Town Hall Turbo-Charge Your Insights Career, July 14, 2022
This session was sponsored by InnovateMR
Transcript Courtesy of Focus Forward & FF Transcription
Panelists: Kai Fuentes, President, Ebony Marketing Systems; Roddy Knowles, VP of Product and Research Innovation, DISQO; Stephen Kraus, Executive Director, Market Research Institute International (MRII); Katrina Noelle, Principal, KNow Research; David Rothstein, CEO, RTi Research
Moderated By: Melanie Courtright, CEO, Insights Association
Melanie Courtright: Hello friends. Happy to have you here. Feel free to share your LinkedIn link if you'd like to make some connections, All right well I am going to go ahead and get started with a little bit of housekeeping but welcome to our town hall on turbo charging your Insights career. We're joined today by five esteemed guests. Stephen Kraus from University of Georgia's MRII program and then four of our newest laureates, our Insights Association laureates. We're very excited to have them join us today. A couple of quick housekeeping notes. First and foremost this session is recorded, we will take the recording as well as the transcription of the recording and we will make that available to you. You'll get an email about it, but it's also all of our past town halls are available on our website in our town hall library. Both again the recording and the transcription. And thank you to our long-time transcription partner Focus Forward for being so willing to transcribe these for us and make them available to everyone. So, we would love for you to stay active in this conversation, pull up the chat, pull up the Q&A. If you just have an insight, a link, a story and you want to drop it in, drop that into the chat. If you have a specific question that you'd like the presenters and the guests to field, put that into the Q&A pod. It makes it a lot easier for us not to miss it. And so, bring those windows up now and we encourage you to be really active. I'm going to go right into our session because we have a lot of great things to share. We have as I mentioned five guests. We are joined today by Kai Fuentes the President of Ebony Marketing Systems and a multi-cultural research team there. Prior to Ebony she worked at Nova Cell Research for 10 years and supervised some of the company's largest products including McDonald's, Neilson Media, Chrysler Ford and the U. S. Army. As a former Army person, thank you very much Kai. We also have Roddy Knowles, VP of product and research innovation at Disco, he's a champion of research, innovation and data quality, an active speaker in the industry events. He currently serves as VP of product and research there at Feedback Loop which was acquired by Disco recently and he hosts the This is Product Management podcast. Then we're joined by Stephen Kraus, executive director of market research institute international, a UGA entity. Steve is executive director there and he's a veteran of the field, worked in many of the world’s leading brands to make better data driven decisions and the author of three books. He also teaches marketing intelligence at the University of San Fran and he holds a Ph. D. in social psychology. We are also joined by Katrina Noelle, Principal at KNow Research. KNow Research an insights consultancy based in San Fran. Been designing custom research for clients since 2003. Also a co-founder of Scoot Insights and she loves to empower and support talented women on her team and in her and in her network of expert partners. And then last but certainly not least Mr. David Rothstein, David heads RTi Research as the CEO. A seven-time winner of the Connecticut top workplace award. Served as board member to CASRO and the insights association. During his tenure he held the executive committee position for seven of the 10 years and was elected chairman of IA in 2019. He's also an elected member of the market research council and a regular guest lecturer at New York University and an IPC Laureate as are the other four guests that I mentioned that are joining Steve today. So, thank you all for being here. I'm going to stop sharing now and let you guys beautiful faces fill the screen. Kai and Katrina, I would really like to start with you. Could you just please tell us a little bit about how you got into the industry and perhaps share with us kind of a defining moment of your career coming to life? Kai, why don't we start with you?
Kai Fuentes: OK, great. Good afternoon everybody it's a pleasure to be here and thank you for having me. You know my story is a little unique because I was born in the industry, so I have a whole thing where my mother spat me out on a survey. So, instead of going to- instead of playing in the parks on Saturday, I was doing mall intercepts at the age of eight, nine. In the 80s nobody cared about that stuff, right? So, I left Insights for a little bit to work on my MSW, but it drew me back in and it drew me back in because it's the power of talking to people and the power of learning people and the power of digging deeper is really what drives me as a business owner and as a person and also as a social worker. I think the defining moment for me and I don't know what you think about this Katrina, we're both women owned businesses, so let's talk about that real quick is being a woman owned business and being able to thrive as a women owned business and being able to give back. And what do I mean by that? Well, I mean giving back by hiring mothers, hiring other folks who wouldn't necessarily have opportunities elsewhere. Owning your own business gives you that power. So, that's a defining moment for me which is an everyday defining moment. I don't know about- what are your thoughts on that Katrina?
