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Dec. 7, 2022

E266 - Pilots in Distress

This week on the show, we talk about the system that keeps pilots from seeking mental health care. We also answer some questions from the community about getting assigned the wrong job title at a new gig, beginner jobs before HF, and problematic or dangerous "pop science" being used by others.


This week on the show, we talk about the system that keeps pilots from seeking mental health care. We also answer some questions from the community about getting assigned the wrong job title at a new gig, beginner jobs before HF, and problematic or dangerous "pop science" being used by others. 

Check out the latest from our sister podcast - 1202 The Human Factors Podcast -on The CIEHF - behind the scenes - An interview with Tina Worthy:

 

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Transcript


Welcome to Human Factors cast your weekly podcast for Human Factors Psychology and Design.


Hi. Hello. Hi. Hi. It's episode 266. We're recording this live on December 8, 2022. This is heman factors. Cast I'm your host, Nick Rome. I'm joined today by two of my esteemed colleagues, mr. Barry Kirby, who's here. Hey, Barry, what's up? And we also have Heidi Mirza back on the show. Heidi, welcome back. Hello. I'm so happy to have you on this week, especially because this was kind of requested by you. We'll get into it in just a minute, but to give you a preview, we got a great show for you all tonight. We're going to be talking about the system that keeps pilots from seeking mental health care. We're also going to answer some questions from the community about getting assigned the wrong job title at a new gig, beginner jobs before Human Factors, and problematic or dangerous pop science being used by others. But first, we got some programming notes. Hey, you know what? We have mentioned this a while back at HFES. If you're unfamiliar. We have made an announcement that Human Factors Minute, our traditionally supporter only podcast, is now going public early next year, so it'll be March 1. We have a blog post where you can read more. Details are all on our website there. And next week, we'll have a deep dive into the human factors of fitness technology. That's a good read by one of our lab members. Morgan worked really hard on that, so go check that out if you're interested in fitness technology and human factors, there's a lot of intersection there that you might not know about. Barry, what is going on over at twelve two, though? So at twelve two, we've got an interview with Tina Worthy, and those of you who are members of the Chart Institute of Ergonomics and Humor Factors will know who Tina is because she is one of these driving force behind the entire institution. So I tried to spend half an hour with her to or an hour with her to try and dive in to get some goss from the background to work out what goes on behind the scenes and try and get some stories. But she didn't really let anything spell. But she gave us some really good insights into just how she works with the volunteers, how she works with the wider organization, and just how much they deliver, considering it's such a small organization. So if you go over to twelve two after you've listened to this, don't go yet. Go. Go after after this go to have listened to that and hear what Tina's got to say. I'm so disappointed she didn't give you any hot gas. Anyway, let's get into the news. That's why you're here, right? Let's get them.


