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In a recent episode of the Anthro to UX podcast, host Matt Artz interviewed Sydney Yeager, a Senior Design Researcher at Walmart Global Tech, about her fascinating journey from anthropology to user experience (UX) research. Throughout the conversation, Sydney shared valuable insights on the intersection of anthropology and UX, the importance of digital anthropology, and her experiences in academia and industry.

Discovering Anthropology and Its Holistic Perspective

Sydney’s journey began with a serendipitous introduction to anthropology during her college years. She recounts, “I really love the holistic perspective. I found the anthropology… the way it critiqued things like ethnocentrism… was a really powerful perspective.” This holistic approach, which considers the full context of human behavior and culture, laid the foundation for Sydney’s future work in UX research.

The Emergence of Digital Anthropology

As Sydney delved deeper into anthropology, she became increasingly interested in the digital realm. She realized that “you can’t just ignore this half of people’s existence anymore.” This realization led her to become involved with the Digital Anthropology Networking Group (DANG), which aims to establish the credibility of anthropologists studying digital spaces and bridge the gap between academia and industry.

Sydney emphasizes the importance of digital anthropology, stating, “We should have a group of people who are studying digital anthropology come together and establish an official space in academic settings.” By advocating for the legitimacy of digital anthropology, Sydney and her colleagues at DANG have paved the way for a more comprehensive understanding of human behavior in the digital age.

Transitioning from Academia to Industry

Sydney’s journey from academia to industry began with small, applied projects during her graduate studies. These projects, such as studying smartphones and helping a local business with their website, allowed her to apply her anthropological skills in real-world contexts. However, it was an internship in product management that truly opened the door to UX research.

Sydney explains, “I love doing product research and innovation, and really trying to think through those strategies of how to best serve those end users.” This passion for understanding and serving end users ultimately led her to pursue a career in UX research.

The Value of Anthropology in UX Research

Throughout the podcast, Sydney highlights the value that anthropology brings to UX research. She notes that the storytelling aspect of anthropology is particularly useful in uncovering users’ experiences and perspectives. “I think that’s a big piece of why I prefer the research side over product management, right? Is that I wanna be on that cutting edge of discovery,” Sydney explains.

By leveraging her anthropological background, Sydney is able to dive deep into the needs and motivations of users, providing valuable insights that inform the design and development of products and services.

Bridging the Gap Between Customers and Employees

In her current role at Walmart, Sydney focuses on the employee experience, ensuring that the technology and tools provided to associates are user-friendly and efficient. She emphasizes the importance of considering the end user, even in an employee-focused context.

Sydney notes, “You do have to care about that end user while also making sure that you’re taking the customers’ needs and goals into account.” By prioritizing the needs of both customers and employees, organizations can create products and services that truly meet the needs of all stakeholders.

The Future of Digital Anthropology and UX

As the field of UX continues to evolve, Sydney believes that the integration of anthropology and digital spaces will play a crucial role. She encourages individuals interested in shaping the future of digital anthropology to get involved with DANG and contribute to the ongoing conversation.

Key Takeaways

  • Anthropology’s holistic perspective provides a powerful framework for understanding human behavior and culture, which is invaluable in UX research.
  • Digital anthropology is crucial for understanding the impact of technology on human behavior and society.
  • Transitioning from academia to industry requires applying anthropological skills in real-world contexts and gaining hands-on experience through internships and projects.
  • Storytelling, a core aspect of anthropology, is essential for uncovering users’ experiences and perspectives in UX research.
  • Considering the needs of both customers and employees is crucial for creating successful products and services.
  • The future of UX lies in integrating anthropology and digital spaces, and organizations like DANG are at the forefront of this movement.

Sydney Yeager’s journey from anthropology to UX serves as an inspiring example of how the two fields can intersect and enrich one another. By embracing the holistic perspective of anthropology and applying it to the digital realm, UX researchers can gain a deeper understanding of user needs and create more meaningful, impactful experiences.