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Insights What is Human Factors in engineering?

What is human factors?

Human factors is the strategic fusion of psychology, physiology, engineering, and design. We collaborate seamlessly with various disciplines to integrate user-centric principles into the creation of products, processes, and systems.

Our focus extends beyond mere functionality. We meticulously analyze environmental, organizational, and job-related factors, coupled with individual characteristics, to shape behavior and enhance health and safety.

Learn more about our Human Factors graduate scheme. Continue to read Lucy’s story and find out how she’s innovating for happier and healthier communities.

Photo of Lucy smiling towards the camera

Hi Lucy! Tell us about yourself.

“I’m Lucy Milson, Graduate Human Factors Consultant at Atkins, operating under AtkinsRéalis. As a team, we work alongside other disciplines to ensure that the user is considered throughout the project.

We consider environmental, organizational and job factors as well as human and individual characteristics, which influence behaviour and health and safety.”

What subjects did you like at school?

“I took my favorite subjects for A-Level – Graphic Design, Geography and Psychology. Design showed me that my passion is to create things with a purpose as opposed to just for aesthetics. I’ve also always been fascinated by human thought and behavior – especially when it comes to human interaction with products, process systems and the built environment. This interest led me to discover ergonomics, which enables me to combine my interests in psychology and design.”

How do you approach your role?

“Human Factors demands creativity and innovative thinking, so our team is continuously developing new and unique solutions for problems in very specific scenarios. 

Many of the projects we are part of are the first of their kind, so the way in which Human Factors is implemented is not always clear cut and requires discussion and collaboration to define the requirement and application. As a team, we are always challenging each other to consider wider factors, working together to make processes, systems and design safer and more efficient.”

Who inspires you at Atkins?

“I am surrounded by individuals who are at the top of their field and conducting pioneering work in their respective industries. There is a strive to deliver exceptional work and push the boundaries of our disciplines. This drive from colleagues is what inspires me in the work that I do and to push myself further.”

What is it about your job that excites you most?

“The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing my work out in the ‘real world’. Human Factors projects can be very public facing, especially in rail and transportation, so I often experience my own work travelling around London. This provides a reminder that the work I do has a real impact, whether the wider community are aware of it or not.”

What do you think is the single best thing about working at Atkins?

“I receive unwavering encouragement and support from every colleague, whether on an ongoing project or starting a brand new one and surrounding events both in and outside work. When I’m in doubt about a decision or what the next step might be or just need a second opinion, there’s always someone who is happy to help. The positive and supportive attitude throughout the office is motivating and inspiring.”

What would you say to someone who is considering a career in Human Factors in engineering?

“My biggest piece of advice would be to be open-minded. I found my discipline by coincidence at a University open day and love what I do. There will be job titles that you have never heard of and you won’t necessarily know what kind of role will suit you. 

With this in mind, the best thing you can do is ask. Be it a career’s advisor, tutor or networking with someone at an open day – people will be happy to discuss your options. I would also encourage individuals to take every opportunity and not to be afraid of making a mistake. The support is there and it's all part of the learning process, after all it is all a learning process.”

What do you do when you're not at work?

“I try to make the most of living in London. I love exploring parts of the city I haven’t seen before and am always amazed at the places I can find. I meet up with friends and we go to sports events, comedy and concerts. 

I like to stay active, so I run regularly, and I also play tag rugby and netball in local social leagues which has been a great way to meet people! I travel at every opportunity and love exploring new places and learning about new cultures.”

Exploring paths into Human Factors jobs? Discover a rewarding career at Atkins

Keen to discover what you’re really capable of? Apply for our graduate development programme and discover your launchpad to rewarding Human Factors jobs.