Katrina Noelle: Yes, I was thinking because I don't have the legacy, so I spent a lot of time trying to trip and fall strategically into this business because I said how do you get into it? And accidentally I don't know, I just fell into this and I was like but I want to do that, so how do I strategically take that fall? And so, I spent a lot of time kind of trying to find the way in and trying to see the skill sets that was really going to make me successful in the field and how to get the experience. And so, yes, I think a lot about running my women owned business as a chance to give other people that chance and kind of let someone in on the ground and really teach bottom up because I think we also have the commonality of being what I call boutique sized businesses. And that really is a way to get people to learn all parts of the business and all kind of functions, capabilities, skill sets, things like that. So, yes, that's really important to me as well to kind of open that door in that sense. Defining moment for me was actually figuring out what the difference was between marketing and market or marketing research depending on which you prefer. And realizing that it was I thought I wanted to be in the business of marketing and I started thinking about that as like poking people with a stick, like you want this, you need this, let me talk to you and thinking that this business that I just discovered called market research or insights or any of those names was the customer turning the stick around, right? And saying but I want, I need, you know please take my feelings into account and I get a great deal of satisfaction to this day thinking about you know passing the mic and letting people be heard by brands that influence their lives.
Kai Fuentes: You know I just thought too another moment, like a defining moment for me as a business owner and just you know is learning the difference and understanding the difference of working in the business and on the business. In working in your craft and then stepping away from that and then- you know so understanding that balance and being able to strike that balance has also been helpful in defining my journey.
Katrina Noelle: Yes. And I think it makes a big difference and sometimes people forget how many heads you have to have, how much juggling there is in that sense. So, not only working on the business but thinking about the brand, the stakeholder, for us client, or for in house folk stakeholder, teams' objectives and businesses. Also our participants, respondents, their story and kind of having all of those stories in your head and being able to make sure that you're serving all those needs, you're listening to all of those viewpoints and objectives and stories along the way. That's what I think is a big part of learning this business is understanding you're not doing a function, you're connecting the dots.
Kai Fuentes: Yes and telling the story the right way. You know as the person is being able to translate that to the world. Yes, I like that. Well, I learned something new today. Thank you for that.
Katrina Noelle: Well, and to your point about translating it out, that's why this is an exciting business I think, because it's changing every day in terms of what our deliverables look like, what our methodologies look like, what we're able to do. You know the bar keeps being raised on production value, the degree of AI and tools. Everything is constantly blossoming and growing, so you know that's another part of your non-40-hour week, right? Is keeping up with all of that as well and maximizing.
Kai Fuentes: And never doing the same thing twice in that way, right? So, like jumping into different topics, into different industries, talking to folks from automotive to health care and being versatile in that way and that's powerful and that's something that I really appreciate about this industry. My mother told me, she was like listen you'll never get bored in this industry because as soon as you start getting bored another project comes on and you have to kind of create a different mold for that, because each project is not cookie cutter.
Katrina Noelle: Which is why I think you and I are like lifers and still in all of this, right? Because it is continually, I think if you are an inherently curious person it's very hard to get bored in this industry because there's always a problem to solve and a story to understand. And so, I think that's what makes me go to work every day, decades into this and still find it fascinating every day.
Kai Fuentes: What do they say curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back, right? You know that saying? Anyone know that saying?
Katrina Noelle: I do now, that's great. Hashtag that.
Kai Fuentes: I'm a curious cat. My husband's always like, why do you have to know everything? Because I gotta know.
Katrina Noelle: And Mel, I don't know if that's what you wanted, we got into cat quotes.
Melanie Courtright: No, that's OK.
Katrina Noelle: That's where we landed.
Melanie Courtright: And you're getting some good comments. People are like that's the fun and they like to poke back versus poke. I would ask you one more question and that's if you were to sort of try to give some advice to both the person just starting in research and then the person who's established in research but both of them are wanting to sort of go to that next step, what would your advice be to them? Do you have a piece of advice? Because it's turbo charging their career, how do they go to the next place?
Kai Fuentes: Yes, I think those that are just starting out network, network, network. It's not who you know it's who knows you and that give and take. And then I think people later on in their careers, I think that to also jump start and turbo boost, education. You know doing things with Insights Association that provides education. Never stop learning and then go network.
