Wednesday, June 3, 2015

From Anthropology to Engagementology: My first year crash course into the meeting and incentive industry

“To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Anderson

What is anthropology? Do you dig up dinosaurs? These are two questions that I became accustomed to answering often throughout my undergraduate career. The easy answer? It’s the study of humans and no, there are no dinosaurs involved (unfortunately). I didn’t know what I was going to do with a bachelor degree in anthropology, I just knew that I loved learning about all the different cultures. My specific degree was in sociocultural anthropology, where I studied social patterns and practices across cultures, with a special interest in how people live in particular places and how they organize, govern, and create meaning. A hallmark of sociocultural anthropology is its concern with similarities and differences, both within and among societies, and its attention to race, sexuality, class, gender, and nationality. Little did I realize at the time but this training would become invaluable for my future career in employee engagement and incentives.

When I started at FIRE Light Group, I honestly had no idea what we did. I knew we did something in travel, but beyond that I had no idea what the incentive industry did or just how international it was. Thanks to LinkedIn and a fellow alumni, what started as a marketing internship turned into an account manager position doing a job that I love. I just recently celebrated my one-year anniversary with the company. This last year has been filled with confusion (wait… what does that acronym mean?), very little sleep, and sometimes frustration but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have been able to travel the world, make some amazing friends, and grow within an industry that I what to make a career in. As my boss Sandi says, I’ve been bitten by the bug. From attending a global conference in Rotterdam, running programs in New Orleans, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, a hosted buyer program in Colombia and Panama, and an amazing vacation/site inspection trip to Hawaii, I have been able to experience, observe, and take part of more cultures in one year that I could ever learn about during my studies. Every culture is different and not every culture can be engaged in the same way. What might be engaging for someone in the U.S might be a complete turnoff for someone from France and I love being able to find different ideas and ways to engage different types of people. If you pay close attention, there are certain bits and pieces that can bring anyone of any culture together.

So how has my anthropology degree helped me in the engagement industry? While I may not be conducting fieldwork on native tribes in Africa or New Guinea, I am travelling the world and learning new cultures. This helps me bring our clients out of their comfort zones to experience new food, customs, and people. It is always important to keep an open mind while travelling because that is how you can get the most out of your experience. Anthropology has helped me keep that open mind, and being able to read people and how they interact with each other not only helps me run programs but also allows me to appreciate every new experience I come across. What Sandi calls “the bug” many call wanderlust, and now that I have it I can’t wait to see what new experiences will come my way in my future at FIRE Light Group.

- Ashley Himebaugh

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