems that you're having on the farm may not be designed for your intended use like a smart sprinkler system hooked up to a internet of things might not have that same level of cyber security that something else you know like just turning on manually turning on your sprinkler system would right you have to physically be in that space you have to show your intent by flipping the valve to open up the sprinklers i don't know how it's done you should turn the knob i don't know i'm not a farmer um timer turn it on it's all good the whole solution's in search of a problem thing um any anything on that blake before we move on to the next point i think that's a great one to consider here because we're talking about like one of those times where we turn technology on and you can't turn it off so if we because we didn't or like i'm acting like i'm a farmer that put all the smart technology on my farm but because like it hasn't been researched and that's the entire point of this article and the subsequent research papers that have been written to kind of bolster the article it's the important importance of really understanding cyber security per context and so just because like a technology advancement is great which this definitely is but because of the nature of kind of the world and the internet and people's access to information it does leave you vulnerable in some places so kind of stepping back and understanding that you have existing kind of solutions for different technology context how do we apply what we learned previously or how do we research what we're doing now effectively to create you know more modern solutions for smart farming yeah and i think that kind of goes with this next point that we have here that one size does not fit all um you know like i was mentioning with the internet of things devices it it is kind of one of those ubiquitous uh or trying to be ubiquitous right it's in almost every home many homes i want to say almost every but but using it on a farm is a different context from using it in the home to control your lights or something you know the cost of having somebody access my lights is i can't see oh oh no but having it access something else like your sprinkler system that costs money to run water or your um you know your security system in your farm which allows people access entry to your buildings that's a whole other problem and so it's not designed for every context it's designed to be fairly generalized and it needs to be designed for those specific contexts with the human in mind or or sort of the security aspect in mind um i think that uh let's see i'm looking through here there's there's a couple different strategies that you can employ to kind of get around some of these cyber security issues um that often centers around security culture we can go over those um you know i think they're they're fairly high level uh but i think we've kind of done a good job of explaining the cyber security aspects of human factors anything else to add to that before we get into some of these solutions here blake uh one thing that i thought was kind of interesting that's not mentioned specifically in some of the things that we pulled but i know it's a big human factor's concern is when you introduce like you when if you think about a smart farm and even just some of the few things we've talked about so sensors being attached to livestock and throughout your farm or or uavs any of that stuff i just wonder what the impact to the operator is in terms of how has this changed life on a farm and what does it really mean in terms of being a farmer now versus when you like 10 years ago without as much technology so i think that's a another kind of consideration as well you may have people that be become more interested in farming because of some of the tech aspects that are being introduced to it and so that becomes another kind of interesting way that you can understand the impact of integration of technology like this so somebody that is really interested in high tech and its impact on a farm or its impact on the globe in terms of feeding different populations and stuff like that it's just a cool problem space for sure and there's a lot of human factors implications both on the design side but also in the security aspects of it as well yeah so i guess to kind of cap this off here uh let's just kind of go over some of these lessons learned in human factors cyber security uh as potential solutions right this isn't gonna be um this is gonna this is not going to fix every problem that smart farms have but it's it's a good start that we can start looking at so i'm just gonna rattle these off high level uh blake if there's anything that you think of we can dig into them but i'm just gonna read them off first so we have you know consult your staff on security procedures um set clear boundaries for any sharing of information be cognizant of what's going on in your physical environment ensure that workloads of the user don't undermine the security and we kind of talked about that a little bit earlier any employees on the farm need to be aware of the scale of the threat that is going to be a result of not following security procedures so let them know that that uav could go fertilize somebody else's crops uh and that you won't get paid as much because our yield isn't as high um so and then we have match security to personality types um this one's an interesting one i want to dig into this one a little bit and then ensure human factors are part of incident management analysis so from the bottom level make sure it's all involved so blake any of those stick out to you you want to talk about any of those i love the setting clear information sharing boundaries because that's such a important thing that we have to deal with just in i think our day-to-day um even with applications that most people use like facebook or anything like that there's a lot of just cyber security things you want to know you want to understand how information and data is being used and this particular kind of solution is is tough because there's two heads to the snake that i see because if you look in the article like towards the end they talk about ai potentially being a really great application space for smart farming because maybe you can mitigate things like different styles of hacking attacks or virus nodes or