What was your favorite experience while concentrating in the UM Psychology Department?
My favorite experience was getting to work as a research assistant for Jon Krosnick (who was a grad student at the time - later went onto position at OSU). Jon let me get deep into the background/theory behind his research and let me do things I learned that grad students typically do.
Favorite Psychology class & why
Human Factors (taught at the time by Prof. Dan Weintraub). Liked it b/c it was a small class taught by the prof (not a TA) and he really encouraged us to think outside the box on how to do the research (which we did as a part of that class). He was also always available for coaching/tutoring and encouragement.
What was your first step after undergraduate graduation & how did it impact your career path?
My first step was going to grad school in social psychology at the University of Minnesota (Ph.D. - 1991). Having the additional depth of training in psychology and statistics has opened a host of doors for career options that a bachelor's degree would not have.
What are you doing today?
I'm one of the leaders of the Consumer and Shopper Insights practice at McKinsey and Company - a leading global management consulting firm that helps clients (businesses, governments and non-profits) improve how they do their work. In my area, we use a lot of the same kinds of research and analytical tools I learned in psychology to better understand people's needs, attitudes, and behaviors. We use that information to improve how our clients interact with consumers (either in a for-profit or not-for-profit capacity). It's very exciting and I travel all over the world to do this work.
What inspired you to enter that field/job/profession?
I think of it really as a big, applied, research job (not affiliated with an academic institution). I've always been intrigued by why people do what they do and this is what I study in my work every day - it just happens to be in the course of answering specific questions for my clients (e..g, why don't people save enough for their retirement?).
How do you use your psychology undergraduate experience in your work?
As I mentioned before, the majority of my work involves studying the behaviors, attitudes, and needs of consumers as they relate to specific issues (e.g., products, services, volunteering, helping others, etc). I'm regularly using the research and analysis tools I learned as a psych major to do this work (e.g., how to set up an experiment or quasi-experiment, what measures we should use, how to analyze the data, etc). I'm also using a fair amount of econometrics in my work (as a part of the analyses).
What excites you most about the future of your profession?
The opportunity to develop new ways of studying the underpinnings of human behavior. We're constantly doing "R&D" on ways of conceptualizing issues, ways of measuring needs, attitudes, and behavior, and understanding the impact of different marketing initiatives on what people do. Currently, we're spending a lot of time on social media and understanding the role that it plays in influencing behavior.
What advice do you have for students getting a Degree in the UM Psychology Department or considering your profession?
Focus on getting as much research and analysis experience as you can!! This cannot be overstated. The experience will give you both a sense of your excitement for a particular area (e.g., developmental psych, clinical, neuroscience, etc) and the kind of background you're going to need to either further your career - whether that be continuing your education (grad school) or in the job market (academic or otherwise).