NAPA LinkedIn Interview Series Archive

These interviews originally appeared on the NAPA LinkedIn pages. They are listed here by the most recently posted interviews. The interview series is produced by Kristin Keller and Nicole Conand.

August 27, 2013

Laurie Krieger of the Manoff Group

Laurie Krieger is the Senior Advisor, Health and Social Science at The Manoff Group (TMG). Having met staff from The Manoff Group at several international public health meetings, Krieger explains, “they asked me to do a two-month consultancy in Kazakhstan developing and directing a qualitative study of breastfeeding.” Fortunately TMG staff liked the report.

Next, “The Manoff Group asked me to work on developing a qualitative study on male involvement in family planning in Pakistan and to train and mentor the Pakistani NGO researchers.” These consultancies led to The Manoff Group offering her a job seconded to a USAID project; after working there about a year, she transferred to the company headquarters to manage TMG’s subcontract for a large maternal and child health project in Egypt.

“Since that time I have been managing subcontracts and contracts for projects and providing technical assistance in research, gender, social and ‘behavior’ change, and I have assumed lead responsibility for new business development.”

Specializing in social and behavior change, The Manoff Group approaches public health with some anthropological understanding and an ecological perspective.

Krieger adds that, “in those cases where I have relatively free reign to design projects or aspects of projects, I test anthropological theory. I don’t tell public health managers that is what is being done because there is no need, but other anthropologists might find useful which theories have been tested, where, for what purpose and what happened.”

As a Careers Expo exhibitor, Krieger has connected students to information and organizations. She has one suggestion, “it would be great if the people we mentor would touch base with us and let us know how they are faring.”

For those interested in pursuing public health anthropology, Krieger offers five recommendations:
1. Take courses in public health and, if feasible, get an MPH.
2. Take at least one management course.
3. Get on as many international public health listservs as possible; go to meetings and network; ask questions.
4. Closely follow organizations working in the area of public health you are interested in.
5. Ask for informational interviews; send your CV ahead of time; write a thank you note after the interview.

August 13, 2013

Interview with Anthropologist Melissa Cefkin of IBM

Melissa Cefkin is a well known professional in the field of corporate research, specializing in workplace ethnography and services research. She holds a PhD in Anthropology, and is currently working as the Manager of Work Design Innovation at IBM’s Almaden Research Center. In addition to her work at IBM, Melissa is also president of the board for EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference), the premier conference for ethnographic practitioners involved in business.

Melissa was already acquainted with the individuals from Intel and Microsoft who spearheaded the development of EPIC, so when they prepared to launch the first conference in 2005 and needed folks to help out, Melissa happily volunteered. Her interests already coincided greatly with those of EPIC, having worked in applied corporate contexts for over a decade, and her involvement with the organization only grew from there. EPIC, now entering its eighth year, is described by Melissa as an excellent opportunity for researchers to come together, discuss key issues within the field, and contribute to knowledge building.

The conference draws individuals with a variety of backgrounds and skill level; from seasoned professionals at big name companies like Intel, IBM, and Apple, to recent graduates and students from various universities.  Melissa explains the many new practitioners who arrive at EPIC with a traditional anthropology background arrive with an understanding that ethnography is core to their field, and will see that reflected in the conference. What EPIC may show them that is more novel and unfamiliar, is the vast array of applications for this kind of research in corporate and business settings. Melissa feels this can be eye opening, introducing these individuals to the variety of applications for ethnography outside of academia, while still addressing issues of a social/cultural nature.

For practitioners like Melissa who come from a traditional anthropological background but have interests beyond Academia, EPIC offer a great opportunity for exposure to alternative work environments. She strongly encourages students and newbies to the field to participate in the conference, which for some could be a first time glance at how much work goes on in corporate and business contexts. It can expose individuals to the different ways ethnographers apply knowledge, and if your goal is to be active in these kinds of business settings in the future, this is a great place to find out what the issues are and where the challenges lie.

EPIC 2013 is being held in London at the Royal Institute of Great Britain from September 15-18. More information can be found at:

“The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) illuminates social phenomena through theory and practice.  We explore, debate, and engage knowledge production in the digital age. While business is a primary context for this activity, the effects of ethnographic work are far-reaching. EPIC is committed to the view that theory and practice inform one another, and that through our work in a range of settings, we transform industry and the world.”

July 30, 2013

Anthropologist Elizabeth Schill on her experience at Deloitte

As a Senior Consultant in the Federal Human Capital Practice at Deloitte, Elizabeth Schill works with the U.S.government to assess the supply and demand of people and skills, and determine what resources employers and employees need to be successful in the workforce.