Katrina Noelle: While you're learning, because they're usually connected. So, that helps. But yes, I think starting out it's say yes to things. A lot of strange things that I did when I was starting out all kind of correlated and laddered up to knowing something now and so, volunteer yourself, talk to non-profit organizations that you volunteer with. See if you can get some experience there, take side work, side hustles, project-based stuff. Like get as much- put yourself out there and most things have connective tissue back to putting you in the right direction. I would plus one the education especially if you notice you're in a rut. So, if you are doing something and you are clicking save as too many times as you were designing the project or executing any stuff with it, maybe think like, hmm, how could I re-approach this? How could I throw another option in there? What can I use? Can I use what I'm doing right now as an opportunity to learn something? You know a tick differently or one other option.
Melanie Courtright: Yes, my professor in school taught us at that, you know we're a product just like everyone else, just like everything else, we're a product. And so, we need to be constantly evolving. Evolve, evolution or extinction, you know adapt or die and that applies to us as products too. And so, I love that. So, connect and build a network and then also keep yourself evolving. And then I would add the third which is for the young people, build a place where you add unique value and for the people who are more established focus on that place where you add unique value and then with your network and with your education continue to hone it, but find your unique value and present it boldly in every circumstance that you can and people will naturally see you that way as a leader. So, those together. But so, maybe that's a good tether Stephen if you're going to be investing in yourself and then education and in networking your value to people, what are you seeing? You've been in the industry for a while and what are you seeing as trends and data and analytics and growth of the industry? What should people be investing in?
Stephen Kraus: Yes, well I think people as always should be investing in themselves and I sort of come to the industry from kind of a unique perspective, I think, like a lot of people. You know unlike Kai I sort of stumbled into the industry, I started out in academia, I'm really from an academic family. My dad was an English professor, my mom taught first grade, so I used to joke with people that I was 16 before I realized most people had to work in the summer, I had no idea. And so, I started off my career just thinking oh you know, I'm going to go into academia, I got a Ph. D. in social psychology, I taught for a couple of years and then just really by happenstance I learned about this field of market research which I didn't know what it was or what people might do in that field. But I found it to be a really great fit with my skills and my interests. So, now as I'm executive director of MRII, we're a non-profit devoted to education and training in market research. You know I think I'm kind of in a unique position to see the trends and hiring and career growth in a lot of different capacities. I work with students and young professionals and try to guide them and you know I really kind of give them four broad pieces of advice these days. The first is kind of a two-parter. It starts off with find your passion, right? Which we've all heard over and over again, find your passion, yes. But the caveat that I sort of add to it is find your passion in a growing field. You know I think about my dad as an English professor who was a great English professor and enjoyed teaching great books of literature to young people and found that really inspiring but when it came time for him to really apply for jobs he got, he got two job offers. One was in Carnie, Nebraska and one was in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania where my family ended up and that's where I grew up. So, if you want more than two job offers in geographic regions where you don't really have a lot of choice really think about kind of what's a hot, growing field? Now the good news for all of us is market research definitely falls into that category. I'm actually going to add a link here into the chat where you can go check out a really interesting government resource, The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out a whole big continuous report, you can go to the website check it out, about growth rates in all kinds of professions. And so, when they look at the field what they call market research analysts, they're projecting that to grow by 22% by the end of this decade and that is one of the highest-ranking percentages of all the different fields. And you can go in there and you can also look at your related kinds of categories like data scientists and data analysts and those are all really on our trajectory as well. You know the fact is that the pandemic was a disaster for the world, it was good for the field of market research because all of a sudden companies had to make more decisions than ever, more quickly than ever and under more uncertainty than ever about what were consumers going to do in response to all this? So, our field is really growing. So, if you're looking to find your passion in a growing field, then this is potentially a very good field for you. The second- please.
Melanie Courtright: Steve, that aligns to the Insights Association report that's coming out in just a couple weeks. We're just wrapping up our 2021 U. S. market report and it shows that the U. S. market grew almost 17% last year. And labor is at an all-time high in value because companies are growing. They're making up for the COVID blip, but they're also growing above and organically above that because of exactly what you said, a newfound, permanent seat at the table helping people understand what's going on in the world around them. So, very aligned to the actual data on our business.
Stephen Kraus: I think we see it also with a lot of the growing M&A merger and acquisition activity which I know some of our panelists can speak to more directly.
Melanie Courtright: Kai might want to speak to that.
