||Anthropologists with expertise in ethnography have ventured forth from academia in ever-increasing numbers over the past few decades to establish careers in such industries as product design, marketing, advertising, and information technology. New conferences, on-line discussion groups, and websites have helped these practitioners maintain their anthropological approach and perspective while furthering the business goals of their employers.
Less visible or cohesive as a professional community are those anthropologists, deeply embedded in a much wider range of for-profit enterprises, who practice ethnography under the alias of an inscrutable job title. Their strategies and methods extend the reach of anthropology, and often improve their organizations’ performance in the marketplace through cross-cultural insights.
This paper focuses upon three types of occupations for which proficiency in ethnographic research can enhance a practitioner’s value to the organization: business analysis, quality assurance, and project management. It describes each specialty’s body of knowledge, professional certifications, typical roles and responsibilities, and on-the-job activities. Reflecting upon the challenges of the current labor market, it suggests how anthropologists might leverage their skills and experience to find satisfying work and unexpected career opportunities.
The author holds an MA in cultural anthropology from Columbia University. She is the President of Harborlight Management Services, a consulting firm based in New York. For more than twenty years, she has practiced ethnography as an information technology manager in the global financial services industry at companies such as Merrill Lynch, Moody’s Investors Services, UBS Investment Bank, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. She is the author of The Accidental Project Manager: Surviving the Transition from Techie to Manager (John Wiley & Sons, 2001), as well as articles in publications including Natural History, CIO, and Salon. Since 2003 she has led public and in-house company training seminars throughout the U.S. for the American Management Association on business analysis, quality assurance, and project management. She is presently a member of the AAA’s Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology.