Advancing the Value of Ethnography

An Ethnographer Goes To Career Day


Cite this article:

2015 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918.

As a working mother it’s important to me that my 5 year old knows what I do. This isn’t just so that she understands where mommy goes all day. It’s also because I feel that it is critical that I provide her as many examples as possible of women who are taking leadership roles and making an impact in the world. And I know that, as her primary role model, it’s important to both of us that I include myself among those impactful women. So without any hesitation when the form came home from my daughter’s elementary school asking for volunteers for career day, I filled it out. In the field for occupation I wrote “Ethnographer.” A few weeks later I received a formal invitation telling me that I would be giving a half hour presentation to two classes about what I do for a living.

That is when panic struck. Everyone in this room knows how difficult ethnographic praxis can be to explain. In fact, sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my entire professional career as a researcher trying to explain–mostly unsuccessfully—what I do for a living. And I’m not only an ethnographer, I’m also head of experience research at an innovation agency. I have a hard time explaining what that means to educated 45 year olds. So here I had set myself up to do this impossible thing in front of five-year-olds and fifth graders. What was I thinking? And how was I going to compete with the police officer who was bringing his real live squad car?

Carrie Yury is VP of Experience Research at innovation agency BeyondCurious, where she uses a variety of quantitative and contextual, qualitative research methods to build experience strategies, guide user experience, and inform product design.