FEATURE1 August 2009

If there’s one thing I've learnt... Sarah Jordan


Career tips for research practitioners. This month: Sarah Jordan, analytics consultant at Engage.

?The best advice I got was… to always ask why. Much of the ‘interpretation’ that research agencies do for their clients relies simply on comparing descriptive data. In order to deliver real insight, researchers need to identify what is driving something to perform the way it does, as well as how it is performing.

The worst advice I got was… to let the detail look after itself. It never does.

You know you’re doing well when… your clients see you as a trusted adviser rather than just the person who presents the research. When a client asks, “What would you recommend we do?” it is always a good sign.

Don’t overestimate… how much clients understand about what you do. Whether or not they want all the detail, it is important to deliver in their language, not yours.

Don’t underestimate… how much you need to know about a client and their organisation before you can start to offer them advice. Consultants who rely on a quick BlackBerry Google search in the back of the taxi will always get caught out at some point.

If I hadn’t been a researcher… I’d be able to take more of what people tell me at face value. A good researcher always wants to know how someone has arrived at a conclusion and on what basis they are giving advice. And even then you probably won’t trust them.

One moment in my career I’ll never forget is... my first solo win. You don’t know you can do it until someone gives you the opportunity to try.

You must read… Good to Great by Jim Collins and The Sound of Laughter by Peter Kay. I find it is nearly always appropriate to reference at least one of them.

If this industry could only… understand the difference between quality and quantity. Increasingly, clients are asking us for help as they realise this difference well before their other suppliers have.

One day I hope to… write a book about my time in this industry (part comedy, part tragedy).

My career… has given me the opportunity to see what good research looks like – and bad. It’s not always the best way to train young researchers from a commercial point of view, but you always take these lessons with you.