Wichita State grad Cindy Miller helps Harley-Davidson design a better ride

  • Cindy Miller worked on an exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo as a student at Wichita State, experience she said is valuable in the real world. 
  • Miller earned her Ph.D in Human Factors at Wichita State before moving to her home state and eventually working for Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee.
  • Miller's studies and work allowed her to work in industries she is passionate about as a career and as hobbies.

Cindy Miller is living an ideal Wisconsin life – she works for Harley-Davidson, rides a Harley-Davidson three-wheeler and roots for the Green Bay Packers.

Her connections to Wichita are also typically Wichitan.

She earned her Ph.D. and master’s in human factors from Wichita State University, fondly remembers the excitement on campus for Shockers basketball in the NCAA Tournament, worked for Cessna Aircraft Co. and has a pilot’s license.

“I have two big passions – one is aviation,” she said. “My second big passion is motorcycles. I think it’s super cool that I’ve been able to be so lucky to work in two industries that are my passion and hobby.”

Cindy, a Wisconsin native, is staff engineer as the human factors technical expert within Harley-Davidson’s product development organization, a position she’s held for five years in Milwaukee.

She describes her job as that of an internal consultant who works in all areas of the company. She provides design guidance and conducts testing to deliver ergonomic, usability and user experience performance. 

“It’s important for a rider to feel comfortable, as well as confident,” she said. “Confidence comes from sitting well on the bike.”

Miller works from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"(Human factors) is a very hands-on profession, working with products and participants," she wrote in an email. "This event has allowed me to develop creative ways to conduct (human factors) testing remotely and to apply some new skills I had just learned in Adobe XD and Sketch, creating clickable prototypes for participants to complete tasks from the comfort of their own home."

Cindy credits the real-world learning experiences at Wichita State with helping her prepare for a career in human factors. One of those projects took her to the Sedgwick County Zoo’s Downing Gorilla Forest. Students evaluated all aspects of the eight-acre exhibit to recommend ways to make the experience more enjoyable.

It's a huge help, demonstrating that you've worked in an industry, for a future employer.
Cindy Miller, staff engineer, human factors,

“The projects we did in class were partnered with different companies and organizations,” she said. “They were real-word problems we were trying to help provide solutions for, collecting data and using that data to drive good recommendations.”

The work at the zoo included observing and interviewing visitors to gauge how they spent their time.

“From the moment you cross the bridge and take your first steps into the gorilla area – how do you know which direction to go, how do you know the order, what do people visit the most?” she said. “Are they spending time with the informational displays? Are they spending time with the gorilla statues? It was interesting to watch people and see how long they take in the display as a whole.”

Cindy recommends that all Wichita State students seek out an internship to help them prepare for their future career. Wichita State’s Career Development Center can help current students find those internships and applied learning opportunities.

Cindy says she plans to work with a Wichita State human factors student this summer at Harley-Davidson. When she is hiring, she looks for candidates who have already had internships elsewhere.

“It provides you a real-world experience, as well as contributing to the company with new technology, fresh perspectives and new ideas,” she said. “It’s a huge help, demonstrating that you’ve worked in an industry, for a future employer.” 

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