“If I look at the world around me, what will it look like in 5 years? What skills should I look for now to be prepared to attend to the world and its needs in 10 years time? Do we have enough people to do the job, and do they have the skills they’ll need? Looking beyond the fact that someone has a degree and excellent writing skills, how do you know they can analyze the data and translate the information?”

Since her work entails reviewing organizational policy and observing office politics to assess the formal and informal nuances of practice, Schill explains, “I definitely use my anthropological training to recognize patterns…I wasn’t hired as an ‘anthropologist,’ but I certainly utilize those skills.”

Participating in the NAPA Careers Expo, Schill hopes to inform students about emerging opportunities for anthropologists beyond academia, and connect students to colleagues who can offer insight.

“One thing about anthropology that people are talking about these days is how is this relevant? How do we take this seriously, and utilize anthropological skills? What anthropology has to offer in the business world is that it provides a very unique lens that not many other people have.”

Though students of anthropology may not be fully aware of the utility of their skills, Schill recommends that students who are interested in consulting start by networking at career fairs. While many companies like Deloitte primarily recruit directly from schools of business and public policy, there are always opportunities for anthropologists to make an impact in the business world.


July 16, 2013

Anthropologist Patricia Sunderland of Practica Group LLC. talks about the role of anthropology in consumer research

Patricia Sunderland is a founding partner at Practica Group LLC, a small consumer research and consulting firm with offices in Chicagoand New York. She finds her background in anthropology critical to her work, as the firm conducts ethnographic research and anthropological analysis for various commercial clients. They are a team of five anthropologists, and Patricia says visual anthropology plays a critical role in what they provide:

“We often use photographs and video to document and represent research-so visual anthropology is on the forefront of our minds”.

According to Patricia, ethnography gained considerable popularity in consumer research during the late 1990s, proving a distinctive advantage to anthropologists like herself. As ethnography has established itself as a “must-have” in this field, Patricia notes that having formal anthropological training can be a significant plus in a world where ethnographic research is largely divorced from a formal anthropology background. She believes a strong background of anthropological theory and an ability to analyze with a sociocultural perspective are unique and valuable skills that can really differentiate you from others in this type of work.

For those interested in a career in consumer research, Patricia recommends first and foremost, solid cultural anthropology training. Second, she urges students to get involved with firms early, as many offer short-term freelance work on a variety of projects for graduate students.

“Working with a number of firms will give you exposure to varied types of projects and ways of approaching questions, as well as help you gain entry into a network of consumer research professionals”.

Patricia sees the NAPA Career Expo as another great opportunity for recent graduates, exposing them to the varied career possibilities that are out there for practicing anthropologists.
Qualitative marketing and market research and consulting in consumer and business markets, including ethnography, branding, business to business and high tech, consumer, domestic and international markets.

July 2, 2013

Anthropologist Cathleen Crain on the NAPA/AAA Careers Expo and its contribution to applied anthropology…

The NAPA/AAA Careers Expo (formerly the Employer Expo) started in 2006 as the brainchild of then NAPA President Dennis Wiedman. Cathleen was an exhibitor at the first Expo at the AAA Meetings in San Jose, CA. The Expo started small and was a vehicle for building connections between professional anthropologists, students and new professionals. Originally solely a NAPA sponsored event, today NAPA conducts the Expo in partnership with the AAA, and with support from CoPAPIA (Committee on Practicing, Applied and Public Interest Anthropology) and COPAA (Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology Programs).

As the Committee Chair of Organizational Relations for the NAPA Governing Council, Cathleen follows changes in the field of anthropology very closely. Each year the organization decides on a focus for the Expo based on these changes and a view to the broader careers landscape, and recruits a varied group of exhibitors. One year the Expo emphasized work in the high tech sector, another year the Expo focused on museum anthropology. The objective is to feature a broad variety of professional anthropologists; from consultants and federal anthropologists, to people working in the non-profit and for-profit sectors.

The Careers Expo is an important event, broadening horizons for both students and new professionals. Recently, there has been increased attendance of faculty who want to support their students in exploring different types of careers. “Rather than host companies that hire anthropologists as we did when it was the Employer Expo, we now focus on professional anthropologists who work in an array of fields to speak with attendees about their work”, says Cathleen. Students and new professionals may have limited experience of the broad range of possibilities for careers in anthropology. The variety of career opportunities represented at the NAPA/AAA Careers Expo is a valuable resource for expanding the vision of the rich variety of career possibilities.

The 2012 Career Expo welcomed 500 attendees and received enthusiastic support. Cathleen expects attendance to grow this year as the realm of professional anthropology continues to welcome new anthropologists.