FEATURE7 July 2023

Alicia Whyatt – research hero

Features People

The Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Alicia Whyatt has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2023.


Alicia Whyatt, Senior Project Manager, BEAM Fieldwork 

Alicia was described in her nomination as: "Front-line fieldwork aficionado. Leader of an ambitious team. Specialist projects expert. Recruiter of hard-to-reach respondents. Creative problem solver. Professional plate-spinner and juggler, with the gift of the gab."

Alicia was nominated because "as a people leader, she has participated in a series of mental health workshops to further educate herself on supporting employees with mental health issues. She’s also been appointed Beam’s Net Zero Pledge leader. As a lively and energetic team member, Alicia is the Beam social manager, organising engaging, educational and inclusive events for the whole team throughout the year." 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?

I’m only 5ft 4 inches. I’m only 27 years old. I’m only five years into my fieldwork career. I only work in fieldwork. I’m a sporadic sufferer of imposter syndrome and finding my confidence, in the career I’m carving out is the biggest challenge I face.

Time for a re-think: Being under 30. Being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (most of the time). Being open-minded and inclusive. Being energetic and enthusiastic. Never being able to utter “I’ve been in fieldwork over twenty years…” – my most dreaded fieldwork phrase. These are all huge plus-points in fieldwork. Positives that feed into my client’s research frameworks, bring out the best in my respondents, challenge recruitment assumptions and overcome barriers.

I’m unlikely to get any taller and may often feel I fake it because I feel I don’t quite make it. But I’m focussing on the small wins and “thank-yous” in feedback my team and I receive to qualify the contribution I make.

What will be the next big trend or development in the research industry, and why?

I’ve never really followed trends. It’s not because I consider them ‘flash-in-the-pan’, or I think I’m too cool, or indeed because I don’t consider them useful in my personal or work life. Trends in research seem aplenty. But trends and more techniques rarely seem to percolate their way to fieldwork to modernise our (sometimes underrated) central role in delivering research events and vital insights for brand, product or service development.

I’d rather share a development that’s key to the work that motivates me and my team, and is central to Beam Fieldwork’s mission for delivery: flexible fieldwork.

Greater flexibility to remove or relax quotas that tick a box for the end client, but don’t guarantee great insights. Earlier collaboration with fieldwork partners to produce flexible research methodologies and delivery platforms that better suit the fast-paced world we live in. More flexibility to promote respondent inclusion and deliver diversity first and foremost, rather than the final present back to the end client.

Flexible thinking when real-life context produces different recruitment realities, to what was written in the recruitment spec. Putting trust in your fieldwork agency to find the right people, get them to right place, to produce honest, authentic and quality insights will really make the difference to research.

Who inspires you as a researcher? 

I’m not a researcher. Fieldwork is my domain. And in fieldwork, there is no one more important than the people we match to the research project. We have to experience ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ despite all the unseen processes and FBI-level investigating we do behind the scenes to ensure the legitimacy and reliability of the research project. But the majority of people who participate in research whatever their motivation often put themselves in situations outside of their comfort zone.

It might seem simple to you. Logging on to their first ever Zoom call, travelling to an unfamiliar location, meeting a ‘stranger’ who is going to watch them shop, uploading a video to an online community or sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings in hope that a traumatic life event for them might mean a brighter future for others.

The “thank you” email, phone call or text I receive from a respondent who has loved making their contribution (whatever the research subject), and acknowledges the efforts big or small, my team and I make in helping them participate are the real motivator.

These are the inspirational moments in my fieldwork career that make the trials and tribulations that accompany fieldwork worthwhile. They motivate me to stake my place in the research industry. 

View the full list of Research Heroes 2023