Yeah. This is the part of the show all about human Factors news. Barry, what is the story this week? So this week we talked about the need to change the system that keeps pilots from seeking mental health care. So a recent study of over 3500 U. S. Pilots found that 56% reported avoiding healthcare, specifically to avoiding losing their clearance to fly. This fee is driven by the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA regulations, which bar pilots from flying. If they report seeking regular talk therapy for even mild anxiety or depression. This can last for months or even years, and the assumption is that they pose an unacceptable risk to safety. As a result, pilots find themselves among only a handful of professions that require the disclosure of any encounter with the healthcare system, including mental health visits. This can cause pilots to suffer in silence, and the fear of losing their job can prevent them from seeking to help their need. 26% of pilots reported that they withheld information due to their FAA health checkouts for the same reason that fear of losing their medical clearance. This issue is likely to be exacerbated by the growing demand for pilots, which is expected to lead to more time away from family and friends and an increased need for mental health care services. Whilst credit is due to the FDA for recently making several positive policy changes related to mental health, this study would suggest that there is still an awful lot more work to do, and time is of the essence. So, Heidi, as someone who's experienced in this field, what's your reflections on the story? Yeah, so this hits real home for me. So I'm undergraduate of Emory Riddle Aaronautical University, and I went through the flight training there with the goal of being a pilot. Admittedly, initially, I did not want to be a commercial pilot, never was my aspiration. I always wanted to be a fighter pilot and couldn't make it, couldn't cut it. Just took years for me to kind of reconcile with the fact that I just couldn't cut it. But one of the reasons why I couldn't seek help to understand why ambition wasn't enough, why training wasn't enough, why all these things weren't enough, was this underlying issue, this deep rooted issue of mental health being something that is not talked about. And so this article, interesting, speaks about how pilots don't report it, right? And how pilots kind of get barred from it. But this actually starts in flight training, right? So the very first time you have to go and get your medical certificate in order to fly, the very first time you're confronted with that rumor mill that talk, do not mention XYZ, right? Don't talk about that. Don't talk about this like they're not going to give you your medical. So even as a flight student, you're already, like, pushed into that. You don't speak about anything. You don't mention it. It can't be in your health record. So from that perspective, what happens when you need help, right, and, you know, it can't go on your health record, what do you do you seek alternates, right, alternative ideas. And while some of them can be very rewarding, I ended up having to see. So in order to avoid having it in my medical record, I ended up seeing the campus counseling center that isn't run by doctors. Instead, just like therapy licensed people, right? So you would go and see them and just talk, but you're just talking about college life. And so that's how I got under the radar therapy. But it was very clear very soon that I also needed for some of my mood instability, I needed medication, but I couldn't get that medication. So then what I had to do was seek a doctor outside of the network and outside of my medical certificate to give me the prescription. So you're hiding the prescription, you're hiding your mental health, and you can't speak about it. So if you're already doing that in flight training, what do you think is going to happen when you get to the level where you're working for an airline? You want to be promoted, right? All these things. And you guys are going to have to reign me in at some point because I can go on and on and on because it touches on so many things. It's not just that. It's also the 1500 hours minimum that you need to hit, right? So in order to even get a regional job or any kind of job in the cockpit, right, you have to have a minimum in hours. That minimum in hours. You have to finance that. You're financing that. So the only way really to logically do that in order to still make money and not have to pay for the hour in your logbook is to be a flight instructor. Well, now you're being a flight instructor and you're flying from dust till dawn, right? So you're always flying, you're always stressed, you're always busy, and you're doing this while you're very young because you want to accumulate your hours. So you're also still in college. Most of them are still in college. I'm going to say not everybody has the privilege to go to like, a flight aeronautical university like I did, where everybody lives and breathes it, right? Where there is also the positive side of it. There are people who perpetuate positive things like living a healthy lifestyle and all these things. But nobody tells you in flight training that you should work out and eat healthy, right? Nobody does that. Everybody just wants you to perform. So there's this, like, dichotomy between having a healthy lifestyle and having a healthy surrounding in order to further your mental health. But that's just not the case. You work crazy hours. You're constantly being pushed up and down from your circadian rhythm, right? So what if you work three days on, two days off, you fly at 04:00 a.m. In the morning, you have showtime, and then in seven days you have a night flight. And so you're also constantly switching. Then there's the hour minimum the airlines give you, right? They might promise you 75 hours like this month, but what if they can't promise you that next month? And you saw the schedule come out, so now you're trying to book in more hours, right? So now you're flying and flying to the exhaustion point, right? And so there's so many things that come into game with that. And then you add on the pressure of making a living. So what most people don't know is that when you start off I think Delta was one of the worst ones, but I don't know what the current figures are. I tried to look them up, but even the ones I found now are like a little bit old. But Delta only pays $27,000 your first year. So you qualify for food stamps, you qualify for assistance. So what do these pilots do? They then have to be you have to be available in the hub where you get hired, right? So hub means where do they have their main station? Basically. What I back in the day again, this could have changed. This was ten years ago, but back ten years ago it was very common for these new pilots to then rent a room in a hub house. So you have like ten roommates. You're circulating through these hub houses because you need to sleep somewhere, right? And you're away from home, you're constantly moving and now your mental health is declining. The environment you live this job in is not necessarily an environment that perpetuates great mental health, right? You're eating unhealthy, you're grabbing stuff at the airport, you're drinking caffeine to keep yourself awake, energy drinks, right? You eat these greasy meals from the airport restaurants, right? Like you're gaining weight or you're losing weight, depending on what kind of type you are in stress, right? Not all of them work out. I mean, I'd love to say, yeah, every pilot gets up in the morning and does an hour on the treadmill to keep their circulation going, right? But that's just not the fact. What if you did a twelve hour and you get home and you're just like, oh my God, I just want to rest for two days, and you fall into that rhythm. So I think there's just a lot of things that yeah, that article speaks to them under reporting their mental health issues. But what actually led to that? Where does this come from? And that's why, Nick, if you're going to do this topic, let me be on because it starts in flight training. It literally starts at the beginning where you really are hammered in like do not say this. This is a trigger word. Don't mention that. I mean, some don't even report their backaches and their knee issues, right? Because if that gets there and then now you can fly, now they bar you from flying. Right? But the funny thing is funny is the wrong word, but for lack of a better term, is talk. Therapy could actually be something that helps in this situation. There could be a therapist who could literally walk you through some of your challenges you have, right? What if I'm stuck in my career, right? Like, I still haven't made captain or they're running a horrible schedule. I don't know what I should do, because if I switch airlines, I lose seniority again. It's also something the public isn't really familiar with. It's not just, how long have you been in your job? Your years don't translate. You start with seniority again, all over with the next airline, right. You drop in seniority. And so there's just a lot of things that this industry is just so tight knit, like how it works against you. And reporting is just something that is not supported in that industry, whether it is your mental health or let's be very honest, even mishaps, not a lot of people report if they had an issue, they're supposed to and supposed to be anonymous, but not everybody does. So there's a lot of stuff that goes under and then, I mean, not to bring up the most horrific incidences, but like, then you see things happen. Like a couple of years ago, when the pilot literally committed suicide by flying the plane into the mountain, right, there were over 100 passengers or over 200 passengers on the aircraft, right? So where did that come from? That didn't fester overnight. That didn't happen overnight. It's the environment they live in that this happens. And so I think there is a big conversation to be had, but at the same time, it is 2022. I was in flight training in 2006, and this has been something that has been since the so it's never changed. It hasn't changed. I don't see the particular steps. I hope it's getting better again. I've been out of the aviation industry now for ten years, so I don't know what has happened over the last ten years. I just know that the issues they deal with, they're still there. The hours, the crazy contracts that the airlines give where they don't even have to promise you hours. They give you zero hour contracts. Also something the public isn't very familiar with, right, that they can get away with, that they can give you zero hour contract. But then there's also things that where the world kind of pushes you. So from my research that I did coming into today, apparently there's been this huge shift in salaries, right? So post pandemic now with the pilot shortage, which there's always been a pilot shortage. This is just fascinating that there's now one, there's always been one. They're now paying these. I saw some of the salaries. I'm like, Holy moly, had I been promised a salary like that, I might have not given up so quickly, right? But I just know that obviously it's a very personal story for me because I didn't make it, I didn't cut it. And good lord, Instagram or YouTube or however, feel free to hammer the comments full with well, you weren't good enough and DA DA DA DA and whatever. But it is something that I struggled with and I really would have loved if I had that support and that support because I really truly believe it might have been a different outcome for me. I might have been able to continue my ambition. I had I always wanted to be a medevac pilot. That was my dream. And I couldn't make it because I didn't see how I was ever going to have a life where I do struggle with mental health and when I'm in my routine and my therapy and everything, I live just like anybody else, right? I'm just as successful or unsuccessful anybody else. But I have the same struggles. I ate too much over Thanksgiving and all these things. But I'm fine in the aviation industry. I would not be given that I can't go and be in talk therapy and seeking regular mental health support. And so what happens is these pilots self medicate, it's a known fact. You can pull up the statistics. Alcoholism is very prevalent amongst pilots. Self medication with prescription medication, very prevalent. Upper, downers, right? You take an upper to be there. You take a downer to go to sleep because you have to get your sleep in because your next twelve hour shift is coming or the next flight is coming.


