Anna Robertson: a career in human factors

This is Anna's story

After graduating from BSc (Hons) Psychology in 2017, Anna Robertson spent her summer travelling, before beginning a new role as a Graduate Human Factors Engineer with Mott Macdonald Ltd, a management, engineering and development consultancy, based in the East Croydon/London City Thameslink area.

Study and support at Plymouth

One of the main reasons I chose to study at Plymouth was because I liked that everyone had an opportunity to do a fully supported placement year – for other universities the spaces for placements were limited. I was also impressed with the large cognition department, which was the area I was most interested in studying. Plus, the modules covered a broad range of topics, which really helped me decide which pathway I wanted to take in psychology.

The psychology lecturers were so helpful throughout my degree, they gave me lots of advice and support for coursework, exams, placement options and my career choices. They have so much information and contacts to help build your career.

The Erasmus scheme and psychology placement services were also very supportive – my placement year was initially confusing because it was split between two employers and institutions. 

While Peer Assisted Learning Scheme (PALS) workshops were also very useful for my methodology and research modules.

Outside of study, I loved being a part of the lacrosse society. It was great to do exercise and be sociable alongside my studies – many other members also studied psychology, so we would support each other during exam time.

If I hadn’t gone to Plymouth I wouldn’t have benefited from all the opportunities the University provides.


The power of placements and making connections


My research apprenticeship scheme in my second year with Chris Longmore encouraged me to take a year out to do a placement. The placement year looked great on my CV and really benefited me for job applications. Chris was so supportive during my placement and as a dissertation supervisor. He also wrote a lovely reference for me, which has definitely helped me with job applications!

I did a research placement at the University of Amsterdam during my third year of university. This was an amazing opportunity for conducting research, working in a completely different environment and living in a different country. The work was challenging but I learnt a great deal very quickly. I also got to meet lots of international students and travel around the Netherlands with my lacrosse team, which was very fun!

My research placement really helped boost my CV. Andy Wills connected me with Ingmar Visser, my placement supervisor in Amsterdam, as Andy had conducted research with him in the past. Andy also supported me on my placement year and I did a three month placement with him back at Plymouth where I learnt lots of new skills. 

If I hadn’t gone to Plymouth, I wouldn’t have been able to make the connections I made in my placement year.

I was also lucky to have the help of Liz Hellier, a lecturer in occupational psychology, who taught a human factors module and helped me prepare for my interview at my current job.


Joining Mott Macdonald


After I completed my studies at Plymouth I used the summer to do some travelling – I think it’s really important to do at least some travelling before you commit to a job. I began looking for jobs when I returned and have now been working as a Human Factors Engineer at Mott Macdonald since September 2017. 

What I do is hugely varied. My department is primarily based around engineering projects, but we also work for other disciplines. I work to encompass all factors that can influence people and their behaviour.

I have assessed the control room design for an upgraded power station in the Falkland Islands. Furthermore, my team have worked on projects aiming to improve accessibility for people with movement, cognitive, hearing or sight impairments for rail journeys, as well as working on government schemes for changing health behaviours. I also have been involved with assessing Crossrail’s HMI design for the tunnel ventilation systems.

This job is really good because I have the structure of an office, yet I do not get too caught up in a repetitive routine thanks to working on multiple projects at once, which change from day to day, and regular site visits, workshops, client meetings and assessments.


Follow in Anna's footsteps at Plymouth

Interested to learn how we think and behave and how the social influences and structures of our everyday lives affect us? With this combined honours course, you’ll cover all aspects of human behaviour and our underlying thoughts, feelings and motivations. You’ll learn about the rapidly changing nature of contemporary society and graduate with a true understanding of the interaction between the individual mind and the social world in which we live.

Study BSc (Hons) Psychology