CUA of the Month – November, 2015

Michael Hricko
“I was in the Navy, I was a user of cumbersome, technical, complicated systems, in a dynamic, fast paced, and at times life-threatening environment. Did we get the job done? Yes, we had no other choice, what we were provided is what we had; and to accomplish our missions we had to put our heads down and carry out the process, the button smashing, the controls, the layouts, the mental gymnastics, the hours upon hours of training, studying and refreshing to be successful.”
Michael Hricko

Human Engineering Lead

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific

UX for National Defense

by Jim Garrett

Michael Hricko, our CUA of the Month for November, is a Navy civilian who works as a Certified Usability Analyst for Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center, in their User-Centered Design & Engineering Branch. He is currently assigned as the Human Engineering (HE) lead on a program at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) called Acoustic Intelligence Modernization or AMOD.

While active-military, Michael flew Navy S-3B Vikings, an antisubmarine aircraft, and retired from the Reserve ranks, working for Commander, U.S. Third Fleet.

Can you talk about this program?

Up to a point…simply stated, it is a software development program being designed to improve the collection, analysis, and dissemination of acoustic information for the Acoustic Intelligence (ACINT) branch of ONI.

The Navy collects this information from all available sources: subs, ships, aircraft and stationary sensors. It then gets delivered to the highly-specialized experts at ONI, who are steeped in military experience and now work as civilian analysts. These analysts examine thousands of hours of audio and visual submarine acoustic information and identify critical intelligence.

It’s obvious you can’t hire these folks off the street; it’s a highly specialized super-skill and takes years of on-the-job training to develop. They not only can identify the type of sub, nation of origin, and operating characteristics, but they’ll tell you what type of electric shaver the sub commander is using! (just kidding) An important aspect of their work is identifying new anomalies and operating trends to ensure the warfighters on the front lines have the most recent information to better identify and track submarines. So a tool that will streamline the general identification, categorization, dissemination and all-around management of this data will allow these experts to focus their valuable time on pure analysis. Theoretically, the end result is better quality, better product, and better sharing across the customer base.

What do you mean by acoustic?

Acoustic in this sense, is basically the propagation of sound in water; anything moving and operating under, on, and even above the water transfers sound in the form of mechanical waves through the water which can be picked up by sensitive receivers.

Where did you enter into this?

The program contract called for delivery of the program in 2 phases – Initial and Final. I was the first HE professional hired when this program was in the waning stages of the Final development phase; the Initial program had been out for almost 2 years. I think you can read the tea leaves on this one! Yep, the initial delivery wasn’t too user-friendly. There were no solid HE requirements in the government contract and no program HE Plan, execution, and lead on the contractor side. So, soon after becoming a Certified Usability Analyst through HFI, I was hired to develop a “Style Guide” for the AMOD program and “do what I can to make the UIs less cumbersome for the user” (a different term was used for cumbersome!).

Though I was hired by a proponent of HE, there were many people who needed to be convinced of the benefits of it, especially at this late stage in the program. In the next two months, I had enough information to strategize and execute a plan. I held interviews, and conversations with the users, management, contractors, acquisition folks, and the café staff (the café was just for fresh coffee!). I consumed use cases and mock-ups of most of the 38 projects that comprise the program, submitting well-received improvement recommendations. I formalized ACINT’s User Team to maximize their limited time and optimize their improvements to the system. I designed UIs and presented to the users, management and the contractor to provide an example of how it can be. I captured improvements promoted by the User Team and applied efficiency metrics so stakeholders can connect the dots with ROI.

Little by little, the work I was performing won the stakeholders over to the benefits of incorporating HE into the program; I was receiving requests from functional leads, programmers, users, and management telling me I need to be involved in all of these different areas. I was thrilled, but what really excited me was when I was asked to provide HE requirements for the follow-on contract. Bullseye! They get it, which means more importantly, the user will get it – a system that not only delivers sophisticated technical capabilities but also optimizes usability. After all, we are building the program for the user – it’s easier than building the user for the program!