Stephen Kraus: But you know some of the big companies are seeing a lot of growth prospects, and so they're looking to scoop up some of those innovative, smaller companies. I think it all speaks to that real enthusiasm about just where our industry is headed and the need to really understand people and how people make decisions. So, that kind of leads me to my second point. So, the first one was find your passion in a growing field. The second thing is I really encourage people today to understand how consumers make decisions under uncertainty. There's a huge psychological literature about how people make decisions under uncertainty but if you just look at the world around us, we live in more uncertain times than ever. You know it's always kind of been the case that it seems like there's a new headline every week, a new big story every week. I think it's even gone beyond that now where every week it seems like there's a new defining issue of our time. Whether it's, you know it was Russia and Ukraine and then it was the insurrection and then it was Roe versus Wade and now it's inflation and all of these are really pretty unprecedented things and so, people are having to make decisions under circumstances they've never had to deal with before. I mean if you just think about inflation. I mean inflation rates now are as high as they've been since the 70s. So, that means for the last 50 years people have not had to make consumer decisions in an environment of inflation like we have right now. So, that means basically Gen-Xer's, Millennials, Gen Z, all of them are completely unfamiliar with this kind of environment of making decisions under this kind of uncertainty and there's just an emotional volatility that's going on now that we haven't seen before. So, like I said I think there's a lot of literature in psychology about decision making uncertainty that we as market researchers can bring to the table as we design surveys, interpret surveys. The third piece of advice that I give people is to be a learner. We did some research at MRII and we found that 80 plus percent of market researchers didn't have any formal training, didn't take courses in it in college, they've kind of been picking it up as they go along and we actually asked a whole series of questions trying to nail down, boy if we could sum up what makes a great market researcher in one word, what would it be? And the word that ended up with was curiosity. Is there's really a love of learning, a real desire to understand what makes people tick? So, I think- I just really encourage young people in the field to develop that sense of curiosity, to read all different kinds of things from all different kinds of fields. These days you'll hear a lot about people say, well you know we're moving from insight to foresight. Well, what does that mean? Well that means that you're looking at all of the demographic trends, the lifestyle trends, all of the context about where the world is going and you're trying to understand consumer behavior and your survey results in that broader context. And I always say that if I'm allowed to mix metaphors that companies are drowning in data but they're starving for insights. And so many of those insights come from trying to understand your primary research results in the context of everything else that's going on in the world. So, being a learner means reading, it means identifying where your skills might be weak, a lot of the people that I talk to you know young professionals, might be a little weaker in terms of the hard skills. But I know that when you look at what it is that Google wants or Meta or Apple, those places expect people to be very comfortable in a big data environment. So, if a young person is kind of weak on their R skills or their Python skills, that's an area where they can really add some value. And I loved your concept Melanie of you know, having people develop a unique sense of value. What their own personal brand is about. And I think a lot of it comes to showing that sense of learning. You're trying to acquire skills outside of just what you absolutely need to know. And the final thing that I would say that very much follows along that is to demonstrate that you're a learner. And so, it's great that you spend a lot of time reading and developing new skills, but can you demonstrate that in the workplace, on your resume, on your LinkedIn? So, are you able to get an advanced degree? Get a certification? At MRII we're in the education business, we offer courses, people can actually take our courses and it puts them on the path to certification through the Insights Association. If folks have degrees, certifications or even just more informally, are they writing articles? Are they being a guest on podcasts? Are they doing a podcast? All of these kinds of things I think can really demonstrate that you're a learner and you've got the sense of curiosity and you've got this commitment to the industry and your own career. So, those are the four things I recommend to folks.
Melanie Courtright: I love it. I saw a lot of nods from Kai and Katrina and they put some comments, I hope you're following in the chat. So, anything else you want to add Kai or Katrina before I bring in Roddy and David? No.
Kai Fuentes: No, you nailed it, thank you so much for that.
Stephen Krauss: Thank you.
Katrina Noelle: Yes, I was looking for the thousand percent agree. Because yes Roddy it was like yes 100, but do I do like a thousand percent. There's no emoji for that.
Kai Fuentes: Right, facts on facts on facts.
Melanie Courtright: all right, well good. Let's bring in Roddy and David. Picking up on that continuing education, value of networking. Roddy and Dave, let's ask you. What skills and attributes are you specifically looking for these days as you look at add talent to your teams?
