August 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 4 
Main Feature

Helping Boeing sail into the future

Emily Howard turns ‘murky’ expectations into measurable specs

Emily HowardAs an instructor and competitor in regattas, Emily Howard’s passion for sailing requires a certain expertise for a successful win, such as better team leadership through communication and collaboration, and effective integration of individual components into one system. As a top expert in human systems integration, she applies those same skills off the water in her work at Boeing.

Howard’s unique expertise and demonstrated leadership culminated in her recent appointment as a Senior Technical Fellow—acknowledging her industry-leading expertise in human systems integration for large-scale command-and-control systems.

Predicting how well people will use a product—before it’s been developed—is an enigma. Howard addresses the warfighters’ needs in nearly every aspect of Integrated Defense Systems products to help improve their capabilities and effectiveness. Her expertise is particularly critical in designing and developing new software applications that address human-information needs for network-centric systems, including networked training, unmanned platforms and Future Combat Systems.

“All of our products serve a human purpose, but this purpose is not always understood during development,” explained Howard. “Most of my work involves turning the often murky and mysterious ‘human expectation’ into clear and measurable engineering specifications.”

With network-centric operations crucial to the future of warfare, Howard’s skills are lauded by colleagues as helping shape the company’s vision of defense product capabilities and integration.

“Emily has always been at the forefront of network-centric operations, especially the human-machine interface and decision-aiding components,” said John Willis, Integrated Defense Systems director, Advanced Information Engineering. “She makes significant contributions to Boeing; she is exceptionally good at transitioning technology into customers’ ideas and positively impacting large programs.”

The complexities of the human mind and individual decision making may seem impossible to integrate into powerful combat systems, but for Howard, it’s a challenge she relishes.

“The ability to process information is becoming an increasingly important part of every new product,” she said. “It’s important to take into account users’ ability in this domain; they are an essential, integrating element. I help Boeing take advantage of the most recent research and emerging knowledge of human behavior, and then translate this into products.”

Howard knew at age 12 she wanted to be a psychologist.

“I’ve always been interested in how people think. I wanted to study psychology and apply what I learned to help people,” she said. “In college, I discovered that I was really fascinated by human factors engineering and how it translates into product design.”

For 17 years at Boeing, she has applied this fascination to help bring Boeing and its customers to a new level in human systems integration.

But what truly drives Howard’s passionate dedication to her craft at IDS is her lifelong desire to help people.

“Every day, I’m inspired by the idea that our service men and women in uniform deserve the best equipment to help them do their job as quickly and safely as possible,” she said. “I’m fortunate that Boeing lets me play a major role in making that happen.”

—Katherine Sopranos

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