Alumni Spotlight: Calvin Hart

Calvin Hart graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach in December of 2004 with a Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems Engineering.  He is currently the founder and CEO of Tent Limited. Calvin hart2

How has your career progressed and changed since you graduated from Embry-Riddle?

I graduated with a Masters in Human Factors and Systems Engineering and I continued with this after I left but applied the same principles and learnings to the software industry followed by the financial industry. Moving from Florida to Silicon Valley, California then on to Hong Kong for 5 years and then to London where I opened up my own Digital Design studio. Its been recently nominated for a few awards including fastest growing start-up. In 9 months since starting this company, the team has grown from 3 people to 45 people today. I have teams in London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Miami, Seattle and Mexico City.

What made you decide to take the leap and open up your own firm?

I was working in the Finance industry for a very large Bank and started to create my own products (e.g. Online banking tools, platforms for wealth management etc.) which I got funding for from the bank. Once I saw people/customers getting excited about the products I built and increasingly using these products, I decided to set up my own studio and build these out for myself. Its exciting, and every day is its own set of challenges and with this comes reward (and yes, a lot of sleepless nights!) 🙂

Please tell us about your company.

Tent Limited is brand strategy and digital design agency. We provide innovative solutions to organizations through customer insight, strategic thinking and crafted story generation and design that brings our clients’ brands closer to their customers. 

Although we are a diverse team, we have some remarkable points of alignment. We are passionate, self-motivated, excited by what we do and unafraid of finding, following or even trail breaking on paths less trodden. We work hard, support each other and take the time to recognize great efforts, magic moments and have fun. We work globally; based in the heart of the London digital corridor at Shoreditch but currently working across five continents with multi-national, cultural and linguistic perspectives to bring to light.

What would you say has been the secret to your success so far?

Wanting everything we do, make and touch to be perfect! For this to happen, you have to be really passionate about your Brand and surround yourself with quality people. I am a brand fanatic! My core management team is a highly motivated, self-driven team and they get rewarded based on how much friction they can remove from my life.

What advice do you have for Embry-Riddle alumni who are thinking of starting their own businesses?

– It took me many many years to take the giant leap, and although I always wanted to do it, I was in no hurry. I built up my experience and exposure and learned a lot of lessons along the way (around the world in the last 10 years). My passion is always to improve something ‘just a little’…..very incrementally improve things around you and the bigger wins will fall into place. Use each and every experience as a learning experience no matter how good or bad it is.

– Learn to recognize talent and associate yourself with talented people. This is the core of any successful business or venture.

– With all said and done, it is a lot of hard work, and in my opinion….. a wasted day is a day where I don’t see the sun rise. Long hours are a part of it, but a few years of long hours and it all starts to pay off.Calvin Hart1


Alumni Career Spotlight: Steve Dorton

Steve DortenSteve Dorton is currently a Human Factors Engineer at Sonalysts, Inc. working on various projects, primarily with the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Human Systems Integration (HSI) group.  He is an alum from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  He attained his Bachelor of Science in Safety Science (class of 2009) and Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems (class of 2011).  While at Embry-Riddle, Steve completed a safety coordinator internship and multiple academic projects, and he served as a graduate research assistant with the Department of Human Factors, researching integration of unmanned systems into the national airspace system for the FAA.  In addition, Steve was an active member of the campus community.  He served as a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) and chapter president of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and he held multiple executive positions within the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

What do you do as a Human Factors Engineer for Sonalysts, Inc.?

My job entails performing a wide variety of duties across an even wider variety of technical areas. Currently, my prime responsibility is providing Human Factors Engineering services to the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Human Systems Integration (HSI) group. In the short time I have been here, I have performed applied research and systems engineering analysis across a wide variety of DoD acquisitions and research projects. Whenever the Navy or Marine Corps wants to develop, acquire, or modify a system, I work with other researchers to determine whether the system adequately accounts for the capabilities and limitations of the warfighter. The systems I work with range from handheld radios to software suites, or an entire Warship. In addition to all of that, I am currently standing up a Human-Autonomy Interaction Laboratory and performing basic and applied research on autonomous systems and developing technologies to increase the DoD’s capabilities. At any given time, I am working on three to five projects across different domains, which makes my job novel and always interesting.

How did you land your position?