I like to think that everyone was won over, because of me – they needed me and my work, but in reality it is only because they hadn’t planned effectively from the start. Had they, I’d be another member of the team, diligently doing my job. It blows my mind that multi-million dollar programs are established to build a system and they designate a lead and a plan for every critical part of the system (Software, Hardware, System, Project), except the most critical, the most variable, and the most vocal – the Human!

How does this connect to you?

This work and this program connects with me, because I have a great passion for intuitive and simple designs, making things easy, especially for the warfighters who should be heads up, and moving forward, not fumbling over mind numbing data inputs and keystrokes. I was in the Navy, I was a user of cumbersome, technical, complicated systems, in a dynamic, fast paced, and at times life-threatening environment. Did we get the job done? Yes, we had no other choice, what we were provided is what we had; and to accomplish our missions we had to put our heads down and carry out the process, the button smashing, the controls, the layouts, the mental gymnastics, the hours upon hours of training, studying and refreshing to be successful.

I realize this is a little dramatic, but the point is, it could have been much easier, if only someone was assigned to focus on the user’s perspective throughout the development of many of these systems. Especially in the military where there isn’t one product to compare against another – no competition once the product is made – all the more critical to integrate HE. So just like the Human Factors discipline, I got my start in the military!

I am quite humbled, and blessed to be able to work with this motivated, enormously talented team – government, contractor, and user to develop a quality, sophisticated technical program that optimizes usability and assists the user in delivering a superb product. I would love to get them all out for a run and “call jodies!” (look that one up!)

Does this coordinate with other agencies, the FBI, etc.?

They provide information to other Defense Agencies, National Security Agencies, the Intelligence Community, and our allies, but I don't know the extent of their involvement with the Department of Justice. The intelligence does get briefed as needed to the CNO and SecNav.

Was the CUA significant for you in championing all of this?

Yes, it was. The courses gave me the big picture on an HE program and also provided best practices and the science behind well-designed interfaces and websites. Combined with my background in the Navy, teaching, and process improvement, and of course hammering the CUA instructors with lot of questions, I was able to identify the steps I needed to take with the user. It gave me a really good background on how to integrate UX into any phase of a program.

Additionally I now have a network of professionals that I met in class, especially the instructors at HFI that I can reach out to for consultation and support – and I have taken full advantage of that, just ask them! But I must say, the greatest benefit provided me was confidence in this field.

 What’s the best piece of advice you can offer to others?

  1. Have passion in your work but don’t be over bearing and never give up, continue to drop seeds of the benefits of HE – if this doesn’t work try the Jedi mind trick.
  2. You have to be with everyone – what I mean by this is that you have to empathize with everyone and understand their root motivations so you can team effectively, and always be first to provide compliments for good work and participation.
  3. Always strive for win-win in all situations.
  4. Keep in mind, most people want to perform well and do good work – government or contractor, programmer, designer, management, acquisition. Everyone is together for the common goal of that product – “One team, one fight.”  Keeping this in mind can get you through many hurdles.
  5. Settle for small victories – change takes time.
  6. Lastly, it’s not the HE way or the highway – there is a good diagram I found online titled UX Chakra Model – it depicts a balanced state between Business Needs, Technical Implementation, User Needs, and Strategy and Design. An HE professional is part of a balanced team and must take into account the constraints and dependencies on that team.
CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

Privacy policy

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

This Privacy Policy governs the manner in which Human Factors International, Inc., an Iowa corporation ("HFI") collects, uses, maintains and discloses information collected from users (each, a "User") of its website and any derivative or affiliated websites on which this Privacy Policy is posted (collectively, the "Website"). HFI reserves the right, at its discretion, to change, modify, add or remove portions of this Privacy Policy at any time by posting such changes to this page. You understand that you have the affirmative obligation to check this Privacy Policy periodically for changes, and you hereby agree to periodically review this Privacy Policy for such changes. The continued use of the Website following the posting of changes to this Privacy Policy constitutes an acceptance of those changes.


