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SME II-Usability Specialist-REMOTE

Job Number: ASE00395)

Primary Location: US-WI-Madison

Clearance Level: Not Applicable



Akima Systems Engineering (ASE) supports the Intelligence, DoD, and Science and Research communities with tools, domain knowledge, analyst teams and essential mission staffing services. We continually seek people with the skills, experience and passion to successfully leverage the complete intelligence lifecycle across America’s most critical initiatives. As an Alaska Native Corporation (ANC), 100% of our company’s profits go back to our more than 14,000 Iñupiat shareholders that have resided near and above the Arctic Circle for more than 10,000 years. Our business helps support their way of life and contributes to the survival of a culture that has thrived in a challenging environment.


The USGS is the nation's premiere science agency researching natural resources and natural hazards in laboratories and field stations around the country. Two centers in the USGS that focus on wildlife disease and water resources are updating and expanding information sharing systems and share a need for a subject matter expert who will base this development around human-centered design. Mission success depends on clear communication and compelling engagement with broad and diverse audiences.

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) is a full-service wildlife diagnostic laboratory that leads the nation in identifying and responding to emerging diseases affecting wildlife.  To coordinate disease response and provide situational awareness to the wildlife, biosurveillance, and One Health communities, the NWHC developed a wildlife health data portal called WHISPers, which stands for Wildlife Health Information Sharing Partnership - event reporting system. It is a voluntary, partner-driven, web-based repository for sharing basic information about historic and ongoing wildlife mortality (death) and/or morbidity (illness) events and provides a portal for requesting diagnostic and epidemiologic assistance from NWHC.  WHISPers provides timely, accurate information on where wildlife disease events are occurring or have occurred for better preparation and decision making. With recent congressional support, NWHC is planning to improve usability of existing functionality, develop new functionalities, target new surveillance data streams and develop mobile tools for offline data collections while in the field.

The USGS Water Mission Area (WMA) Web Communications Branch (WCB) develops and disseminates water data and information and plain language water science content through static websites, social media, and other outreach and education activities, targeted to stakeholders as defined by WMA programs and leadership.

Akima is hiring a Subject Matter Expert II-Usability Specialist whose primary responsibility is for identifying and engaging the WHISPers user audiences; assessing and documenting user requirements, needs, and satisfaction levels; creating user interface designs, prototypes, and specifications for WHISPers; designing and conducting usability tests at various stages of the development process; analyzing the results of these tests and making recommendations to improve design and functionality; contributing to usability guidelines to provide developers with tools in the design process; and creating, promoting, and supporting a corporate standard for usability for use at NWHC.  In addition to supporting WHISPers development, the Subject Matter Expert II Usability Specialist may also spend up to 50% of their time supporting WMA's Web Communication Branch (WCB).  The tasks performed with WCB would be similar to those for the WHISPers project, but work would be led by other WCB usability experts for a variety of WMA products.


  • Works with NWHC staff to actively engage the WHISPers and broader wildlife health community to identify and characterize key user communities and summarize user personas; gather user requirements, needs, and usability goals; and identify opportunities to leverage usability to expand WHISPers capabilities to better engage stakeholders. Determines and executes information collection method(s), develops data collection tools (questionnaires, interview questions, etc.), analyzes the data (including data previously collected from WHISPers users by NWHC), prepares results, and makes recommendations based on these data.
  • Leads the development of user interface designs, interactions, prototypes, and specifications to improve the current user experience and to guide upcoming platform expansion.  Addresses real-world workflow, such as in-field and mobile data collection and management, to maximize efficiency and clarity.  Ensures that designs/prototypes reflect user needs and specifications, technical capabilities, and adherence to usability standards and guidelines.
  • Contributes to WHISPers usability testing efforts and ensures that all WHISPers user interfaces undergo usability testing at multiple stages prior to release (e.g., on the idea, on the prototype, on the minimum viable product, and on the final product). Ensures user-centered design throughout process. Plans usability-testing activities for specific product releases and for incremental improvements to existing interfaces. Adheres to the testing schedule, test scenarios and other relevant test tools, recruitment of test participants, and coordination of overall testing. Reviews testing results and recommends modifications to the design/prototype based on these results. Interprets and presents usability testing results to the NWHC development team.
  • Executes methods for usability evaluation activities to support quality assurance. Works closely with NWHC staff to develop comprehensive evaluation plans which include surveys to assess awareness, need and satisfaction; product specific surveys of WHISPers users; and focus groups to support evaluation efforts (e.g., with new or inadequately understood target audiences, or to test reactions to possible changes in products/services). Interprets results from surveys and translates results into specific actions that increases awareness of or remove barriers to WHISPers utilization. Interprets special reports, guidelines and policies using independent judgment based on expertise in usability engineering methodology and communications.
  • Provides usability design and interaction consultation to NWHC staff and contractors to ensure usable information products and services, such as user guides and other training or outreach materials. Develops and publishes usability guidelines for reference throughout the product development process. Communicates these guidelines frequently and effectively across development teams, branches, and other relevant parties across USGS.
  • Actively engages with the WHISPers development team in an iterative, agile environment.  Participates in weekly scrum meetings and executes sprints in an the agreed upon timeframe.
  • Assists WMA staff and contractors with tasks similar to those listed above for a variety of WMA products to ensure usable WMA information products and services.
  • Some travel my be required.




Minimum Qualifications: 

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Web Design, or related field is preferred.
  • Strong knowledge and experience with design software and wireframe tools.
  • Knowledgeable of human centered design principles.
  • Strong communication (written and verbal) and interpersonal skills.
  • Experience supporting and working closely with project customers and in cross-functional project and product teams.
  • Strong organizational and problem-solving skills with an attention to detail.
  • A driver's license will be required for local travel via automobile.

Desired Qualifications:  

  • A minimum of 2 years of design experience is preferred.

The duties and responsibilities listed in this job description generally cover the nature and level of work being performed by individuals assigned to this position.  This is not intended to be a complete list of all duties, responsibilities, and skills required.  Subject to the terms of an applicable collective bargaining agreement, the company management reserves the right to modify, add, or remove duties and to assign other duties as may be necessary.  We wish to thank all applicants for their interest and effort in applying for the position; however, only candidates selected for interviews will be contacted.

We are an equal opportunity employer. All applicants will receive consideration for employment, without regard to race, color, religion, creed, national origin, gender or gender-identity, age, marital status, sexual orientation, veteran status, disability, pregnancy or parental status, or any other basis prohibited by law.

We are committed to Equal Employment Opportunity and providing reasonable accommodations to applicants with physical and/or mental disabilities. If you have a physical and/or mental disability and are interested in applying for employment and need special accommodations to use our website to apply for a position please contact, Recruiting Services at or 571-353-7053.   Reasonable accommodation requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.

The dedicated email and telephonic options above are reserved only for individuals with disabilities needing accessibility assistance to apply to an open position using our website. 

Please do not use the dedicated email or phone number above to inquire on the status of your job application.

In order for our company to stay compliant with government regulations, please apply on line. Please DO NOT email resumes or call in lieu of applying online unless you have a physical and/or mental disability and need assistance with the online application.


Shift: Day Job

Job: Life, Physical & Social Science

Travel: Yes, 25 % of the Time

Organization: ASE

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