Allison Popola, a fellow Human Factors & Systems (HFS) alumnus, had introduced me to her boss at a conference we were attending. With her help, I was able to secure an interview and ultimately attain my position here. After a rigorous round of interviews, I was extended an offer, which I excitedly took.

How do you enjoy working for a small government contractor? What are the advantages of working for a smaller company?

I cannot stress enough how much I enjoy the freedom of my job, which is primarily afforded by the small size and flat, matrix oriented structure of my company. We adopt a “kill what you eat” mentality, meaning that if you find a project or funding areas that interest you, then you are free to lead that project should you win it. The outcome of this policy is that I am free to research whatever interests me, so long as I am willing to put in the work to find it. Instead of being a cog in a large machine, I am free to pursue what interests me and have a large amount of autonomy (pun somewhat intended). I also get to spend most of my time with customers, be it attending meetings, working in a lab, or collecting data in the field. More importantly in a research-oriented field such as Human Factors, a primary advantage of being with a smaller company is that it is much, much simpler to have Internal Research & Development (IR&D) resources allocated to a technology or capability you would like to develop. I have been afforded a great deal of freedom and opportunity, which I strenuously believe is a core advantage of working for a smaller company.

What advice do you have for Human Factors graduates seeking full-time work in the field?

NCM_0067Having seen a decent amount of resumes thus far, the single most important thing I can say is to highlight your experiences. Of course, the prerequisite for this is to get out there and do stuff in the first place. List projects that you have worked on, what your role in that project was, and the project’s outcome. It is far more important to know that you did a functional analysis here, and data collection there, than it is to know that you made the Dean’s list five times. Smaller companies that allow a lot of freedom are especially attentive to whether or not you have done research or applied work, so that they can be assured you are a self-starter and will not need too much supervision. Your resume should tell a story of what you have been doing, up to the time at which they are reading it. If it paints a clear picture and you talk to the right people, you can circumvent the tedious process of key wording and shamelessly jamming your resume with metadata.

Secondly, be passionate about what you do. I will gladly work with somebody with less skills and experience that is fired up over what we are doing than somebody with immense knowledge that does not care. When the going gets tough, the people who care are the ones that work the hardest. Science is a grueling process, so if you can convey a genuine sense of interest for your field throughout your resume and interviews, then you are going to make an impact on the people who are hiring.

Finally, be professional. ERAU has an entire department dedicated to doing nothing but making you marketable and ready for a career. If you pay as much as you do for tuition, then you should take advantage of these resources (that is, above and beyond a resume check before the career expo). In no other aspect of your life would you pay so much for something and then use such little of its features. Know how to write emails and letters to prospective employers. Have an experience-oriented resume that has been reviewed by experts. Be punctual and dress appropriately for interviews. These are all very basic things that somehow seem to be overlooked on a regular basis.

There are many other considerations, but those three things are the most salient advice I would have for somebody trying to gain full-time work in our field.

Industry Spotlight: Industrial Automation and Material Handling

Blake Bearden, DB 2006

Blake Beardon, WW 2006

Blake Bearden is a 2006 graduate of Embry-Riddle’s Master of Business Administration in Aviation degree and a former USAF officer. While in the Air Force, he worked as an Acquisitions Officer and was involved in the development of new radar technologies as well as the development of weapon systems to be employed in space force application. Upon finishing up his service in the Air Force, he sought out a career which would not only pique his interest in emerging technologies, but also allow him to employ what he learned from his MBA classes at ERAU in the business world. Blake was given the opportunity to manage operations on the West Coast for Bastian Solutions, a leading system integrator of material handling systems.

Why did you pursue a career in the material handling industry?

Actually I knew very little about the material handling industry prior to beginning work with Bastian. My undergraduate degree in Human Factors Engineering gave me a good working understanding in optimization of the workplace for employees. The material handling career field built upon that foundation and has allowed for me to help other companies continue remaining competitive in their respective industries through use of automation technologies. I truly enjoy seeing our systems helping our customers and making them more productive and efficient in their respective markets. Knowing that we make a difference for so many companies is a very rewarding experience.

How does material handling and facility automation allow companies to be more competitive?

