Bob Kumagai, the Associate Director of Graduate Career Services for the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, invited four other market researchers and me to talk about our careers and how we perform market research and analytics work in the “real world.”
Fellow DU Panelists
My fellow panelists included, Sameer Bawa, Ph.D. a Director at BBC Research and Consulting, Janet Eden-Harris, Principal at the Eden-Harris Group, Meghan Sullivan Liefeld, Director of Consumer Insights and Analytics at WhiteWave Foods and Kevin Raines, Principal and CEO of Corona Insights.
Unusual Career Paths
The panel discussion started with questions like how did you get where you are now? What was your career path? And what did you do yesterday at work? For many of the panelists, our early backgrounds did not foreshadow how we would end up in market research. Kevin Raines started his career in aerospace engineering. Meghan Sullivan Liefeld was an economics major at Carnegie Mellon University and said she talked her way into her first market research job while the regular hiring manager was out on maternity leave. And I was a professional singer who figured out that I could get better gigs if I marketed myself well. While marketing my CD and a potential music tour to Barnes & Noble, I was recruited to do marketing and public relations in the Philadelphia market.
A Typical Day
Everyone’s typical day was a hodge-podge of activities centered around meeting with current clients, putting proposals together for prospective clients and figuring out a strategy for deliverables. Kevin Raines summarized it well when he said that at this stage in our career we’re less involved in the “doing” and more focused on overseeing the work and getting more clients in.
We were also asked what kinds of skills a student needed to possess to work in the industry. No one on the panel mentioned things like statistical analysis. Instead, we outlined things like communication and creativity. Janet Eden-Harris noted that what she valued most in someone coming out of school was their ability to see things differently from the way they’ve always been done and to come at problems in a fresh way. Meghan Sullivan Liefeld noted that an innate curiosity was most valuable to her team and the ability to persuade people to adopt your ideas.
We discussed qualitative and quantitative research and which we as researchers preferred. Everyone on the panel agreed that there is the optimal way to do research, starting with qualitative, moving into quantitative and then ending with another qualitative study again. However, all too often the budgets aren’t available for that kind of project.
When asked how we see big data shaping the industry, Sameer Bawa noted that it’s not the amount of data but how you garner insights from it that matters.
Our Thanks to DU
Most of the students sat for the entire two-hour session, which was impressive in itself. I learned a lot from my fellow panelists, and I hope the students got a glimpse into the working world of market research and analytics.