whatever it might be but the problem is there's not enough data that's focused on these types of technology being used in the context of farming so coming up with a large enough data set that you can you know apply deep learning principles to doesn't just doesn't exist yet so being willing on from the farmer side and the tech side to be able to share that information across farms is a big deal but at the same time you probably want to be kind of protective of what you are sharing and what like ends up stored in the cloud to always be used and always be referenced because it could be i don't i don't know what what farming is like i really have no idea how to be a farmer but i could imagine maybe there's tricks of the trade that you don't necessarily want sitting on video footage or maybe you figured out like hey if i use this uav in a specific pattern it really enhances the yield of my crops for this thing that i grow all the time so stuff that's like almost proprietary farming things that you've come up with based off of this technology there's things you might want to keep private so there's just a careful balance like everything i think of how information is shared and used and who's benefiting from it in what ways yeah the last point that i want to jump on here is the one that i pointed out so matching security to personality types and i know that bullet kind of sounds confusing and it can be um if you're not familiar with some cyber security principles right uh working with the dod they have us take a cyber security training um and it focuses a lot on things like insider threat so when we're talking about personality types we're talking about um you know individuals that might be more vulnerable to um to those types of attacks right if you have somebody an employee of the farm that might give something away unknowingly that it's proprietary information like you just said blake or something else like unknowingly gave the password away that it's farmer123 uh exclamation point you know like those types of um cyber security insider threats are important to understand and so from like a manager perspective make sure that the right people have access to the right information um you know in in the dod this is security clearances make sure that people are well vetted before they get their security clearance to make sure that they are capable of handling that information if information is mishandled come down with a hammer appropriately and and punish them in some way to you know take away their security clearance make it so that they can't work on that type of material again in the future um that's what we're talking about with personality types here you know just making sure that organizations using um kind of understand these these farms understand who they're hiring and make that a part of their recruitment right so you're not just hiring somebody you want to vet them and make sure that they're not from the farm down the way doing espionage on your farm for your proprietary methods to increase the competitor's yield it's man this this whole problem space of smart farms is so fascinating and i nerded out about this in office hours when i saw this because there's just i didn't like you blake i didn't even think about farms being high tech i think of farms as low tech and it's not at all and it's just insane to see where we're at in this problem space of cyber security and why it's so important such a cool use of automation and potentially like deep learning depending on how like like we talked about information is being shared so yeah this was a great one and i'm really stoked that the patreons pulled this one for this week yeah thank you to our patrons for selecting the topic and thank you to our friends over at the ieee spectrum for our news story this week if you want to follow along we do post these uh articles as a blog post every week for your convenience so you can go check it out on our website and we do post those in our communities as well really quick we're going to take a quick break and then we'll be back to break down we'll see what's going on in the human factors community right after this

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yes and we are back uh so yes patreon is a thing that we do um and we have i guess an exciting no it is an exciting announcement why am i guessing it's a very very exciting announcement uh really quick i just want to thank you to our patrons especially our honorary human factors cast patron uh michelle tripp patrons like you keep the show running and thank you so much for your continued support speaking of keeping the show running um we do have an exciting thing um now look we've tried to keep the show here uh ad-free and we will uh we are going to keep the show ad free now with that there's a caveat uh so we are now introducing two additional levels of patreon support that you can help the show out uh one is called i just really like the show and this is just a way for you to give us more money there's no additional benefits uh it's just there if you if you want to give us some extra money um then there's this other one which has a tremendous benefit if you can think of how to use it correctly so we do have a new tier called show sponsor um this is uh basically a way for you to control that commercial that you just heard um basically you get 150 words for a script that we read here on the show every week uh that you are you know for every week and month that you are subscribed to the show we will read it on the show for you there's there can only be one of these people so we will never have more than one show sponsor at a time um you know the value is there i think for us to keep the show running expand more platforms do more interesting things and uh you know it allows you to use our audience for whatever you'd like now we have a more younger audience uh mid to late or sorry early to mid-career professionals with some late career professionals in there as well but if you want a very targeted message like let's say you're a human factors only company that wants to hire a human factors individual this might be a great place for you to write a script and have us say it every week that reaches a specific target of uh human factors demographic people again we like keeping the show ad free so we made this um you know a competitive price tag with other things like ziprecruiter you know you might find a similar price point there uh but again this will help out the show so i feel like this is a good compromise to us taking ads it's it could be an ad but really it's kind of up in the air as to what this person writes it's just a way for somebody to support the show and influence what we put on it that's what we're going with um we'll see if we have any takers but it is a way for us to help the show grow and ultimately we needed to make that decision and and that's where we're at again i don't want to consider this an advertisement this is a patron this is somebody who is helping contribute to the show um and it's just a way for them to get their message out uh so with that uh i think we'll go ahead and move on to this next part of the show

