FEATURE8 September 2021

Don't be afraid to share ideas: Lessons from young researchers

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Bessie Pike and Tarek Chaudhury, joint winners of the Research Live Young Researcher of the Year award 2020, share their thoughts on getting into research, lessons they've learned and what they'd like to see change in the industry. By Liam Kay.


What made you want to join the market research industry?

Bessie Pike, research manager at Walnut Unlimited: I was volunteering with Age UK and it was there that I realised research is a tool to make changes in the world. I heard so many different stories and it was so inspiring – I think that brought out the researcher in me.

I remember thinking: ‘I really want to be a part of this’ – then I saw the advert for Walnut Unlimited. I was a telephone interviewer for TNS and Kantar when I was 17, and I did not know I was doing market research at the time. That was my first exposure to it, as a part-time job.

Tarek Chaudhury, freelance qual researcher and senior strategist: There are some parallels with me, as I was effectively doing market research when I was 17, too. I used to work in radio broadcast for a station called Reprezent FM, where I was presenting, producing and doing day-to-day management.

The station undertook some market research in around 2015, with Flamingo, and at that point I realised that the interviewing I was doing on air could be done at a much more complex and deeper level every day in market research. What drew me to research was that I could do what I really loved in terms of understanding people.

How easy was it to fit in?

BP: This is the most corporate job I have ever had, and I am not one for the corporate life. It did take me a while to understand what it is like to work with clients, the terminology and how the relationship works. Being in a graduate scheme and being exposed to so many different areas of market research really helped me.

I love talking to people, and I went into the qualitative team. There I found out what I loved about research – how you can get people to think about things differently and meet so many people. I have become comfortable in a good way, but also have been able to carve out my own space.

TC: I haven’t come from a conventional background; the first agency I joined spent a lot of time recruiting from Oxbridge directly, whereas I did not go to university. It was a little difficult for me to find my way into, and understand, that kind of culture, which was quite new to me. But there were a number of people there who valued the difference and made me feel very welcome.

Right now, I’m working with three or four people I met on my first day at that agency, and I’m happy to have made some great friendships.

What are your long-term career aims?

TC: I recently became an independent researcher and strategist, and it has been great so far. Lots of freelancers haven’t had the same good fortune. My aims are to continue to do great work for clients and hone my craft. I did this to have more time for non-research pursuits – it has allowed me to be involved in arts and culture again, and long-term I would like both to flourish together.

BP: This past year has made me, like a lot of people, rethink the direction I am going in. I am interested in how we are interacting with social media. TikTok has transformed how brands and advertising work.

I am considering moving more into the user experience space – that is something I have found difficult to get into, coming from a more traditional market research background. I have only been in research for three years, so I still feel I am finding my feet in qualitative, as well as thinking about what I could move into.

What would you like to see change in the industry?

TC: It has been clear since Black Lives Matter that the issues the MRS CEO pledge tries to tackle, such as pay disparities, are being addressed – and it is great to see leadership from the MRS on that. That’s just one example of something the industry and society has needed to address for some time, but it is great to see the industry taking a stand.

BP: I agree with diversifying the research industry, not just ethnicity, but also in terms of background and how you have got into the industry – you shouldn’t have to be an Oxbridge graduate or have a first-class degree.

We are moving in the right direction, but I feel the younger generation have more non-traditional ways of entering the workplace, and I think they will expect more from their employers.

What are the main lessons from your career so far?

BP: In my first year in research, I doubted myself a lot. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas; I think I held back for a while and I am now growing in confidence. Identify some people who understand you, and use their experience. They probably had the same thoughts as you when they started out – learn from the career path they had. I am grateful for the mentors I have had.

TC: Since going freelance, I have met so many more people than I ever did before. It has opened up a lot of opportunities and allowed me to meet plenty of interesting people.

If you could relive your career to date, is there anything you would change?

TC: Going out and meeting people beyond my agency. I could have done that a lot more, and even if you are at a smaller agency, it is so easy to go to events and meet people.

BP: I was flying under the radar a bit in my first year in research and just getting on with the job. I didn’t talk to as many people, and it has meant that, in the past two years, I have had to reach out and get to know more people. I have had to grow a lot. The first few years are about exploring who you are and what you need to do. I am excited to see what’s next.

This article was first published in the July 2021 issue of Impact.