Using a resume and a word cloud to visualize professional growth & change

Back in October 2012 I created a word cloud out of my resume to visualize the essence of my professional skills and experiences. Now that it’s been almost 2 years since I did this, I thought it might be cool to create a new word cloud from an updated resume and see how they compare.

Here are the two word clouds:

resumewordle10-6-12October 2012

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 12.52.21 PMJuly 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 3.02.59 PM2012 and 2014 word clouds together (click for larger view)

One thing that catches my eye is that each one shows how I chose to talk about my professional skills and experiences in a particular moment in time (i.e., the language/perspective I use). For example, in 2012 I still had a very anthropology-centric perspective on my role as a researcher, whereas now my focus is more as an applied or user experience researcher and a business/strategy consultant. So, the prevalence of a particular word might relate to experience/frequency, but it might also relate to how one thinks about one’s career/experiences/professional self (also related to the audience of the resume.)

Clearly a big part of my current professional role is still pretty much the same – exemplified by the word “research” as the most prevalent word in both groups. With the 2014 visualization, I can see that my role has expanded to include more “project management,” “consulting,” “business” and “strategy” than just flat out research. I still draw on the same fundamental epistemology in my work today as I did in 2012 (e.g., “qualitative” and “anthropology”), but it seems that my methodological toolkit has grown. While the 2012 word cloud contains methods like “interviews” and “observation”, the 2014 word cloud features these plus the addition of “usability.” Finally, the word “clients” indicates that I have gained experience in agency-side work (versus my job as an internal researcher in 2012.) Overall, I didn’t have as much professional experience in 2012, so there were more words related to my schooling (e.g., “Memphis,” “Eckerd College,” and “writing”) than real-world work.

I think it’s kind of nifty to easily see the nuts and bolts of my professional journey and to compare the visuals from year to year. Perhaps I will do this again after some more time has passed and see what further changes have taken place.

If you want to create your own word clouds, visit or and enter the text of your entire resume or CV. For different levels of nuance, you can choose how many words to include for analysis (I chose 100 for the 2014 word cloud, but am not sure about the 2012 one.)

Getting at the Heart of Consumer Understanding: Cheap, Fast and Tactical Isn’t the Answer


As researchers in business, how do we balance insightfulness, depth of thought and rigor with the demands and pace of business decision making? Anthropologist Gavin Johnston shares his thoughts below.

Originally posted on anthrostrategist:

Sitting in a meeting not long ago, I couldn’t help overhearing someone comment that the presentation of the rationale for a campaign they had just sat through was too “academic”.  What struck me was the distinction he made between academics and “real businessmen” like himself.  The word “academic” is, of course, loaded but one of the underlying meanings to so many would-be paragons of business is that “academic” means complicated, useless or detached.  Now, while I would be the first to agree that people with an “academic” bent to their work can be prone to laying the jargon on fairly thick at times or wanting to give details that some people might feel aren’t needed, the ones that gain recognition and traction in their field and across disciplines (including business) are anything but detached or lacking in their ability to articulate game-changing product and business solutions.  The practical and the…

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Photo set: Shanghai, China, June 2014

I just returned from an eight-day work trip to Shanghai, China. Luckily I had some time to check out the sites in the largest city (by population) in the world (more than 24 million people as of 2013). Here are some of photos of some of the interesting things I saw. Hover for captions and click for a larger slideshow view.


A collaborative photo project in visual anthropology: thoughts on process and outcome

On a recent road trip through eastern Oregon, my partner Isaac took photos of two very lovely people we met along the way. The photos were “practice” for a collaborative project we’ve been talking about doing for a while now that would involve Isaac’s photography, my anthropology, and our mutual interest in exploring and documenting various aspects of humanity (identity, space/place, material culture, social interaction, etc.)

