SHELLY HABECKER

Contributed Articles

Needed: Anthropologists in Insurance

by SHELLY HABECKER Swiss Re I work in life insurance. No, I’m not an actuary or underwriter—I’m an anthropologist, and it’s a great fit. I began my career working with refugees in the public and nonprofit sectors, then spent seven years teaching anthropology courses to undergraduates, and I’ll admit that insurance wasn’t on my mind. But now that I’m here the value of my background is clear: Anthropology has taught me to be a listener, a storyteller, and a holistic thinker. I use these skills every day in my job in customer experience on an insurance innovation team. Another thing is clear: the insurance industry needs anthropologists, even though they might not know it yet. So, if you’re an anthropologist or ethnographer of another stripe, please consider applying for jobs in the insurance industry. To do that you’ll need to get creative about where you look for employment and how you present your skills. Let me explain. Insurance Companies Need Anthropologists as Listeners Insurance companies are brimming...

Advice for an Anthropologist Breaking into Business

by SHELLY HABECKER, Swiss Re "How do I make ethnography relevant to my company?" This was the question that I took to Tracey Lovejoy (co-founder of EPIC, former Senior Manager at Microsoft, and founder of Lovejoy Consulting); Christian Madsbjerg (founder of ReD Associates and best-selling author of two books on applying social sciences to business); and Alexandra Mack (Alchymyx; formerly Senior Fellow at Pitney Bowes & EPIC Board Secretary). All three are leading lights in the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Community who have invested their careers in a belief that observing and listening to human beings matters for better business. A little over a year ago, after two decades of working on African migration issues in governmental and academic environments, I started a job at a large insurance company. I was attracted by the potential to use my training as an anthropologist to create better financial safety nets for people through the insurance industry. My managers were not looking for an anthropologist per se, but they let...