Journeying into the business world... one undiscovered culture at a time

Welcome to [Per]Suit of Anthropology, a blog dedicated to the exploration of modern business trends and perspectives from the view of anthropologist, with a special emphasis on cultural understandings of work-life balance and disability rights in the workplace. This blog is a way for me to connect two sides of my professional self that I see in constant dialogue. Though the business world and the anthropological world may not believe it - they have more in common and more to learn from one another than readily acknowledged. Topics covered include: Western business practices and the impact of those decisions on socio-cultural institutions worldwide, invisible disabilities, Ignatian spirituality, work-life balance, and some discussion of issues of tourism and its impacts on culture, and common human capital practices in private industry and government.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The power of your story...

I am a bit late to the game, but I just recently started listening to a number of amazing podcasts. Most recently, I found myself nodding in agreement to This Anthro Life, where the podcasters spoke of the importance of storytelling in our day and age. I could not agree more. I find myself thinking of stories more and more, as I help advise students on how to get internships and jobs both during and after their undergraduate years. Doing so, I found myself asking this simple question: why me? What about my story is so special that I can help others discover theirs? In thinking about and writing my story, I began to understand the key question that has driven my career thus far... it is one much bigger than anything I can address in one blog, or even in a year or two. It is, in fact a question that drives much of our lives: how can organizations anywhere get the people they need, and keep them happy, and engaged at work?

I share my story here as a way of pivoting this blog - I hope to add to the information out there for  anthropologists, who are looking for new opportunities to use their anthropological skills for organizations of every kind.

So here is my story:
I attended the University of Michigan, where I had a dual major in cultural anthropology and social theory. Throughout much of my college career, I saw myself entering the Peace Corps or other volunteer service, and then entering the foreign service and maybe someday being Secretary of State. And while I haven’t ruled that last goal out completely, my life has taken me on a very different, but incredibly awesome path.

While an undergraduate I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Tibet, where I spent a summer and learned two important things. The first was that living far away from home in austere conditions was incredibly challenging both physically and mentally - and I wasn’t sure about three months, let alone a few years. I also saw abject poverty, and inequality the likes of which I’ve never seen, and wondered, “how did this happen?” This question led me to study the impact of corporations on issues of socio-cultural and political change while I then pursued a Masters of Philosophy in [International] Development Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Following my graduation, the desire to better understand corporate  institutions led me to seek a career in the consulting world. I figured there was no better way to gain exposure to the world of business than by advising other businesses. I got my feet wet at the Corporate Executive Board, and later at Deloitte Consulting’s Federal Practice - where I only intended to stay long enough to pay off my debts. But, as it happens,  life had other plans. I found out that I was good at consulting - good enough to get into a leadership and innovation fellowship called GovLab, where I was able to meet with brilliant thinkers in industry and learned how to apply their ideas to government issues. I co-authored a paper on the importance of diversity of thought - an issue I continue to research in my free time.

My appreciation of the complexity of how employers can get people who think differently, challenge assumptions, and ultimately lead to better organizational growth,  deepened when I was offered the chance to manage research at the Partnership for Public Service here in D.C. I led a team of researchers, and had the amazing experience to interview and present to Deputy Secretaries, CIOs, CTOs, CHCOs and other executive leadership of both federal agencies, public policy groups, consulting firms and members of Congress. I helped them re-examine ways to get good cybersecurity talent into government, increase innovation, and identify the major management challenges facing the new administration.

The research I’ve done throughout my career, and exposure to client’s human capital issues has led me to conclude that there is one key challenge facing industries around the world, and that is: how can I get the people I need, and keep them happy, and engaged at work?

This question is so fundamental to how life unfolds. Finding a meaningful job, a good boss, and a schedule that gives you the ability to live the life you desire to have is a constant learning process. Just when you think you have yourself figured out and your plan set - you learn a new fact that calls your assumptions into question. That continues throughout life. Constantly learning and seeing new possibilities should not be the full of stress and worry - but seen as an opportunity.

There is no silver bullet that can guarantee you the perfect job. A liberal arts education equips you all with the skills you will need for success, and it is now up to you to communicate that to employers.

I look forward to sharing what I discover, here, and hopefully helping to add to the story that This Anthro Life hopes to promote.


  1. Thank you for an interesting story, and will especially be following this blog-pivot. I've added it to the resources on Anthropology Major Jobs.

  2. I started out in college as a mechanical engineering major, because I loved being good at physics. I was at a community college because it was more economical and I could get the classes I wanted, taught by actual professors. So by the time I transferred all I needed was upper division classes, and I had, a semester before, changed my major to anthropology. Engineering made me feel dead, a cog in a system of sexist men who filled my classes, and I wanted to change people's minds, not just end up a robot at some firm. I was also losing my house, supporting my mother, in mortgage battles with my dad, and constantly trying to keep my head above water with part time jobs. I also got a certificate in GIS at a CC while finishing my BS, and got a job with the forest service in environmental science research. Loved it. Then government shutdown, the fact I was not a permanent employee, and funds cutting, so I lost that job, and have only found an unpaid internship in city planning other than my side jobs of caregiving, tutoring, and dog walking since. It's been almost 4 years (Went back and got a TESOL cert somewhere in there). I feel I've wasted my life or maybe never had one, and I feel hopeless. I've been to counseling, paid for resume and job search services, had meeting with former bosses, nothing has paid off and I don't know how to help myself anymore. I'm only getting older and less skilled, and all I wanted to do was share stories and save the world. I can't help but feel I'm a failure. I've lost a long term relationship even and my partner's mother called me a failure and that I must be choosing to fail because anyone else would have a career by now. It's possible it's not me, but I'm the only thing I can change. Any advice? Thank you.

    1. Hi there - thanks for reading and reaching out. I am very sorry you are in such a low spot. I don't have the resources to help you in the way you think, but I would try calling: 1-800-283-8255. Best of luck and keep on putting one foot in front of the other. It will get better.