This paper argues that ethnographers can gain increased agency in data-driven corporate environments by increasing their quantitative literacy: their ability to create, understand, and strategically use quantitative data to shape organizations. Drawing on the author's experience conducting strategic user research at a technology company, the paper explores how the ability to engage with quantitative data can increase ethnographers’ independence and autonomy within organizations, and can also up-level the role and value of qualitative research. The paper also explores how a deep familiarity with quantitative data can enable ethnographers to imbue quantitative data itself with new forms of agency, and can ultimately give ethnographers the tools to change institutions from within. With a greater understanding of how quantitative data is made and used, ethnographers can ensure that data is collected in representative ways, point out the limitations of existing metrics, and argue for new ways of measuring and understanding social life.
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