David Rothstein: I'll kick it off and then I'll ask Roddy to comment. So, just by way of background. So, I didn't quite, I wasn't quite born into the industry like Kai was, but my father started RTi back in 1979, so I found myself- so, I didn't have the great experience of doing intercept interviews as a child but I did get the wonderful experience of taping like quarters and whatever, maybe nickels or quarters to paper questionnaires in our family room. So, child labor, yes, me and my sisters were doing that in middle school. And then ended up in the industry after doing some other things and 27 years later here I am. So, I think it's interesting a lot of the things in terms of what I'm looking for we've talked about and one of the interesting things in this industry is in a sense the wide chasm let's say of two critical skills I think, which don't often seem to go together. One is the little things is the attention to detail and doing the little things right. Because I think we all know that if you miss one of the little things in the world of market research the big thing and the insights and the meeting may not matter. So, like Mel before the session we were talking about a survey where the age bands had duplicate numbers in them one to the other, I mean stuff like that obviously has to get picked up on. So, at the same time that we need people that can really look at detail and focus on that, we also need people that in the way that we talk and turn data into meaning. And to us that goes beyond, because a lot of oh tell the story and create a story and turning data into meaning really goes beyond that. The story in a lot of ways is kind of the execution of turning data into meaning. Being able to find the meaning from the data is being able to find that unifying idea, what is it and then sort of putting this filter on and looking at that the firehose of data that Stephen talked about and kind of figuring out what is this really telling me? And coming up with what is the one unifying idea that brings this all together that I'm ultimately going to build my story around? And the story can be written, video, podcast, graphical, visual, whatever. But what we're really trying to find are people that have that ability to use sort of brain filters, so to speak and draw out that meaning from the data. So, I mean there's other little things too but I'll throw those two things out and Roddy, what do you think?
Roddy Knowles: Yes, you know I think I'm looking for a few things and I'm honestly probably more focused on soft skills than I am hard skills. I think it's important to have a baseline of if we're hiring for someone in a research role, fundamental knowledge of sampling, industry, best practice design, like that good stuff. But depending on the role I don't necessarily need an expert. I need an expert one place or another, but the soft skills are sort of indispensable. I thought I had a great idea and I was going to talk about curiosity and everyone else already mentioned it, so I won't go in too deep on that but at least we're all aligned there and someone in the chat said, something along curiosity but you were sort of born with curiosity or you're not, tend to sort of agree with that. So, it is definitely something that I'm looking for. Someone who is not just curious but acts on that curiosity, that sort of active curiosity, I'm interested in this therefore I have done this or I want to do these things in the future. Because that's a really hard thing to teach, so I'm thinking about that. But one of the things that I'm looking for and it's not just that someone has done the work, they understand the facts, they understand the best practices, but how do they communicate those? And so, usually the research focus roles that I'm looking for have some sort of customer facing element to them and at least like in our business we work with a lot of people that aren't research experts. So, I need someone who can speak the language of an expert and go deep if you need to but don't default to that. I actually need someone who can really excel in like simple and clear communication. That's always something that I'm trying to feel out from someone. How can they explain something which may be complex in a way that I, a non-expert can understand. So, both like written and verbal. So, I think those soft skills and the baseline of sort of hard skills and industry knowledge is important but soft skills is often things that I'm looking for because that's harder for me to teach.
David Rothstein: And picking up on the idea of soft skills. So, two other things that seem so obvious but I would say that in interviewing people we see them less often than you would think. One is just excitement for the job and the industry. So, I mean this is generally speaking, if this is- it's a lot of fun I think being in this industry, but it's hard work, it's hard. There's a lot of hard things about it and if you're not excited about it and excited to be a part of it, that just makes it harder and probably longer term it's not going to be a great fit. And then the other one which I love this term and I have to give credit to my good friend Jude Olinger for maybe making this word up but he calls it figure-it-out-ability and I love that. Because so much of what we do and like Katrina talked about a little bit before, I mean we're always learning new things, figuring out new ways to do things, figuring out new ways to solve challenges and challenges get more complex every day and you really, at least for us, we really need people that have that ability and desire to figure stuff out and not as Katrina said, save as and let's just do it the same way as we did it last time. So, that figure-it-out-ability is another key trait that we look for.
Roddy Knowles: That's a good- I generally ask a question along those lines when I'm interviewing people. Some of them are creative problem solving, I like figure-it-out-ability a little bit better because that's a new word. But yes, I'll ask people specifically when they've had situations where they've had to be creative in order to get it out of them and things like that, so I always try to probe for that as well.