Our idea is to do a project in visual anthropology that would entail photographing the people we meet on our trips and supplementing the photos with a story or some information that illuminates their personalities, contexts, experiences, and perspectives. Here are the two “practice” photos with accompanying text:

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.56.54 PMLynn owns A Bit of Europe, an antique store in John Day, Oregon. Originally from northern England, she has owned her shop for 20 years. While organizing a pile of old linens, Lynn reminisced about the seven-course dinner parties she used to throw back in England, “when people would stay up till 2:00 am and finish the night with a pot of coffee and some brandy.” She laments that when she hosts dinners in the U.S., “people here just want to come over at 5:00, have a hamburger, and leave.” On being an antiques dealer, Lynn says: “You don’t have to be a thief to make a living. I like to be fair.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.58.21 PMWe met Corey (a.k.a. Big Bird) at RJ’s Drive-In Restaurant in Burns, Oregon. Corey is from Tacoma, Washington, and moved to Burns three years ago. Today was his first day off in 12 days from his job working the night shift at the local Safeway, and he planned to spend it hunting. Corey is a proponent of the right to carry arms in public. “Out here, you need guns. You go out of town and there’s badgers, wild pigs, coyotes, bobcats. Badgers are mean, but their legs are short, so they can’t jump.”

Thinking about Process and Outcome

I consider the two photos above “practice” because we are still hammering out the details of our collaboration, which would be along the lines of the popular Humans of New York project (or Humans of Portland, etc.), but with the application of an anthropological lens to both the process and outcome (not to mention Isaac’s distinct photographic style.) For example, what we learn about a person in conversation would provide a basis for the accompanying story/text, and a point of reference for viewers to interpret the portrait. Additionally, the “Humans of…” projects I mentioned before seem more focused on quantity than quality/depth. We are more interested in depth and meaning than amassing a large collection of photos, and would be more selective in terms of the images and stories we share.

At this point, we aren’t quite sure what our thematic focus or thesis will be, but a clearer idea will probably start to develop as we go along. For example, we might link the portraits with themes such as the landscape, economics, local industry, community, food, etc. For now, we’ll keep experimenting with the concept and formulating our approach.

There are a lot of other details to consider regarding process and logistics, like timing and finding people who don’t mind having their photos taken (which probably depends on the other two variables.) We like the concept of pairing portraits with text, but we have some thinking to do around our strategy for capturing this information. When is the right time to ask someone for a photo? How do we build rapport for the opportunity to even ask? How do we formulate our request (i.e., using the word “portrait” versus “photo”.) How do we balance genuine interest in meeting new people with our possible intention to take a photo (without leading with it?) One thing that’s for sure is that our approach will differ from person to person; we can decide in the moment what makes the most sense and also draw from a set of best practices.

The resulting photograph is just one side of the equation; the other side is the text, or story. Going back to our practice photos, after we said our thank-yous and goodbyes, I scrambled to jot down every detail I could possibly recall from our conversations, with Isaac adding to and clarifying my recollections. I felt mixed about doing this and am not totally satisfied with the outcome, which is more like an outsider’s summary than an insider’s story. I’m struggling to come up with a good, consistent way of capturing information in conversation without whipping out a notepad and pen, or turning on a recorder. Doing this can make people uncomfortable or turned off, and shut the “rapport door”, which can take a lot of effort to open up. At the same time, I want to accurately represent the subjectivities of others rather than rely solely on my memory of what they say. I want most or all of the text to be in their words, not mine. I don’t want it to be a patchwork of bits and pieces of things I managed to jot down afterward, like the blocks of text above. It will be hard to try and accomplish both accuracy and rapport with people I don’t know and without having a long-term engagement or presence in a place. How do I strike a satisfying balance?

As we move forward with experimenting with this concept, Isaac and I are open to suggestions and ideas from readers on both the process and outcome. Please feel free to leave any comments below.

Also, in the tradition of anthropological ethics, there would be total informed consent to publish/share the photos and text/quotes online and elsewhere.