that's right it came from this week it's gonna be all reddit this is the part of the show where we search all over the internet to bring you topics the community is talking about any topic is fair game as long as it relates to the field of human factors and blake and i have an opinion on it so what do we have so up first this week um let's go ahead and take this first one it's mentioning difficult clients during interviews this one was written by helvetica forever on the user experience subreddit they go on to write they say never badmouth an employer in an interview but is it okay to acknowledge that you were dealing with a challenging external client on a project some projects are challenging simply because the client didn't know what they wanted and regularly changed expectations and requirements with no notice if those conditions are phrased politely to contextualize a product project would it be considered a red flag from an employer's perspective i wouldn't ever say quote well the client was dumb and wanted a bunch of stupid terrible stuff end quote but clearly discussing significant constraints is a big part of my story blake would you ever bad mouth a client in an interview absolutely not because i mean that just that's bad manners and so it's it's one of those things where you definitely don't want to do that however i will say that i i have been asked and i do ask tell me about a difficult situation in which you had to navigate a tough client or a hard project either that or like dealing with you know your internal team having a hard time or dealing with a tough stakeholder so it's something that i think people should be well versed in talking about but like this is kind of hinting you want to frame it right you don't want to bad-mouth the client or kind of like talk a bunch of trash you want to accentuate the fact that you were met with specific constraints you figured out and pivoted in a way that matched the client's needs matched hopefully your end user needs as well and also helped your team adapt to a changing problem because it can be very difficult to work with especially if you're kind of like in an agency or you're a freelancer it can be difficult working with an external client things change they they want something different maybe your branding isn't right whatever it may be but how you talk about it is mainly the important part um but nick what do you think i mean would you ever bad mouth a client to a new employer or a prospective employer yes but not specific names i would mention or projects i would mention that yes i've worked with difficult clients in the past they have demanded things and and explaining that relationship that you had with them to a potential employer is important i feel because for a variety of reasons there can be difficult clients on any project now what you're getting from explaining that you've had a difficult client in the past is i'm communicating to you my prospective employer that i know how to communicate to somebody in a professional manner and manage that and i think that's incredibly valuable because uh if if you don't know how to manage it then you're not gonna have great customer client relations you're gonna have uh you know a bad reputation in your community and so it's a matter of we can talk about approaching it as a separate issue someday but for now it's just do you bring this up during interviews absolutely like i said don't mention names don't mention projects but say here's one example i was working on a project and xyz happened and that was a very difficult challenge for me to overcome and kind of frame it that way right so you're you're framing it as a challenge that you've overcame and you're also explaining to a prospective employer what your process is for you know overcoming some of those challenges so i'm a yes i'm a yes on that there you go very good soft skill challenge number one there you are perfect all right next up human factors masters questions this is from kai bands on the human factors subreddit they write hi everyone i was recently accepted into a human factors masters program that will begin this fall due to my undergrad being in kinesiology and the majority of my experience being in healthcare naturally i am drawn to this sector of human factors so my questions are there's a list of them so we're going to go over them one by one but we'll we'll tackle them all one how does choosing a specific sector work two are the curriculums of human factors programs typically broad enough to give the tools that you need for at least most of the major industries three how easy is it to transition from industry sectors four does anyone know about human factors in surgical robotics five for example company well sorry for example five are there any couples in this uh in the subreddit that are both human factors engineers so blake there's a lot of questions there um let's tackle them one by one uh and we'll kind of bounce back and forth so that way we get question answer answer question answer answer let's do that way so blake how does choosing a specific sector work uh that's a great question so i'm going to give you my take on it and it's kind of what are you interested in where do you see that you would love to apply human factors work or human factors methods to a design problem or just places that you are really interested in like if you are drawn to healthcare or things that have to do with kinesiology and you want to you know pursue human factors in that field awesome there's nothing wrong with that at all