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One Person's Journey in Practicing Anthropology
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One Person's Journey in Practicing Anthropology


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Slides from my February 2014 talk for Dr. Jeremy Spoon's undergraduate Applied Anthropology class at Portland State University. Talking points include my educational history, career path, experience …

Slides from my February 2014 talk for Dr. Jeremy Spoon's undergraduate Applied Anthropology class at Portland State University. Talking points include my educational history, career path, experience in UX research, and the evolution of my perspective on practicing anthropology, particularly in business settings.

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  • 1. ONE PERSON’S JOURNEY IN PRACTICING ANTHROPOLOGY Amy Santee, UX Researcher @ Empirical Portland State University February 27th, 2014
  • 2. AGE 14...
  • 3. 2004-2008 2009-2011 2011-2012 2013-present BA Anthropology Consumer Researcher (corporate) UX Researcher / Consultant (agency) MA Applied Anthropology The recession... FormativeYears... Eckerd College University of Memphis State Farm Empirical
  • 4. 2004-2008 2009-2011 2011-2012 2013-present = Level of Understanding of Doing Anthropology FoundationalLearningRealWorldLearning { { Eckerd College University of Memphis State Farm Empirical
  • 5. 2004-2008 2009-2011 2011-2012 2013-present BA Anthropology Interest in people, culture, travel, The Exotic “Other” Innate curiosity about the world Didn’t really “get it” going in Survey courses in the 4 fields (except archaeology) Foundational knowledge & skills Research opportunities Study abroad Senior thesis - gentrification, development and senior citizens perspectives A love for research -- a way to explore the world around me Eckerd College University of Memphis State Farm Empirical
  • 6. 2004-2008 2009-2011 2011-2012 2013-present MA Applied Anthropology Took a year off Went back to “master” anthropology theory and methods ... a deeper understanding Not just about studying the “other” but applying anthropology to real world problem solving Urban anthropology and social issues, community development, poverty, healthcare Practicum/applied thesis on community health initiatives (evaluation and ethnography) also... Culture and Consumerism (design & business) The recession... Eckerd College University of Memphis State Farm Empirical
  • 7. 2004-2008 2009-2011 2011-2012 2013-present Consumer Research First opportunity to really apply anthropology An anthropologically interesting place to work A whole new world... A learning experience... How to function in business New language & practices How to create value for anthropological skills Key takeaway: Reframing, revising, rethinking what it means to be a practicing anthropologist Eckerd College University of Memphis State Farm Empirical
  • 8. Consumer research at State Farm... An anthropologist in an insurance company?! Anthropology = understanding the human experience Creating better products and services means understanding the people who use them The human experience: needs, preferences, expectations, values, culture, perceptions, politics, behaviors, motivations, goals, language, context, history, frustrations, pain points, &c. Understanding = improving existing products and creating new ones Understanding > guessing/assuming
  • 9. Three key roles... Research (lead/support): Research design, data collection, analysis, reporting Mostly qualitative research: focus groups, observational research, interviews, usability testing Project examples: > online cross-sell experience (interviews, focus groups, usability tests) > insurance agent sales practices (interviews, observations) > call center work processes (interviews, observations) > homeowners insurance experience (focus groups) Project management: recruiting, logistics, planning, proposals, facilities, travel, client and vendor relationships Consulting: helping business and design teams understand when and how to use research to inform decision-making
  • 10. From Academia to the Workplace As time went on in this new world, I realized that... it’s not about “doing anthropology” but problem solving I went in with a particular skill set and perspective and gained a deeper understanding of what it means to work in business (language, culture, practices, domain knowledge, etc.) + new ways of thinking about my work. Anthropology tool kit Research methods (qual & quant) Cultural theory Holistic & emic/etic perspective Attention to detail / thoroughness Analytical and critical thinking Business experience UX (user experience) research Business strategy (i.e., the big picture) Collaborative, cross-functional work with businesspeople and designers Real-world problem solving
  • 11. A Whole New World... A Whole New Vocabulary
  • 12. 2004-2008 2009-2011 2011-2012 2013 - present UX Research & Consulting Moved to PDX and did some freelancing while job searching Similar job to State Farm, but I started with a refined idea of the application of my skills to this field Continue to be challenged to rethink notions of anthropological practice and value in the business world Eckerd College University of Memphis State Farm Empirical
  • 13. User Experience (UX) Research at Empirical... What is UX research? It’s about the experience. Similar work to what I did at State Farm Planning, designing, conducting and analyzing projects Consulting services for clients without internal research resources, or whose internal resources are tapped out Work with clients to understand questions around business, design and [potential] customers and . . . Help them solve their problems!
  • 14. Doing User Research... Research insights inform product design at all stages of the process: Exploratory............conceptual...........prototype Collaborating primarily with other researchers but also with designers Research methods: more facility based (interviewing, usability testing, focus groups, etc.) than contextual (i.e., real world) Turning research data into action!
  • 15. Some examples of recent project topics - Small business tech for productivity - International Android developers - Computer input mode & productivity optimization - Photo and video editing on mobile devices - Luxury vehicle rear seat entertainment systems
  • 16. Network, network, network!!! Reflective Advice Have a solid idea of how anthropology is applicable to the job you want Know how to talk to non-anthropologists about your skills & experiences Learn the skills you need to go out and solve real world problems Get as much hands-on experience you can (internships, projects, etc.) HUSTLE! Create your own opportunities. Shape your own professional journey. Manage your online presence (social media, blog, website, etc.) If you want to continue in anthropology and work outside of academia, get a master’s degree from an applied program Follow your passion! It’s not just about research Everything is a learning opportunity
  • 17. To conclude... “Anthropologists in Practice” series at my blog - 13 interviews and counting... - Fields: branding, consulting, technology, consumer research, healthcare, community organizing, evaluation, project management, teaching, urban planning, etc. - Topics: career paths, job roles, projects, advice for students Connect with me - - Twitter: @amysantee - (website) - (blog) THANK YOU & ANY QUESTIONS?