Melissa Cefkin holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rice University and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her academic training in anthropology provides the framework for her multidisciplinary approach to social and behavioral research in organizational and technological settings.
Most recently, Melissa transitioned into a consulting role, focusing on organizational transformation and complex technology development. Prior to this, she was a Senior Staff Researcher at Waymo, where she founded and led a domain dedicated to the user experience of autonomous vehicle driving behavior. The role involved generating data-driven insights through a combination of qualitative, experimental, and quantitative research methods. Before Waymo, she served as a Principal Scientist and Design Anthropologist at Nissan Motor Corporation. There, she initiated and led a research team focused on global vehicle-road user interactions, with the aim of informing the design of autonomous driving systems.
Earlier in her career, Melissa directed a social and computing research team at IBM that focused on data analytics and peer-to-peer work systems. She also held roles at Sapient and the Institute for Research on Learning, where her work centered on work practices research. Across these roles, she applied her skills in ethnography, qualitative research, and management to a range of topics, from vehicle behavior to organizational learning and development.
Melissa is also the author of Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter.