Ethnography, Independent Consulting, and the Gig Life

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3 December 2019, 11:00am–12:30pm Pacific Time, online event
Free for EPIC Members, pre-registration required

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Calling all independent consultants and freelance ethnographers! Join seasoned and successful freelancers Shelley and Meg for a presentation and discussion about strategies, opportunities, and challenges of gig work. They will share their own stories of taking the leap from employee to freelancer and offer tips on getting started, finding work, making an impact, and maintaining a presence. They’ll address the realities and challenges that independents face so you’ll leave on stronger footing for taking your next step—whether you’re starting or growing your independent practice. They’ll also explore some of the challenges freelancers face in maintaining a career path, managing commitments, and staying connected.


Shelley Sather is a seasoned independent Ethnographer and Design Researcher, with deep expertise in designing studies for emerging products and technologies. She began her research career in commodities software design, just as the analog (open-outcry) markets in Chicago were being replaced with digital solutions from outside the US. There, she developed a keen understanding of design amidst major market disruption and how culture and environment quietly shape our beliefs and actions—then how to translate that understanding into a business strategy. These niche beginnings led her to various posts across small, market-making entrepreneurial ventures and well-regarded innovation and design consultancies in Chicago and New York, where she's traveled the world to develop richly human, real-world perspectives through context-driven, qualitative, methods…all in the name of smart, meaningful growth. Shelley has led large-scale, complex research engagements for Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, SMART Technologies, ABInBev, ALDO and SeaRay, as well as right-sized research endeavors for small and mid-sized incumbents. What unites this roster is an earnest desire to meet people where they truly are. She has guest lectured on ethnographic research at Northwestern University's Segal Design Institute, and the University of Chicago, and served on design review panels at IIT's Institute of Design and Parson's Strategic Design Management Program. Her favorite question right now is, “What do you think the future of [blank] should be?”

Meg Kinney has built her reputation on delivering actionable insights and cultural context that inspires new products, new markets, and new growth. Her career began at a boutique design agency and continued to span advertising, retail activation, experiential, digital, and shopper marketing. Prior to going freelance, she was the EVP of Insight & Strategy for TWBA\Integer where she built a first of its kind strategy practice in conjunction with Proctor & Gamble that focused on a more anthropological approach to understanding consumer behavior. She was a roaming consultant within the Omnicom group helping marketing agencies adapt and adopt a more human-centered approach to brand building. Throughout, she’s recognized a critical truth: despite the overwhelming surplus of data in business, there is a short supply of meaning and clarity about why people do the things they do – passive behavioral data without soul does not live up to its potential as a business tool. In 2008 she founded Bad Babysitter, a research and consulting boutique specializing in video-based ethnography. She and her partner Hal Phillips, whose background is in philosophy and documentary, help clients pair hard data with thick description to create brand value and growth. They work across multiple categories and models for established brands and startups alike.