New Graduate Finds MITRE an Ideal Fit

February 2014
Kristen Ford
Kristen Ford

Recent Tufts University graduate Kristen Ford found exactly what she was looking for in her new job at MITRE. Ford, a human factors engineer, stopped at the company's booth at a college job fair for engineering majors. She found the opportunity to focus on human factors engineering (HFE) for a variety of customers and projects across MITRE to be an intriguing one.

Originally a mechanical engineering major, HFE piqued Ford’s interest early in her college career. For her, it's the perfect blend of mechanical engineering, computer science, and psychology. "I like to describe HFE as the science that focuses on who uses the product and how best to make it efficient, intuitive, and ergonomically sound."

Jumping in with Both Feet

Ford was quick to delve into her new job. One project has her assisting an Air Force customer in developing touchscreen interfaces for pilots. "They want pilots to be able to use touchscreen interfaces for many of their routine tasks. I'm looking at what tasks can be accomplished using a tablet device and designing different applications to do these tasks. My work includes the initial design of new applications as well as evaluating the usability of current ones."

On another project, Ford is developing a new interface for an Army customer. As with many HFE projects, the first step is researching the current system and learning what works and what doesn't. "Right now I'm getting to know the existing application the operators use to understand the area they're looking at. In this case, the problem is that the system provides a vast amount of information without prioritizing any of it.

"The next step will be to develop a system for extracting the most relevant information and then designing a display interface that's intuitive and easy to use."

She appreciates the opportunities she has had thus far. "It was great to start working on these types of projects immediately. I feel like my opinion is valued. When I go to meetings, I may be the youngest person in the room, yet people will turn to me and ask my input from a human factors perspective. Their confidence in me makes me work even harder."

(Video) Kristen Ford shares her perspective on coming to MITRE as a new college graduate.

Post-Graduation Experience

When asked her thoughts on joining MITRE straight out of college, Ford notes several benefits. "I like that there are a lot of people here in my age group and they all said MITRE is really a great place to work. I also really like that the company offers so many internal courses. Management actively encourages you to keep broadening your knowledge and your skills. I know with my previous internships, if there was any technical information I didn't know, I was responsible for learning on my own time. It's clear that MITRE encourages the growth of the individual on a personal level and on an academic level. That's definitely a benefit of coming here."

Knowing the type of work you want to do is important, too. Ford admits that she wanted to work on projects that have a positive impact on a wide range of people. "Before I took MITRE's offer, I asked my future manager what she was working on. She was creating a healthcare application that could impact people across the country who are struggling to make treatment decisions. I was sold—that's exactly the type of work I want to be doing."

She readily acknowledges her good fortune in having her first post-college job be such a good fit. "I can't say it enough—I enjoy the challenges as well as the freedom to do my job. I never feel I'm being micromanaged. My co-workers trust that I have the knowledge to do my job and that I'll ask for help if I need it. It can be daunting, but at the same time MITRE offers the resources and the support necessary to conquer any task."

—by Kay M. Upham

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