I don't want to scare people, but I've heard of tricks and tips of how to get rid of this and how to get rid of that. And I'm not going to reveal all of it because I think it's public, but I mean, it's just like any other job and I want people to really think about that for a moment, right? It's just like your surgeon is your surgeon right now, self medicating is your doctor, your Lyft driver. There's so many things where you are in a situation, your bus driver, there are so many situations where you trust somebody else with your safety and you got to count that that person lives in or works in an environment that supports them being well. And I don't think the aviation industry is so that's my big issue with it. I would love to see a lot change, but I think in order for that to happen, I think we need to start acknowledging that mental health is just as common of an illness, disease. I don't like those words because it's like somebody said something the other day that was very interesting to me. Like somebody said if you have diabetes, right, and you're going to say, well in our environment we don't take insulin, okay? And that's kind of what the mental health like, okay, I have mental health issues. Well, in our environment we don't medicate and we don't seek therapy, so you better tough it out. Right. What do you think is going to happen? We're human. We're all human. We all have our struggles. And whether it is a temporary episode you're going through, right. And temporary sadness, a temporary grief or whatever, it is a life tragedy that happens, life event. A lot of people also don't understand mental health fully, so it can be things that are very common life events that might have a different trigger effect on somebody than on the other. Right. So you might be going through something for a while, but if you get the right help, you come out of it again. But if you don't, you can spiral into an extreme darkness. And then what? How do you get yourself out of that? And so that's kind of the thing that I really just wonder, what are we doing? What are your thoughts? Well, that was a very concise initial thoughts, Heidi. I can't wait to get into the detailed scotch. Honestly, we kind of bounce around here at the beginning normally, but I felt like today it was really important to get your opinion on this because this is something that you've lived through, this is something that you have experience with. For me, I don't really have any insight into this. I put sarcastically in here, real positive and uplifting story this week and yikes, I had no idea about this. This sucks. This is awful that these pilots are in the system that they can't get out of because this is what they want to do. And then by the time if they do want to switch gears, then they might need to uproot their whole career and go into something else. And it sucks to be trapped in this system. But Barry, I see you got a couple of notes here. I want to make sure you have some time to talk about your notes here. Thank you. Yeah. In the grand scheme of things, I think Heidi has done a really good job in summing the breadth of the issues up. But fundamentally for me, it boils down to we just don't deal with mental health, we don't give the compassion it deserves because it's largely still unknown. This stuff. We don't know about our own brains, I just find phenomenal about the fact that we don't still truly know how they work, how we can deal with them. Heidi's example, I thought was brilliant, where if you've got any other sort of injury, if you've got the pain relief, you'll take some pain relief. Brilliant. That's great. But as soon as we start going, well, we need to do something around the way our brain is working, because in effect, it's not a muscle, but it is something that needs exercise, it's something that we work with and it's just got all that stigma wrapped around it. I do think that it's a generational thing as well. I note now that I think the younger generations talk about mental health with a lot more openness and a lot more compassion, a lot more not selfishness, a lot more self awareness around how they are doing what they're doing, which I think is brilliant. There certainly I know the students and my own children as well will talk about their own mental health in a lot more open fashion than I ever would and I ever do. I guess an example, whilst the example using here is obviously is around pilots, it isn't just pilots. We alluded to the fact that there are other professions out there. And I remember getting a briefing not too long ago, it must have been about four years ago, where the workplace I was in turn around and said mental health is really important, really important and we will support you. We have help lines, we have this, we have that to support you. If you've got any problems, feel free to use these resources. Then it's almost like in the afternoon small print. But also just remember, if you have serious mental health problems and you report them to us, then we will have to consider whether we need to report them to the security authorities and that might have an effect on your security clearance. So it's exactly the same thing where they're saying, yes, we want to support you, your mental health is important. However, there's a massive consequence if you even mentioned it to us and I don't think that's actually changed a vast amount. So yes, this story is really interesting. Obviously, the Air domain is something I've been around for an awfully long time. And seeing that whole you have a whole pilot attitude and you can see it starts right from the beginning because there is a level of arrogance. There is an element of, look at what we've achieved, because it is pushed into you right from the beginning, and because even just to be able to get into pilot training is a big deal. Just to be able to sit in an aircraft and take off and do that sort of it's a big deal and it only gets bigger. And because that level of responsibility you have as well. So we can see why it's done, but we do need to break it open and allow people to talk about their mental health if we sort of start hitting into about why we need to do that. Fundamentally, one of the biggest issues here is around trust. Trust both within the system itself. So if a pilot comes and says something that they want to be able to highlight how they're feeling, what they're doing in order to get the right sort of support, in order for them to do the job better but also as we learn more about this and understand this, then where's our trust in the actual aviation industry itself? I mean, some of the stories you were telling Heidi really highlight the fact that if we're not supporting our pilots, why would we actually trust getting on an airplane when we don't know what sort of state that person is set up front? I'd rather it was a lot more open and they were getting the support that they deserved. But I'm going to hand back to you now, Nick. And where do you think we should go next? Well, there's a lot of places that we can go, and I think Heidi talked about a lot of these. And maybe we could just kind of go down the list honestly and see which one of the ones that we've already talked about, which one of the ones that we haven't already talked about. And when it comes to sort of the human factors, engineering the human factors piece of all this, right? We've talked about trust and sort of the confidence not only within the individual pilot or individual person that is controlling your life in that moment that has your life in their hands, but the industry as a whole. If you can't trust this pilot, can you trust other pilots? Because they're all