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From Rat Race to Human Race

Written by Rachel Drachman
9/1/2016

Composite photo of Melendy Krantz '09 performing different tasks at work

A transformation of corporate culture is coming. 

This new era in the commercial world requires business acumen and an understanding of human nature. Companies like Airbnb, which have forged unconventional paths and challenged traditional corporate models, have begun to more effectively meet the needs of everyday people. The suits are no longer the only ones driving economic progress. The hoodies, saris, and jeans—representatives of a greater variety of people than ever before—are gaining recognition in business.

Melendy Krantz ’09 is at the forefront of building and supporting this industry-wide transformation. Krantz, who double majored in anthropology and politics at Ithaca College, is applying her skills in marketing analytics and innovation at IBM, where she leads teams focused on digital optimization, data architecture development, e-commerce merchandising, and user-experience research and design.

Human-Centered Processes

Krantz began working at IBM in operations, where she saw a real need to redesign everyday processes, such as how to move 200 people from one office location to another in a way that sees people as individuals and accommodates their distinctive needs.

Her fascination with creating human-centered processes led Krantz to more strategic, human-centered work. “I felt like strategy work could be applied more broadly,” says Krantz. “Then I realized it could actually effect a change within the company in a much bigger way.”

Krantz was in an ideal spot to do strategy work, since her organization was already focused on transforming processes, internally and externally, toward a more human-centered approach. As a result, she formed partnerships with several colleagues and executives to create a new kind of interdisciplinary role at IBM called “strategic engagement management,” which scouts talent with her skillset.

“Like many liberal arts graduates, I’m trained to understand what matters to people, what gives [their lives] meaning, and how to understand that in different cultural contexts,” says Krantz. “Large companies, especially ones that have been around for a long time, are realizing how badly they need people who can understand human behavior and needs.”

The Anthropology of User Experience

In working to understand people’s behavior, Krantz leads studies of employees from across IBM in the hopes of designing better ways to evaluate their needs. She has also been responsible for implementing new data architectures—which define the type of data collected and how it is used, stored, managed, and integrated within the organization—and scaling them so that the changes have longevity.

“User experience or user research is literally anthropology but applied in a technical setting,” explains Krantz.

Krantz credits her Ithaca College education, especially her close relationships in the anthropology department, with giving her the qualitative analysis, writing, and critical thinking skills necessary for her career at IBM.

“Having that level of personal attention and having people who believed in me as an individual was crucial,” she says. “The reality is that most skills can be learned. But what you can’t learn on your own—and what Ithaca is particularly good at—is teaching you to think.”



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