for me i feel like it did be a lot of justice kind of dabbling into a bunch of different things from aviation to you know enterprise software systems to other stuff so i feel like it's just find somewhere you'd like to start and kind of keep growing in that domain as long as you feel like it's something you're that's for you yeah for me sector selection or industry selection starts when you start looking at grad schools um for a lot of people you should go towards a an advisor who is in your sector of interest who is aligned with you in terms of what they're working on what you want to work on and i think that will help form a great relationship for getting into that sector because they have connections most of the time uh they are up to date with a lot of the research that is going on in that sector and so start back you know where you where you can or when you can start as a student looking for grad schools that's where you want to start now if you are uh already an established human factors professional and you are looking for another sector it all comes back to interest right what interests you and then who do you know in that sector can you get a foot in the door somewhere and then it's how do you frame and this is kind of answering another question down the line but how do you frame your current work uh or work experience in a way to apply it to that new sector so we'll we'll get to that in a minute but um our blake the next question here are the curriculums of human factors programs typically broad enough to give the tools you need for at least the most part or for at least most of the major industries in your experience in my experience yes i mean my specific school the the methods class gave me so much both like in classroom knowledge and applied experience that i felt like and i know at this point that i had enough of a baseline understanding of how to apply human factors in a different type of setting no matter if it was aviation or the dod or working in a small startup um the biggest thing the caveat there is it's a baseline and you will always continue to have to learn like the nuances in different industries you'll kind of encounter that probably in your job interviews or anything like that like for instance healthcare you'll want to look up specific human factors guidelines related to healthcare which may not be anything but breezed over in a like a school program but at least you should have a nice baseline to start with so you can kind of expand out base and learn what you need to yeah i agree i think most programs offer that great baseline and it's going to be like blake said you will often find that you need to learn new skills once you get into the workforce there are ways that certain employers do things that you have to adjust to course correct learn new methods every different program is different and so there's kind of commonality between them all but they'll teach you different things and you'll learn things from people along the way and that's part of your job is to never stop improving you always want to be consistently learning how to best tackle a situation and the more things that you have in your toolbox that you can approach that situation from the better so yes but you'll all obviously learn more as time goes on next question uh let's see here how easy is it to transition between industry sectors so blake i was kind of getting at this one earlier but what do you think how easy is it to transition uh it depends the biggest thing that i i have here is anybody that's listened to the show you've heard me talk about this and harp on it before if you've worked with me ever in the past and have like questions about this kind of stuff i feel like networking can really help you here doing it early on and in the cases where you you're finding it difficult to transition between different sectors a big way to get after it is to kind of carve you carve your own way to figure out how do i get into another sector how do i get experience there so trying to make sure that you're networking early on that you're volunteering for you know an hfes chapter whether you're in school or you're like an adult and working life or same thing with ux stuff getting really involved in the community can help you make those connections and by making those connections you can have a foot in the door somewhere or maybe somebody can introduce you to somebody else um but it can be difficult not impossible though i agree i think knowing somebody in the sector that you want to go in is a huge um benefit to you the other way you can do it is just apply for jobs in that sector without really having the experience and tailoring your experience to that new sector um obviously if you're trying to break into a new thing you will need to do your own research as to what are the most common tools methodologies those types of things employed and so the more you can pull from your current experience the higher likelihood is that you will be able to mesh with that new industry sector if you have if you're going from something completely different to something or if you're going from something to something completely different it might be harder to paint that story without a connection bridging the two and so yes it does come down to people that you know but you can also frame your experience in a way that helps you try to break into that uh so that's that's what i have for that one um i'm gonna skip this next one we'll just go to the last one here are there any couples that are both human factors engineers blake yes and we do completely different things which is hilarious to me but yeah so we do both uh elise hallett who's one of the best human factors engineers i've ever met um she does much more of like a traditional human factors role on top of being in a very high level leadership role so think of it like a pm on steroids that can do a lot of awesome human factors work whereas i find myself in much of a much more of a design related role so we do contrastingly different things and have different interests both in the field and in life but it is kind of interesting there one thing i did want to jump in on nick is something to consider if you are interested in surgical robotics in hf is checking out the human factors or the healthcare symposium footage you guys did but there's also a lot of great