HFI may use "cookies" or "web beacons" to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users’ PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.


HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.

HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.

In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or "dummy" test data.

The Information HFI Collects

Users browsing the Website without registering an account or affirmatively providing personally identifiable information to HFI do so anonymously. Otherwise, HFI may collect personally identifiable information from Users in a variety of ways. Personally identifiable information may include, without limitation, (i)contact data (such as a User’s name, mailing and e-mail addresses, and phone number); (ii)demographic data (such as a User’s zip code, age and income); (iii) financial information collected to process purchases made from HFI via the Website or otherwise (such as credit card, debit card or other payment information); (iv) other information requested during the account registration process; and (v) other information requested by our service vendors in order to provide their services. If a User communicates with HFI by e-mail or otherwise, posts messages to any forums, completes online forms, surveys or entries or otherwise interacts with or uses the features on the Website, any information provided in such communications may be collected by HFI. HFI may also collect information about how Users use the Website, for example, by tracking the number of unique views received by the pages of the Website, or the domains and IP addresses from which Users originate. While not all of the information that HFI collects from Users is personally identifiable, it may be associated with personally identifiable information that Users provide HFI through the Website or otherwise. HFI may provide ways that the User can opt out of receiving certain information from HFI. If the User opts out of certain services, User information may still be collected for those services to which the User elects to subscribe. For those elected services, this Privacy Policy will apply.

How HFI Uses Information

HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users’ experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.

Disclosure of Information

HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI’s legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.

Personal Information as Provided by User

If a User includes such User’s personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User’s personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.

Security of Information

Information about Users that is maintained on HFI’s systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.

Correcting, Updating, Accessing or Removing Personal Information

If a User’s personally identifiable information changes, or if a User no longer desires to receive non-account specific information from HFI, HFI will endeavor to provide a way to correct, update and/or remove that User’s previously-provided personal data. This can be done by emailing a request to HFI at Additionally, you may request access to the personally identifiable information as collected by HFI by sending a request to HFI as set forth above. Please note that in certain circumstances, HFI may not be able to completely remove a User’s information from its systems. For example, HFI may retain a User’s personal information for legitimate business purposes, if it may be necessary to prevent fraud or future abuse, for account recovery purposes, if required by law or as retained in HFI’s data backup systems or cached or archived pages. All retained personally identifiable information will continue to be subject to the terms of the Privacy Policy to which the User has previously agreed.

Contacting HFI

If you have any questions or comments about this Privacy Policy, you may contact HFI via any of the following methods:
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
1680 highway 1, STE 3600
Fairfield IA 52556
(800) 242-4480

Terms and Conditions for Public Training Courses

Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

Cancellation of Course by HFI

HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.

Cancellation of Course by Participants (All regions except India)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (India)

4 Pack + Exam registration: Rs. 10,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (4 Pack-CUA/CXA) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Cancellation / Transfer by Participants (Online Courses)

$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date. No cancellations or refunds less than two weeks prior to the first course start date.

Individual Modules: Rs. 3,000 per participant ‘per module’ processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (any Individual HFI course) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.

Exam: Rs. 3,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the pre agreed CUA/CXA exam date before three weeks from the examination date. No refund or carry forward of the exam fees if requesting/cancelling or transferring the CUA/CXA exam within three weeks before the examination date.

No Recording Permitted

There will be no audio or video recording allowed in class. Students who have any disability that might affect their performance in this class are encouraged to speak with the instructor at the beginning of the class.

Course Materials Copyright

The course and training materials and all other handouts provided by HFI during the course are published, copyrighted works proprietary and owned exclusively by HFI. The course participant does not acquire title nor ownership rights in any of these materials. Further the course participant agrees not to reproduce, modify, and/or convert to electronic format (i.e., softcopy) any of the materials received from or provided by HFI. The materials provided in the class are for the sole use of the class participant. HFI does not provide the materials in electronic format to the participants in public or onsite courses.