under the same system? And so this is one of the points that the article makes here, is that the system needs to change so that way we can start to build that trust again. We can tackle personal relationships. I think, Heidi, you brought this up a little bit, but there's some of the work life balance issues. When this type of career is all consuming, you're working long, irregular schedules. And sort of this impact that this might have on your personal relationships is huge, right? Because if you have a family are you kidding me? How are you going to spend time with the people that you love when you have these irregular schedules? You got to plan it out. And then you also have the impacts of stress on those relationships. The pilots are responsible for getting people from point A to point B safely every day. And that's a huge stress when any number of things can go wrong in an airplane or even on the tarmac or anything like that. And to bring that stress home with you can definitely impact your relationships and family life. And then not only that aspect of it, but being away from your family can also have a huge impact on your mental health. If you're not around the people that you love all the time, then that's going to be another factor that contributes to it. And then the isolation and lack of social support. Like, we're talking about mental health here and thinking about that support mechanism that a therapist plays in traditional mental health therapy and medication play in traditional mental health considerations, I think those are largely absent because of the system. And then now you're looking at the social support. Sure, they have other pilots, and that's nice to commiserate, but you don't have sort of the answers within that group. The answers are, Heidi, like you said, to self medicate or to breed that environment of, I guess, obscuring what's actually happening for fear of losing your job or being grounded or losing your wings. Right? So those are some of the things that, I don't know, stood out to me. Maybe let's each pick one more sort of major topic and then we'll kind of wrap this up. Because, Heidi, you covered so much in your experience and seriously, that's why we had you on today. That's why yeah, but I wanted to pick something what Barry said to be very cognizant of certain things. Right? Let's be very clear. I'm not a medical doctor, nor am I a psychiatrist, right? This is from years of working in human factors, psychology, engineering, being a former flight student, training, whatever, pilot, whatever you want to call that, but living that for like years and years and years, right. And then also still having friends in the industry who still do it and love it passionately. And I watch them still do it and I'm just so happy for them that they're able to do it. But there's also a lot of grief, right? This is also not talked about. How many people actually still die in flight training, right? So I alone know of two people that while I was in flight training, two friends died and the grief is there. And what happens when something like that happens? The entire community mourns, but nobody is allowed to go and seek help. Nobody. And so there's just these things. So two things that I wanted to touch up on is one thing we are now learning, and again, not a medical doctor, but just going by the research that is more and more emerging, is that our gut health actually influences depression, right? So we're finding out more and more that the hormones, the chemicals that lead to depression in the gut can lead to depression overall. So what comes first, right? Chicken or egg? Was it the depression that led to the depression in the gut or was it the depression in the gut that led to the depression overall? Right. So one thing I wanted to insert there is the lifestyle that you live as a pilot with the unhealthy circumstances, right? That the coffee, the airport food, the irregular schedule, all these things, right. That further depresses the gut. So it is not something that is perpetuating mental health. Right? So that's something. And then another thing he picked up on was that made me almost kind of I don't know, I instantly got like this smile and I was like, I wonder how that plays. As you mentioned, the new generation, right? The new generation speaks more openly. But let's not forget what the aviation industry is and how it's structured. The aviation industry is structured on seniority. Right. So you as a first officer, you do not question authority. Yes, we have learned more. In human factors, incorporating human factors in the cockpit, that we question the pilot and we do the double check, decision making and all that. Yes, but seniority is still a thing. So while the new generation may think that the aviation industry is still led by the old generation, and that's not going to change for another 20, 30, 40 years, because Gen Xers, I am one and I'm not old yet, not planning on retiring anytime soon, so we still have years to go. So that is a little bit of a dichotomy and that whole questioning seniority, right? And just to make you think, I don't want to put these thoughts into other people's heads, but this is the kind of stuff I see when I walk through an airport, right? When you see that older pilot, their uniform is sharp, their shirt is pressed. They usually have a higher quality shirt on. They look like they are really dressed sharply. And then you look at the younger pilots and you instantly see that shirt has been worn 100 times. It's been thrown into the washer and thrown into the dryer. That does not look right. And the tie is over here, and the pants look like they need heming. There is really a different world, like Captain Insigniority and younger. Right. So that just makes me think that we still have so much to go because it needs to be led by the older generation. The younger generation can push for it, absolutely. But until the system gets even just a little slightly amended, we're not going anywhere. And I think it's very sad from a human factor standpoint, because human factors is such an impact in aviation, right? Like how air traffic control was designed, like how these new regulations, how they're all based on remember, I don't know, sometimes if I mention things that are not known, but we used to call it pilot error, right? It's not pilot error. Right. So we used to blame the pilot by saying pilot error. Right? But we thankfully moved on from that. But I just think of the things that we learn in aviation and aeronautical environment. In the beginning, we learned the Swiss cheese model, the reasons, the model, how little events lead to catastrophe, right? And little events can be little events in your life from a mental health aspect. So you take the little, you think they're little, but everything accumulated just is waiting for a catastrophe, right? Like you didn't sleep, right, for the last couple of weeks. You're not eating right? You're going through tensions with your family. The paycheck didn't come in or whatever. You didn't make ends meet, or you had a medical bill or mechanic bill. You had to pay unexpected bill. I just call it unexpected bill. So you have financial troubles, you have this, you have that, you have that, and everything is just lining up for a catastrophe. Right? And the weird thing is, we learned this in school, aviation school, we learned in flight training. We learn about all these things, but when it comes to applying it in our own industry, it's like, yeah, whatever, let's just see what happens. So that, to me, is the crazy part of it, is like, human factors thrive, like aviation, where it bloomed and blossomed in. Right.


Aviation industry is one of the industries that knows most about it.


Yeah. Barry, any closing thoughts from you? No, I think in the grand scheme of things, it is really interesting. I'm really pleased that it's out there because I think it's one of these that hopefully it's like another block block into the wall of hopefully turning a corner on how we appreciate mental health. But I think, as Heidi quite rightly points out, we still have a long way to go. Yeah, we do. Heidi, thank you so much for requesting the story this week. I think we mentioned in the preshow that we'll kind of take requests from guests if they're experts on the field or have experience in it. And Heidi, I think today you've really just taken this thing that we have. I don't know. Barry and I would have had a very superficial conversation about it, I feel. I don't know, Barry, you seem to think differently. I guess I'm going to put Barry down kind of mood today. But no, honestly, the experience that you bring to the table and the discussion that you bring is truly appreciated. So thank you to Heidi for selecting our top pick this week, and thank you to our friends over at Scientific American for our news story this week. If you want to follow along, we do post links to all the original articles on our roundups and our blog. You can also join us on Discord for more discussion on these stories and much more. So you can discord. I'm just going to make a quick little aside. We've got lots of chatter in there about the AI, generative AI in there from last week. So we're going to take a quick break and we'll be back to see what's going on in the Human Factors community right after this. Hey, we love our patrons. A huge thank you, as always, to our patrons. We especially want to thank our honorary Human Factors cast staff patron Michelle Tripp. Patrons like you truly do keep the lights on and all of us running over here


