Hi, I'm Diana (dee-ah-nah). I am an Economic Sociologist, who studies labor, pricing, contracts/employment law, informal economies, and social networks. I've given talks about my research at TEDGlobal in Rio, TEDxMunich, Yale, and Princeton. I was a research manager at TED, where I built the fact checking program and ran experiments to study online behavior. Before that, I worked for a hedgefund where we constructed network models of the US economy to be used in electronic trading. I did my undergraduate studies at Yale in Political Science, studying organized crime in Latin America and I am now in Princeton's Sociology Department, where I write about freelancers and pricing.
The longer story goes like this...
I had trouble finding my academic home for a while, but I always knew I wanted to study immigration, labor and informal economies (in that order of when I discovered my questions). My questions are a little like cartoon characters in my life. Each one appears at various points and nags me to get me to pay attention to it… so I disappear for a while and read everything I can until I can start doing some ethnographic work and then move into more quantitative methods. I never do one without the other, and I prefer this order to expose my blind spots.
In 6 chapters, my journey in research looks like this:
Chapter 1: Intended major when I started at Yale: Ethics, Politics and Economics. I thought I wanted to be an economist because I was obsessed with labor related questions and thought pricing was such an interesting experiment. I was so excited.
Chapter 2: Realized the theories in economics made very little sense to me, huge gaps in my experiences living in Mexico during a default and watching the IMF “restructure” our system made me question some of what I was taught in my economics classes. I needed a new home and moved into Comparative Political Science… and tried out Ethnicity, Race and Migration, so I could get closer to my specific questions about labor and immigration. From here, I came across Professor Alejandro Portes’ work on the informal economy and found a home.
Chapter 3: I made a late decision to join the intensive track in Political Science to focus on my fieldwork and write a thesis about how Colombia’s cartels invested in political campaigns between 1970-2000. It was a labor of love that had a lot of support from many amazing researchers in my life. I graduated from Yale knowing I was not going to be a political scientist but also knowing I needed to be a researcher.
Chapter 4: I took a job with an economic think tank that was working on network and systems modeling for trends in the SP500 over the last 20 years. I learned a lot about firm structures, assessing risk, and drawing systems models of the US economy but my questions were still upset with me for not focusing on them. I was still not sure what academic discipline would accept me and think my questions were interesting, so I decided I needed to keep exploring my options. Around this time, I suspected I needed to pursue my Ph.D.
Chapter 5: I took a job as the Content Researcher at TED, which gave me the opportunity to essentially run a census of amazing research happening across disciplines all over the world. It also gave me access to a lot of amazing thinkers who were willing to listen to my questions and help me find a home for myself in academia: I discovered that maybe Sociology and/or Organizational behavior could be good homes for my questions.
Chapter 6: I spent a year and half in a carefully scheduled campaign to get into a Ph.D. program in Sociology and/or Organizational behavior while working full time. I was successful and had a few amazing offers before I decided I would begin my work in Princeton’s Sociology Ph.D. program.
Today, I am excited to dive into the informal economy, labor networks, and more programming work in R/Python. My fieldwork tends to be in the Latino communities of the United States and Latin America (Mexico and Colombia), but I’ve also done some work in Germany, Turkey, and Mumbai’s informal economy and love new adventures. I like being transparent about my processes because I think this is an important part of being a research community member.
When I am not doing research, I’ve been running a reflection salon series out of my living room for 4+ years to welcome new people into the communities I spend my time with, I read and knit voraciously, and I sculpt in any ceramics studio that will let me. Small talk makes me uncomfortable, but if you want to talk about something bigger than the weather, I think we’ll get along just fine.
Written from Lima, Peru in 2017.