How did your role as a mentor contribute to your own professional development?
More and more I’m called on to mentor new human factors professionals at IDEO. This was an extreme, and extremely satisfying, opportunity for me to assess someone’s capabilities so I could set expectations, provide feedback in a useful way and at an appropriate level, and teach in a way that felt good for both of us. It has also been an inspiring project because of the clearly successful
outcome and the way I could see Lina’s skills grow so rapidly. My degree is in cognitive psychology, so that perspective helped me appreciate the evolution of Lina’s mental models of the domain and her understanding of research.
What recommendations can you make to others as they consider mentoring a student who is about to embark on a similar, in-depth HF/E project?
Being a human factors professional brings opportunities as well as obligations. Experiences like these are an opportunity to sharpen our mentoring skills, better apply our knowledge of human factors, and become better managers. Over the course of this project my conversations with Lina focused on important human
factors skills: what it means to be a good observer, how to interview someone in an engaging and productive way, how to analyze qualitative data and build a robust model of design opportunities, and how to turn those into a design. It made me reflect on how few of those skills are explicitly taught in human factors programs.
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Devorah E. Klein received her PhD in cognitive psychology from the Universityof Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She leads the human factors team for IDEO’s Cambridge, MA, location. She focuses on designing products and experiences in the domain of health care.