today. We'd like to talk about our show sponsored here, and the new secretary wrote us a script to say so. I'm going to read this verbatim and see how this comes out. Are you a Human Factor psychology or design professional looking to get your message heard by thousands of others in the field? Look no further. Our podcast offers sponsorship opportunities where we will read 150 words of your choice on the show every week for the duration of your pledge. You will also be featured on our homepage and have a permanent link on our sponsor page on our website. We will announce your sponsorship on all our social media platforms and give you a special role in our discord channel for direct communication with listeners. This tier is perfect for consulting agencies and companies hiring in the field, professional organizations looking to promote initiatives, and specialized hardware or software companies targeting Human Factors UX Professionals as their core demographic. Act fast as this offer is limited to one agency, organization or company at a time and is subject to availability. If you have any questions about our sponsorship, please contact us at Human Factorscast mediaCONTACT. Excellent job, Secretary. Love it. All right, we're going to switch gears and get into the next part of the show we like to call It Came From. It came from. That's right. This is the part of the show we like to call It Came From. This is where we search all over the Internet to bring you all topics from the community. What everyone's talking about? It's the hubbub. If you find these answers useful, give us a like wherever you're watching or listening to help other people find this stuff. Our first one here tonight is by Design Gesture on the User Experience subreddit. They write I've done a bit of UX over my career and read a book or two, but wanted to pursue it properly full time. Despite being relatively new to the role, the agency has chosen to put a senior in my job title. Do you think this is a good thing or could this lead to issues in the future when I apply for other positions? Barry, what do you think about being assigned the title senior? Whatever it is that you're doing when maybe you don't feel like a senior, it's fine. Enjoy yourself. Knock yourself out. There are two ways to look at this. First thing, from the company perspective, if they're wanting to assign you, it does them good from a public perception to have seniors and principals and all these different titles. So on the public stage, it makes them look good that you're a senior designer, so a senior UX designer. But make sure that if they are happy to call you a senior, are you being paid at a senior rate? So you can then use that to your advantage to make sure that you're getting paid commensurate with the title. The other bit as well is some people try and compare and contrast across different businesses on titles. And whilst you can sort of read across a senior in one business might be equivalent to a senior in another or a principal in one principle in another, companies don't necessarily agree a finite set of criteria about what a senior involves. Each company will generally have their own criteria, so just because it sounds the same doesn't necessarily mean it is the same. Take them for all the money. Heidi, what do you think? If you were given senior in your first job, would you be worried or would you be happy and taken well, for me, there's a lot of things going on here, right? Because obviously, as we all are very experienced now at this point in our careers, we're not beginners anymore. I look at it a little bit differently from other aspects too. Sometimes you also don't know what headcount went open and what they want it to hire. If there's a specific head count that you have to use in order to hire that person, it might be connected to a certain title because a certain cost center is covering that job. So sometimes your titles also have a lot to do with politics and head counts and who's hiring and how can they get you on board, right. As far as the senior goes, I don't know. If I was a beginner and I had the senior title, I would probably get a little too full of myself, but I think just roll with it, right? I think the other way around would be harsher for me. And you're not getting the title, I think that's a little harsher. But if you're just getting the senior title because they don't actually know what they're hiring for, then just roll with it. Try to learn as much as you can and try to get that experience that is equivalent to your title if it's what you like. Because from what the story I read, it's not even something they did previously. I'm not sure if that's even the job they want. So for now, I would just roll with it and see what the job really is because they might have just mistitled you and you actually are doing your job right. And let's not forget, UX is such a trend word right now that there's a lot of UX jobs out there that are not UX. So let's be very clear on that. That's what I would say. Just roll with it for a couple of months, see what it really is. And if you think it is too much UX and you don't like it and you want to go back to what you actually did and do that, I mean, if you're early in your career, then who cares? There's going to be a job around the corner of the next month too. Sounds like we're all kind of in agreement. It's fine, it's fine. You'll be fine. My comments on this are basically, buckle in, buddy. You're in for a ride if you feel like you're not qualified for that position, but also embrace it. They've assigned that to you based on what you put forward in the interview. And unless you were lying in the interview, I don't think you have anything to worry about. Work hard, earn the title. I mean, the only thing to say as the end to it is like, okay, if you're getting paid for a senior and they want you to do senior things and you can't meet that standard, it might get very anxiety ridden. Like there's going to be a lot of pressure. But also if they're not paying you a senior salary and just giving you that title and then expect from you to perform as a senior, that's when I would start having conversations. Yeah, exactly right. If you're not getting paid what the title says. All right, we got another one here from the UX research subreddit. This is by another sneaky Kiki comments I studied psych and it was recommended to look into UX. I know I'd have to do a boot camp, but I've heard it's hard to get a UX job in this market. Is there a type of job where I could get good introduction to the UX world? So Heidi, what are your thoughts on this? First of all, I'd like to know where that's happening. There's a shortage of UX jobs. I think the last time I checked, it was like 16,000 jobs were listed on LinkedIn and indeed with the title UX in it. So, number one, don't worry, there's plenty. Number two, you studied psych with a background in psych. I'm wondering why people are pushing you in UX. You should look more into human factors because that would be an easier entry for you, coming from the science based things that you studied. And transitioning into human factors would be a lot easier for you than going into UX because UX titles are often associated with a lot more designing things, kind of. So I would intro into Human factors before that. So that would be my tip. I would be a little cautious of that. That sounds fair. I do have this thing around. When they mentioned boot camps, I sort of shouldered slightly. I didn't want to touch on it exactly for that, even though it's in my notes. I did not want you to mention the boot camps. I don't know, I have a sort of hot relationship with them, to be honest, because part of me thinks that yes, just to get a little bit of a numb into do I like to do something? I like this idea of a short shop thing, but we just seem to be so reliant on this idea. If you do a boot camp, then you know everything to do with the role and he's like, not so much, but vocational training. Absolutely. Let's do some of that. I think with this type of thing I agree with you, Heidi. Look more into the human factors domain. I think you'll get a lot more satisfaction out of that. I do believe that UX, it is a trendy phrase at the moment, but I do think it hits a particular part of the human factors spectrum. And yeah, I think looking at the type of rules that are more you can learn an awful lot on the job and learn a variety of different things I can say that from experience, I've learned an awful lot from some amazing people, rather than just going straight down the academic route. This idea that similar to what you said, Heidi, here in the UK, there are loads of UX and HF jobs out there. We are desperate for practitioners in the field. So, yeah, it shouldn't be hard to get a job, quite frankly. They're not shy about it. Well, yes, they're not shy about it. They don't care what your job title is or where you work. They will come and recruit you underneath really quick. I'm going to jump in here and almost hijack this and talk about boot camps really quick, because you guys are both on it, right?