companies like intuitive who have awesome human factors practitioners on their staff that would be more than happy to talk to you about that kind of stuff so definitely look out for those companies yeah i was going to lead with leave with that plug there elise who was on the show for the whole human factors healthcare symposium stuff there's a lot of interesting content there that might be helpful if you're looking for that healthcare application uh domain area blake i'm gonna skip this next one we'll just get into it uh next week um but it's time for one more thing blake blake what's your one more thing man so one thing that's come up a bunch when i'm talking with students who are kind of tired of not having a targeted audience to pull from is how do i recruit participants for my usability tests and this came from a newsletter out of from design lab full disclosure it does it comes from a company that i do work for um but it also comes the article is really focused on a specific platform but i think there are some good takeaways from this article as well something that i have often found really hard to do is finding recruitment participants like where do you start what do you even do and i think one kind of like some of the suggestions they have here is if you're working at a company that has like an established product one really good thing to do is use your actual customer base because i know that sounds intuitive and simple but a lot of times people will go outside of the customer base because they're worried about their experience or learning effects but they have a lot of input that they can give you into a current product um another place is to use something like a another platform like a maze or like a usability testing dot com to just kind of outsource some of that problem area for you just to get your prototype out there or get your software idea out there so that you can get it tested the last thing and this is my favorite one go check out places like slack or discord or reddit like the user experience subreddit or the human factor subreddit that we use all the time these are great places where you can do things like meet people connect test your your ideas but also you know maybe even find work i found one of my first usability my first user experience design job was through a reddit post so going and using those communities effectively can really help you in this case you know find test participants for your software uh but it could also be a great way to meet people okay my one more thing um it's it's incredible blake that you've given uh the community that resource because mine's just going to be bs about taking a trip so thank you blake uh my one more thing we were talking about this before the show how long has it been since you've taken a trip outside of california oh man i so i think we figured it out it has to be at least two years for me anyway yeah it's about two years for myself as well because before my son was born you know i i was around for a while and we didn't go to human factors in ergonomic society 2019 because of that and before that my last trip was outside for work and um this is the first time because of covet obviously that i've tried to plan a trip and man i just gotta like hand it to tripit um it's a it's a great tool where you can kind of plan your itinerary um and obviously right now things are weird because um we're kind of in that almost everything's okay but not quite and in fact the place that we're going has just kind of re-shut down a lot of things and so it's like we have to plan around where we're going and what's open and what kinds of activities we can do in that area and so it's just a it's just been an amazing experience to kind of get back into the the planning itinerary type of thing um and looking for activities to do but anyway tripit is a wonderful tool if you haven't used i'll link it in the description below um but it is a uh it's basically it links together everything and you can kind of see what your next step is for the trip it's so cool and and you just forward it emails and it automatically like any lodging any transportation you just forward it and it imports it all and just it all for you it's great so there's this uh inside joke between me and elise i hate trippit oh do you and she she absolutely loves it she uses it for everything her parents love it it's great and it is a great it's a great software system and a great software solution the reason that i hate it is something happened i don't know when but there's some some reason that i actually get elise's trips in addition to mine and i'll always like have in my trip it random stuff that i'm like i'm not doing any of that so it's just a funny kind of silly inside joke there that's funny well thank you for sharing that like absolutely all right well that's going to be it for today everyone let us know what you guys think of the news story this week what do you think about smart farms i think that's a totally mind blown over here you can hang out with us on our slack or discord or get to us on any of our social channels let us know what you guys think uh visit our official website sign up for our newsletter if you want to stay up to date with all the latest human factors news if you like what you hear you want to support the show there's a couple ways you can do that one leave us a five star review on whatever podcast medium you are listening to right now two you can tell your friends about us that helps the show grow or three if you have the financial means and want to support us that way you can consider supporting us on patreon of course we do give back to our patrons and as always links to all of our socials and website can be found in the description of this episode i want to thank mr blake arndt store for being on the show today we're going to listeners go and find you if they want to talk about hacking into a uav on a smart farm if you want to talk about smart farms you can always find me in the human factors class human factors class human factors cast discord and you can also find me all over social media at don't panic ux as for me i've been your host nick rome you can find me streaming on twitch tuesdays at 11 pacific am for office hours or across social media at nick underscore rome thanks again for tuning in to human factors cast until next time it depends