With today’s rapidly evolving global economy, increased competition, and expanding markets, business owners can no longer simply raise prices to improve profitability if they also desire an increased market share. Companies that desire complete success, no matter which industrial sector they may reside, are searching for ways to improve productivity, increase quality, and grow overall profitability by minimizing the cost of producing, storing, or moving their product. These goals create a burning desire for business owners to find every competitive edge possible, many times resulting in automation of their facility. With a career in facility automation, you will assist companies in more productive movement of their product through the application of Conveyor Systems and Robotics. Proper implementation of automation not only reduces labor costs, it also minimizes inefficiencies typically involved where operations are more manually intensive. It also allows companies to provide better service to their customers, shipping orders faster while minimizing order error rates.

What do you like most about your job?

I am very fortunate to work with a great group of people. The friendships and camaraderie that I share with my employees and fellow managers are what I cherish most of all. Aside from that, a career in this industry affords engineers the chance to work in just about every industry in the market. One day I may be helping an aerospace client implement an automated storage and retrieval system used in a highly specialized manufacturing environment while tomorrow I might be helping a clothing retailer or customer involved in food and beverage production with expanding their system. No two days are ever the same!

What advice can you give for students interested in a career in material handling?

Seek an internship with a material handling system integrator and get your feet wet in the industry to see if it’s a good potential fit for you. We hire a lot of industrial and mechanical engineers to design and sell our system, though we have a need for controls engineers, software engineers/programmers, logistics consultants and project managers. If you have a strong desire to make a difference, this is a great industry to become a part of!

More about Bastian:
Bastian Solutions is an independent system integrator dedicated to helping our customers increase their productivity through proven automation, information systems, and sound operating procedures. Bastian has historically been an innovator in the field of material handling and controls, with recent advances including mobile robotics, PC Based Controls, 3-D Human Machine Interfaces and Browser-Based Viewing. Bastian provides innovative solutions for automation including conveyor systems, automated storage systems, robotics, automated guided vehicles and also provides warehouse software solutions such as Warehouse Management Software (WMS) and Warehouse Controls Software (WCS). Learn more about Bastian and available positions for which we are currently hiring.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Suzanne (Robinson) Kearns

Dr. Suzanne Robinson Kearns, DB 2000/2002

Dr. Suzanne Robinson Kearns, DB 2000/2002

Suzanne Kearns is a professor who teaches Commercial Aviation Management students at Western University in Ontario, Canada. She is also a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot. She holds a Helicopter Pilot college diploma along with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Science and a Master of Science degree in Human Factors and Systems Engineering both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Additionally, Suzanne holds a Ph.D. in Education, specializing in Instructional Design for Online Learning. She has extensive experience as an instructional designer and is passionate about innovating human factors and aviation safety training.  She is the author of e-Learning in Aviation, a book published by Ashgate in 2010 and a new iPhone app called m-Safety.

What have you been doing since you graduated with your MS in Human Factors & Systems in 2002?

I graduated with my BS in Aeronautical Science in 2000 and my MS in Human Factors & Systems in 2002.  Shortly after graduating I was hired full-time as a professor at Western University, in their Commercial Aviation Management program, teaching human factors and aviation safety.  After I was hired I began my PhD in Education, with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning, which I completed in 2007.

Since 2007, I have written two books: Canadian Aviation, which is a textbook for university students who are new to the aviation industry, and e-Learning in Aviation.  I have also published four academic journal articles in The Journal of Human Factors, The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, and The Collegiate Aviation Review.  My current project is the development of a smartphone app that delivers pilot safety training, called m-Safety, which will be on the Apple App Store mid-April.

I have been married to Michael Kearns since 2004 and have three children, Katelyn (6), Sam (4), and Andy (15 months).

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

The biggest highlight of my career so far has been the publication of my e-Learning in Aviation book.  This book was published by Ashgate, a highly respected publisher in the aviation industry.  With Ashgate, you have to submit a book proposal and sample chapter which is put through an external review before the publisher agrees to publish your book.  Then comes the hard part – you have to do all the research and writing, which took me about 9 months.

After the book was published, I made connections throughout the industry with people who had read the book and were interested in collaborating.  It’s quite the experience to have people approach you, after having read your book.

What advice do you have for students and graduates who are interested in teaching in a university setting?

Teaching in a university setting offers a lifestyle with unparalleled flexibility.  I always dreamed of being a pilot, as I started flying airplanes and helicopters when I was 15, yet it was not until I completed an internship near the end of my ERAU bachelor’s degree that I realized how challenging the lifestyle of a professional pilot can be (as you are away from home so much).