Yeah. My opinion on boot camps has changed a little bit over the years, because I used to be very did you go to a boot camp? I did not do it, no. All right, here's the thing with boot camps. Boot camps are made by people who want to make money off of you by saying, we can teach you everything about UX in one weekend. You want to do that? Yeah. Come on, give me money. I can do that. Right. So that's kind of where I think about boot camps. However, there can be value in taking boot camps for the people who are trying to transfer into the UX or human factors field, who have transferable skills. Now, you're not going to be operating at the same level as somebody who's had years and years of experience, but this is a good way for you to get your feet wet, introduced to a topic, to see if it's something that you really enjoy. So if it's an exploratory thing, you get in for one weekend, the commitment is very low. Now, I'm not saying that boot camps should be a replacement for a proper education for experience. It's not. It's not going to get you that job from just taking it for one weekend, but it will give you a good sense of what's going on in the field, what current trends are, what you can expect from the field, and whether or not you want to pursue it. It can also be a good refresher for those people who want to transfer in from adjacent fields. So I'm with you in terms of using boot camps as the education, fine. Yeah. But when it comes to using them as tools in your toolbox, don't overlook it. I wouldn't turn somebody away from a job position because they had boot camp on their resume. Just put it that way. Now, if you look into the show notes, nick's boot camp on UX design is going right, and we hope to see you all there. Can you imagine if I did use this as an opportunity to announce a boot camp? I'm not that would be my last time on Ever if you did that. See, I now think there is a stream here that we should all just do a boot camp or some description. We should present a boot camp and we should go to Tender boot Camp and then come back and discuss I agree with you, Nick, though I never like touching on it. I never like bringing it up because it gets so convoluted and like, yeah, they are great, but they're only great for this one particular purpose and then they get carried away. And also to your point, though, not every boot camp is great to get a first taste right? So I'd be very picky with which boot camp I'm choosing. Exactly. Yeah, you got to do your research before you get it. Anyway, back to the question, I want to make sure I answer this. There is the question again. Where can you get a good introduction to the UX world in terms of like, beginner jobs? There's a weird flux in the market right now where people expect juniors to kind of know everything, at least from talking with other colleagues. There's some weird flux in the market, but internships are another good opportunity for you if you want to look at internships. That is a place where people don't necessarily expect you to know everything, they expect you to be very junior, even more junior than junior positions where you can kind of get in, learn something under somebody else's wing, get out, depending on the length and time duration of the internship. OK, we got one more question. Let's get into it. This is, by disastrous nature on the user experience. Subreddit UX has a scientific component built upon psychology, engineering, design, et cetera. But without scientific training, boot camps, some may be unknowingly adopting pseudoscience into their work. What problematic or even dangerous pop science? Would you like UX and humufactors professionals to stop using? Heidi, you're up. Heidi, you're up. Well, I would like my biggest scratch, all that cut. Let's start again. I don't like when people do usability studies and then they say, well, we have proof. Let me elaborate on that. Because what you find in usability tests, when you have like five people in a usability test, you can see a trend, you can see something happening, right? You can see a response to a certain design feature. Yada, yada, yada, all those things. Great. Awesome. That's what usability testing is for. But what I want people to stop doing is conducting inexperienced people moderating and conducting usability tests and then intertwining their already perceived notion of what isn't and is working on the design, and then just cherry picking the answers from users and participants to support what they want to be supported. Right? Because that is not scientific. That is what we call humbook. That is yes, that is. I can make that up in my sleep. I can cherry pick anything from the Internet and say, that supports what I want to say. Right? So I think that's where I get really frustrated sometimes when I see this like UX intertwined with HF. Because I work in medical device development. I work in something that is highly regulated. I am not going to make the statement of this supports this. My sentences start with this may potentially indicate that because I don't have proof for it yet. Because if you want to have proof for it, you got to design your study to be repeatable on a scientific basis. You got to put up hypothesis and you got to prove it and you got to use real statistics. Right? So that is my biggest pig pig like I do not like it. Mary that's fair. I mean actually the way you describe it, Heidi, is I would say that that's politics. That's exactly what politicians do. But anyway, this is one of the reasons why I think actually human factor is such a cool discipline. It's so young that we know that we want to base it in scientific discipline. But I think two that get me going is Myers Briggs. When you do Myers Briggs assessments and you come out with your personality types and the irony is that actually most people do Myers Briggs and come out with ENTJ or whatever this it's broad enough that actually most people will have a fallen with what they've come out with. And if you use it as a bit of an ice breaker or something like that, that's where think it actually has value. It does it because it means you can go through things if you're not used to self assessment and things like that. It's actually a really good thing to be a bit self reflective and come out with some sort of result. It's when you get so serious about the result and think that that's you and will never change over time. That's where you start to get into problems as well as hiring is another one where I use that quite a lot in lectures and stuff because I find it fascinating. But if you go too deep into it you automatically uncover problems with it. But there's a high level bit of a discussion piece then I find them useful. They're useful guides or useful talking points. We don't necessarily have to take everything quite so seriously. But like you said Heidi, you got to know where the boundaries of what you're discussing are there. Nick, what about you? What do you think of doing? I think there's a tendency to rely on research a lot in some instances where once