FEATURE1 July 2022

Sia Najumi – Research Hero

Features People Research Heroes 2022

The Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Sia Najumi has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2022.

SIA NAJUMI, SENIOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, BILENDI & RESPONDI

S-ali

Sia Najumi is senior business development manager at Bilendi & Respondi. She previously worked at One Global Solutions for more than four years as a market research account director.

She is a founding member of Colour of Research (CORe), which was set up in 2020 to address the lack of ethnic minority representation in the research industry.

At CORe, Najumi has been instrumental in providing insight on communities of colour with the introduction of a series of articles and blog posts. For example, she launched an Asian Amplification series following a rise in hate crime. Najumi was nominated as a Research Hero because of her dedication to CORe, particularly her focus on championing lesser-heard voices.

 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?
Belonging. As a south Asian with parents who immigrated from Afghanistan to the UK around 30 years ago, my culture was deeply embedded into my life growing up. My childhood was infused with Afghan traditions, beliefs and religion. This meant a lot of what I did was influenced by my culture. I have often been the only ethnic minority in the workplace, which has made me feel different for the most part. I can say I have had a lot of interesting conversations about my culture. I love it when people take an interest as it’s a moment I get to share something that is important to me. But I have also had instances where my beliefs have been questioned and that has left me uncomfortable.

Feeling like I truly belong in the workplace has been challenging, but as I have progressed in my career, I have learned to celebrate my differences rather than feel insecure about them. CORe has been a real help; I have connected with so many similar people – hearing their stories has made me feel a little less lonely and I am grateful to be involved with championing diversity. 

What will be the next big trend or development in the research industry, and why?
A development I look forward to in the industry is seeing more apprentices. I began my career as an apprentice. I didn’t know anyone around me who took that route, and it wasn’t as popular as it is now. The Market Research Society launched the first market research apprenticeship programme this year, after seven years of development, and at CORe we are working to find ways to attract diverse young talent to take up the apprenticeship route. Additionally, I hope companies are taking steps to open their doors to the talent pools they have been overlooking.

Another development I would like to see is companies genuinely striving to make their workplaces diverse and inclusive.  Earlier this year, I saw C-space introduced a flexible public holiday policy so that employees who needed to take off time to celebrate specific religious or cultural holidays could replace up to three public holidays a year with days more meaningful to them. I thought that was an amazing way to show their employees that they are being heard and seen.

Looking ahead, while we can learn the valuable lessons of our past and indeed our engagement with all around is in the present, the real impact we make is when we look forward. How we are continuing to make great strides to enable an easier path for our fellow colleagues and also new entrants to the market research workspace.

Accordingly, I’m contributing to the wider industry sector by becoming an ambassador for the Research Club, where I am seated on the advisory group to drive through the areas of equality, diversity, and inclusion – encouraging engaged action at all the networking events to thousands of researchers each year.

Who inspires you as a researcher?
Throughout my career in market research, Bob Qureshi has been an inspiration to me. I met him four years ago at the first i-view event in Leeds and he instantly made me feel a part of the industry. It is his enthusiasm and passion for market research and diversity that inspires me. I am yet to meet someone who has not been inspired by him and I cannot thank him enough for supporting me throughout my career. Thank you Bob.

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2022

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