I did not dream of becoming a professor, but I am very glad that my path led me here.  As a professor, your workload is distributed 40% teaching, 40% research, and 20% service.  The teaching requires about 6 hours of lecturing a week, plus office hours and grading.  The fun part of the job is the research, as you get complete flexibility over what you decide to explore, and it’s something you can do from home.  My interests led me initially to e-learning and now to mobile learning, which I think has enormous potential to improve aviation safety.  The service component of my job includes running the admission process for our aviation program and sitting on several university and industry-level committees.

For students interested in teaching at the university level, the best advice I can give is to consider whether or not you are interested in research.  It’s not obvious from the outside, but a professor is expected to spend just as much time conducting research as teaching.  Universities place a very high value on academic publications, such as books and journal articles.  As a student, if you want to work in a University, the best thing you can do during your studies is to try and get one or two papers submitted to journals and published.  The saying in the academic world is ‘publish or perish’, which means that if you don’t conduct research and produce publications it’s unlikely you will survive in the academic world.

How have your Embry-Riddle degrees opened doors for you in the course of your career?

My ERAU degrees have opened up many doors in my career, beginning with the ability to get a Master’s degree.  What I mean is that in Canada, most pilot education is at the 2-year college level.  I am an example where it is hugely valuable to have a 4-year university degree in aviation, as it allows you to build upon that education.  In my case, it allowed me to get a Master’s degree and eventually a PhD.

Also, unlike other academic disciplines (such as history or calculus) there is a very “real-world” component to aviation research.  I need to stay on top industry-happenings and trends as well as the academic literature in my area.  Having a degree from Embry-Riddle has given me the foundation upon which to build my career.  I absolutely would not be where I am today without the education I received from ERAU.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Razia Nayeem Oden

Razia Nayeem Oden, DB 2003

Razia Nayeem Oden graduated from Embry-Riddle in 2003 with an undergraduate degree in Human Factors. She then continued her education at the University of Central Florida, obtaining a MS in Modeling and Simulation and a Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology. Razia has obtained vast experience over the years through internships, a fellowship, graduate research, and full-time positions working in a variety of disciplines such as systems engineering, human factors psychology, and research.

What have you been up to since your graduation from Embry-Riddle? 

After graduating in the spring of 2003, I went straight to graduate school that fall. While in school at the University of Central Florida, I worked in two different research labs in the Psychology Department and completed an internship at NAWCTSD (Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division). The last two years of grad school, I worked for a DoD contractor and conducted my dissertation through a contract with the US Army RDECOM. I graduated in the spring of 2008 with a Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology, and since then, I’ve completed a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Army Research Laboratory and worked at a couple of small DoD contractors.

You have experience in systems engineering, research, and human factors psychology. What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

The most rewarding thing I’ve done thus far is work on products that make it to the military. I love working with the military because I can’t think of a more worthy population to help with Human Factors design principles. In research-oriented careers, often R&D efforts never make it out to the field. The thing I have enjoyed the most so far is seeing products I designed actually get deployed to train and support Warfighters immediately.

What led you to decide to pursue your Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology? 

After somewhat stumbling into Human Factors at Embry-Riddle, I really came to enjoy it. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. because I saw the usefulness of human factors across a lot of different disciplines. I view human factors as a toolbox with a range of techniques that could be applied in a variety of settings. When you go through a Ph.D. program, particularly the dissertation phase, you really become an expert in the field, and I wanted to get as much education and experience as I could so I could make a difference in human systems design.

What advice do you have for Human Factors graduates getting ready to begin their respective careers in the field? 

The best advice I can give someone starting out in the field is to try to gain as wide a range of experiences as possible. I would encourage new graduates to work on as many different projects as possible so they can find what they enjoy the most and which areas best match their skills. In addition to different projects, I think it’s very helpful to work in multiple industries to get different perspectives on how human factors is used in varied settings.

What are your plans for the future? 

I would like to do more design work across a range of products, as well as broaden my skills in areas like ergonomics. I obtained a Project Management Professional certification last year, so I plan on doing more project management while retaining my technical skills and being involved in day-to-day project activities.