they get comfortable with what research can do they almost see it as a crutch and say oh well, we need to do research on this before we can actually move forward. And it's not like, well no, we have answers to this because of science that we've done in the past based on years of scientific literature. We don't need to do a research study on how this might affect our software. Right. We can do this without the research. I can tell you what the answer is because we've seen it before and we develop models and equations that get at this thing. So stop using research as a crutch. I think that's kind of the thing that I would say. It's not necessarily pop science, but you don't need research for everything. And maybe that's me griping. Anyway, we're at this last part of the show we like to call One More Thing. It needs no introduction and I think tonight One More Thing will be like 22nd sound bites since we're almost at times so Heidi, your 22nd sound bite. One more thing. Myers Briggs. Now that you brought it up, Barry, I'm just going to go and change it. I would like everybody to go on the internet and educate themselves how the Myers Briggs was developed and how it's a bunch of BS about how some lady who is bored who looked into this decided to come up with all these things and personality traits and they are not scientifically proven. Nothing in it is scientific. Nothing. Nothing. She did absolutely nothing following scientific principles. So the Myers Briggs. Yeah, great. Icebreaker. I would say no. I hate icebreaker games. I wish they would stop doing that when you get hired. I hate this stupid sitting in a circle with a new team and let's all go through and answer one high and one low and do this and do that. We absolutely forget that most people are not extroverts as much as we all want to believe that we're all such great extroverts. We're not, especially not in the scientific community, to stop going around asking me about myer Bricks results or Myers Bricks results or playing icebreaker games when it's my first day at work and I'm already intimidated and I live with anxiety driven fears that you're all going to hate me anyway. There's my one more thing. Nick loves a good ice breaker and actually mine follows on from that. I went to a lecture this week on the art of science communication and the fact that we automatically assume just because we know something, the fact that other people should as well and how conspiracy theories evolve and all this sort of stuff. And really the driving force was that we, as science communicators within the full breadth of it, need to also have an extra bit of teaching about how we communicate that science, which I think here on podcasts like this, we are obviously amazing examples of doing this, but actually we have few and far between. There's not enough science communicators out there and we need more of them. Nick, what about you? What's your one more thing? I got into Pegging. pegboarding. pegboarding. God, I bought a pegboard. There is your sound bite for today. You knew what I was doing. I bought a pegboard on sale on Black Friday. Because one thing that's been sort of an issue for me is that I can't find any of my tools despite me having certain places for them. It's part of ADHD and yeah, right. And so I bought a pegboard. Okay, guys, come on. It's the end of the show. I bought a pegboard so that way I can see everything visually where it lives, and I can just reach out and go, oh, hairdryer boom, there it is. On your different colors. Right? Okay, and that's going to be it for today, everyone. If you liked the story this week and enjoy some of the discussion about the hemo factors issues around mental health, I encourage you to go listen to Episode 236, where we talk about better defining the term mental health. Comment wherever you're listening with what you think of the story this week. Did you like having Heidi on for that? I sure did. For more in depth discussion, join us on our discord community. Like I said, it's lighten up over there with a bunch of discussion about generative AI. Visit our official website, sign up for our newsletter. 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 of ways you can do that. One, just keep on listening. Two, you can leave us a five star review wherever you are right now that is really helpful and free for you to do. Three, tell your friends about us. That also helps that word of mouth. And four, if you have the financial means to want to become a show sponsor, I don't know. Or, or if you want access to Human Factors a minute, become a patron. That really does help us financially, so that's probably the best way you can support us. As always, links to all of our socials on our website are in the description of this episode. Heidi Mirza thank you so much for being on the show today. Where can our listeners go and find you if they want to talk about more of your experience? LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, all HF UX research, and you should be able to find me on any of those and the company, or anybody who works at my company to have fun conversations about human factors. Awesome. Barry Kirby thank you for being on the show today. Where can our listeners go and find you if they want to talk about where your mind went when I said Pegboards? So if you want to find out more about Nick's Pegboard and my thoughts on that, then you can find me at Twitter. Twitch is still linked there at the moment, so advance underscore K. Or if you want to come and listen to good interviews with practitioners within the Human Factors field, then you can find me at twelve or two, the Human Factors podcast, which is at twelve. Twopodcast.com. As for me, I've been your host, Nick Rome. You can find me in. Our discord and across social media at Nick underscore Rome. Thanks again for tuning in to Human Factors. Cast until next time.

 

Barry KirbyProfile Photo

Barry Kirby

Managing Director

A human factors practitioner, based in Wales, UK. MD of K Sharp, Fellow of the CIEHF and a bit of a gadget geek.

Heidi MehrzadProfile Photo

Heidi Mehrzad

founder and ceo

Heidi is the founder and CEO of the medical human factors and usability consultancy HFUX Research, LLC, which specializes in medical device, technology, and combination product research, design, testing, and development. With a wide-ranging background as a trained pilot, emergency medical technician, software analyst, and human factors and usability expert within the (medical) product development industry, her motivation for the past 20 years has been directed towards enhancing human-product performance by optimizing user interface design, information architecture, and user and product workflow, through the application of human factors science and usability practices. She holds patents in GUI design for medical imaging and surgical navigation software systems, a BS in Aeronautics, and a MS in Human Factors and Systems, both from ERAU, as well as technical degrees in IT Mgmt. and Emergency Medical Services, from SHU and DSC.