By Daniel Reimer, M.A.
University of Nevada, Reno
Note: This article was originally published in the July 2016 issue of Behavior Analysis Quarterly, Vol. 2, (3).
Daniel Reimer: What is your current occupation and job title?
Cloyd Hyten: I am a Senior Consultant and Director of Safety Solutions at Aubrey Daniels International, Inc. I am one of ADI’s “road warriors”, visiting clients all over North America and Europe.
DR: What does a typical day look like for you?
CH: I don’t really have a “typical” day. Sometimes I’m working from my home in Texas, sometimes teaching a workshop at our Atlanta headquarters, and mostly flying to a client location to do anything from a multi-day assessment to training to consulting follow-up visits with managers and supervisors.
DR: What aspects of your job do you find most interesting?
CH: Several things: the thought that goes into an assessment, the instructional design that goes into training, and the problem-solving that goes into consulting. The variety of clients we see and where we work with them is also quite interesting. We work with heavy industry, transportation, insurance companies, you name it. We often work solo, but when we work in teams it’s always a blast because everyone at ADI is fun to work with. Sometimes we’re in offices at their company headquarters to meet with senior leaders in business clothes, and sometimes we’re in jeans and steel-toed boots out on a shop floor or in a railyard, or in a mine. And you have to fit all that in a roll-aboard because as George Clooney said in the movie Up in the Air, “consultants never check a bag”. That’s true in my case.
DR: Are there any additional skills you had to learn or develop after graduate school? What were they?
CH: You never stop learning after graduate school. I had to learn to be a faculty member at UNT after I graduated from WVU, did that for 20 years, and then changed careers to do consulting full-time. I had to forget a lot of academic behavior I had developed and learn different styles to teach workshop participants you have to win over in a day or two. I also had to learn to write in plain English, and simplify concepts for audiences. In academia, you’re often reinforced for making things more complex and trying to be comprehensive and sophisticated technically. That doesn’t fly very often in the applied world. You have to be able to talk at many different technical levels in consulting. Because ADI does a fair amount of safety consulting, I had to learn about industrial safety basics and behavioral safety approaches. That’s a particularly interesting and challenging area.
DR: Was there anything that surprised you when you first started your career?
CH: As far as my consulting career, I was pleasantly surprised that the intellectual challenge is at least equal to that I had in academia. It’s not just rote training, it’s customizing, it’s troubleshooting, and it’s coming up with strategies for solving very difficult behavior and performance problems. And it’s selling- they never taught that in graduate school!
DR: What is the biggest benefit to working in an occupation that is “non-traditional” for a behavior analyst?
CH: Behavior analysts need to realize that you don’t have to choose just between academia or working in the autism therapy field. Those aren’t the only options. OBM has been around for 40 years, so I’m not sure I would call it “non-traditional” but it’s certainly not a typical career for behavior analysts. OBMers are a small but interesting community of practitioners and entrepreneurs. The challenge or working with small, medium and global companies is the biggest benefit. It’s definitely not an office job.
DR: Are there difficulties working with non-behavior analysts? If so, what are they and what have you done to adapt?
CH: I’ve never had any difficulties with our clients regardless of their theoretical backgrounds. They are all interested in solutions, so we don’t debate like academics. We engineer solutions to real-world problems. The problems range from managing difficult direct reports to companywide strategies and tools for improving productivity, safety, customer service, quality, or financial outcomes, and the clients are quite interested in how our behavioral technology can help them. Some of them become fascinated with the science part and read behavior analytic literature on their own and discuss it with you. That’s always fun.
DR: Do you think it is important for behavior analysts to work in non-traditional areas? If so, why?
CH: I think you ought to work wherever your interests are. But people should remember that your interests change. I know people who came from academia into consulting and vice versa. Behavior analysis offers more variety in jobs now than it ever has. Aubrey Daniels, himself, is in his 80s, and he recently started an Institute for research and not-for-profit applications in areas like schools and healthcare. So, you can change career interest well into your 80s. That’s pretty cool!
DR: Do you have any suggestions or tips for people who are interested in starting a career like yours?
CH: Being comfortable in front of a class full of non-college students is a great skill to have. So if you’re in grad school, get some teaching experience. Remember, you might be teaching or meeting with hourly workers or top execs, so develop a comfortable way of commanding a class or meeting. Do your homework- study organizations, systems, OBM and safety. My background in EAB has helped me understand a lot of things. You’d be surprised how often delay discounting comes up. Get some experience in any management position or working with organizations you can so that you have a feel for business. And practice packing a week’s worth of clothes in a European-size roll-aboard.