Co-op/Intern Spotlight: Augusto Espinosa

Augusto Espinosa, MS Human Factors & Systems

Augusto Espinosa experienced the best of both worlds during his year-long stint as an Environmental Health & Safety Intern with Momentive Performance Materials in New Smyrna Beach, FL. While many students must wait until after their internship is over to apply the things they learned in the classroom, Augusto’s internship was local, allowing him the opportunity to incorporate experience into the classroom and vice versa on a daily basis.

What’s more, this May, Augusto will be graduating with a Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems and a solid year of work experience in the field he has decided to pursue.

What kind of work did you do as an Environmental Health & Safety/ Manufacturing Intern?

I was in charge of managing the EHS department at a small chemical manufacturing plant. I worked with the plant engineer to re-design different packaging lines and chemical mixing stations. We applied ergonomic principles to make the work areas more efficient and safer for the operators. I was also in charge of conducting numerous audits of the site to ensure that our operations conformed with government regulations. Every week I would be working on a different project.

As a local intern, you were able to take classes while gaining experience. In what ways did this benefit you, both in the classroom and on the job?

Being able to take classes while during my internship was a huge advantage. I would go to class in the morning and work the rest of the day. It was specially rewarding to learn certain concepts and then be to able to test them in a real work environment. Furthermore, I received a considerable number of graduate credits for my internship while getting paid.

What advice do you have for students seeking an internship?

Don’t be afraid to look for internships in different fields. My internship focused mostly on safety. Despite being a Human Factors student, I adapted quite well to the job and I was able to bring something different to the table. My employers really appreciated that.

What are your plans upon graduation?

I have come to really enjoy my work at Momentive. For this reason I hope to be working in safety or industrial engineering after graduation.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Beth Joseph

Beth Joseph, DB 1999

Beth Joseph is a 1999 graduate from the Bachelor of Science in Human Factors program at Embry-Riddle, and she is currently a Senior Systems Engineer at Sikorksy Aircraft Corporation.  Beth is also one of the leaders for the Connecticut/Sikorsky area alumni chapter.

Coming from a Human Factors background, how has your degree helped you succeed as a Systems Engineer?

My degree has definitely helped me with not only getting in the door at Sikorsky, but with my career path.  When I first joined SIK, I started in the Crew Systems department, writing requirements and designing the cockpit displays for the pilots on the Comanche helicopter.  I worked in a group with fellow ERAU Human Factors classmates, which made starting work at a new company so much more comfortable for me.  When the Comanche program ended in 2004, a new opportunity in the System Engineering department emerged for me.  With my Human Factors background, I was easily able to transition to System Engineering responsibilities, such as Requirements Management and Risk Management.  I have been a System Engineer on several different Sikorsky helicopter programs, and have worked closely with our Customers while participating in many technical reviews, such as System Requirements Reviews, Preliminary and Critical Design Reviews.

What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?

The biggest highlight so far has to be when I was given the opportunity to experience a helicopter ride in an S-76.  It was so neat to actually be a passenger in one of our products.  My flight took place on a Saturday in May with perfect weather, and the flight was amazing.  I couldn’t believe how quiet it was inside the helicopter, once the doors were closed.  It was a pretty smooth ride, and we got to hover above the helipad.  What an experience!  The other employees on my flight were so nice, and we all exchanged the photos we took in the air.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve been working at Sikorsky for 9½ years now.  Time flies when you enjoy your job and the people you work with.  I would like to continue my career at Sikorsky.  I’ve been toying with the idea of going to back to school to pursue a Masters degree.

As the Hartford-area Alumni Chapter Leader, please give us some insight into how alumni can get involved in their local chapters. 

I think it is great having an Alumni Chapter where you work.  The Connecticut/Sikorsky Alumni Chapter here is made up of Alumni who are Sikorsky employees, as well as other Alumni who live in the local CT area. Sikorsky is such a big company, that our Chapter provides everyone the opportunity to network with other Alumni coworkers who work in diverse areas, from mechanics who work on the production line, to engineers who are experts on the many different systems of the aircraft.  Alumni can get more involved in their local chapters by showing up at Alumni Chapter events, such as social hours after work and community service opportunities.  It’s also nice for members to suggest ideas for Alumni get-togethers, for things that they want to do or go see in the area.  Our Alumni Chapter will be volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, as part of International Eagle Day.  We will be working on framing two neighboring houses in New Haven, CT, which will be tough work but very rewarding.

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