FEATURE1 March 2009

If there’s one thing I've learnt... Fiona Blades

Career tips from research practitioners. This month: Fiona Blades, CEO of Mesh Planning

?The worst advice I got was… that it was a good idea for the finance director to make redundancies. It was standard practice in this particular agency but it wasn’t right. Making redundancies is hard but if you’re the line manager it’s your responsibility.

You know you’re doing well when… people you’ve never met know of your work.

Don’t overestimate… positive conversations. They are not the same as sales.

Don’t underestimate… the importance of cash flow.

If I hadn’t been a researcher… I’d have missed out on all kinds of exciting experiences. Luckily I am, so I haven’t. And I am sure there are lots more to come.

One moment in my career I’ll never forget is… presenting to the Mars brothers, Forrest and John, as a new account planner in an ad agency. They had specifically requested that they see new and young people from the agency network for two days in New York. No one quite understood what they wanted. Years later I realised that they were looking for the truth.

You must read… till receipts, graffiti and other seemingly unimportant things around you that help you understand people’s lives.

Young researchers should… learn the basics, but find their own way. They have grown up with technology; they communicate with their friends via mobile and instant messaging. They should bring some of these natural habits into research to adapt the way we collect data and engage with people.

If this industry could only… have confidence that discovering what people do, why they do it and how they think is one of the most exciting jobs in the world.

One day I hope to… feel I have made a contribution to people, society, an industry. I’m not sure how yet, but maybe doing little things everyday will add up to something.

My career… has taken some unusual twists and turns and I hope that it will continue to do so. Like many people, I never intended to become a researcher…or a planner, or a marketing manager or a sales rep… Those opportunities just came my way and I took them.