Melanie Courtright: Well, all of you have talked about finding and developing that sort of passion, unique and being curious but let me ask each of you, if one or two or all of you want to respond. What is your passion area? And how did you find it and develop it? I'll start and Roddy you can check me on this, I think one of my sort of passion and unique things is I can look at a data set and tell you what's wrong with it. Like when people will say oh there's something wrong with this but I don't know what's wrong, but something's wrong with it. I have a love for, and a skill for looking at a data set and saying oh it was sampled wrong or it was quoted wrong or the survey is bad or you interpreted it wrong or you ran the wrong analysis or you know. So, I love to be able to look at a data set and give it context and say here's what it actually represents and if you look at it through that lens, and I found that I loved looking at data sets that people would kind of go, cock their head at sideways and say, I don't think I understand that. And I love being able to say, OK you have to look at it through this lens and here's the bias that this data set contains and now look at it through that way. And I love that, like it's very nerdy, I'm OK with owning that that is a nerdy thing to love, but I love it. And so, I developed that by constantly saying if something is wrong the data set, call me in and let me see if I can help you figure it out and just honing that skill over time and you become sort of a firefighter that people run to for that one thing and that really helped carry me in my career. So, do any of you-? What's your thing and how did you find it and develop it?
Roddy Knowles: I'll piggyback on yours now and just because I want to comment and say nothing is ever wrong with any of my data sets that I ever sent you, so they [INAUDIBLE] but never me. Mel and I worked together for some time and I can vouch for that being one of your skills and passions for sure. I'd say you know I can do some of that work too, Mel, but it's not what I'm passionate about. I'm more passionate on the design part. I'm more thinking about how do I approach the problem? What questions do I want to ask or what questions do I not want to ask? Like what sort of methodologies and I use that term intentionally plural often times, do I want to use to attack a problem? And I think that one of the things I really like about research and of the places where I've sort of found a home is trying not to overcomplicate what we're doing. Trying to take an efficient path but also a path that makes sense, it doesn't need to be the most complex one but how do we do something creatively and efficiently to get us data quickly and not really overcomplicate things? So, I think I'm being fair here, I can say I have these tendencies sometimes too to want to make things perfect, but like not making perfect the enemy of good is something that I'm really passionate about.
Katrina Noelle: That's a much better way of saying it Roddy. My team knows I like the word scrappy, like someone says oh I don't know if we can do this. Let's find a way, like let's figure it out, it's almost like it's this sort of, I don't know if we can use meta in its original meaning anymore, but it's sort of like the meta of what we do as a business is also looking at the problem of project design and methodology decisions and like how do we work with who we got? What are the parameters we're within and how do we really knock it out of the park given all of that? I think that may not have been, Melanie, to the original question of like what got me into this and what was my initial maybe special sauce? But I think over time in the industry that has become that energy and that really drive that I lean into.
Melanie Courtright: I love it.
Kai Fuentes: That's also like figure-it-out-ability, right? So, I think that that would be, I would say that's one of my strengths. Figuring it out and being able to see something. What's the, not problem, I don't like to use problem, but what's the situation here? And how do we figure it out? And how do we become better? And we come out better on the other end. Being able to go through that journey and that process and talking to yourself about that and coming out stronger on the other end. So, I think mine is figure-out-ability. Is that how you say it David?
David Rothstein: Figure-it-out-ability.
Kai Fuentes: Figure-it-out-ability. Yes, I like that a lot.
David Rothstein: Yes, nobody tell Jude how many times we've used it because his-.
Kai Fuentes: I'm snatching that up and I won't tell Jude.
David Rothstein: Yes. And I've got two if that's OK. One's kind of internal and one external. I mean internally I love to as I mentioned before like data to meaning, I love figuring out what the data says and pulling it together in a story and being able to deliver that to somebody, this huge data set and then being able to say, well here's like in three sentences what it all means and here's in one sentence what you ought to do. I love that and unfortunately as the owner and CEO I don't hardly ever get to do that anymore. Only maybe only when somebody else is up against a brick wall. But externally if I can kind of maybe backtrack a little bit to where we were just to touch on the networking. I can't think for me personally of a bigger, of something that had a bigger impact on my career over the last 25 years than the volunteering that I've done with the Insights Association, CASRO before that. If I were to give people a piece of advice, my advice outside the company would be get involved and volunteer with whether it's IA, whether it's a local chapter, I mean the great thing now is there's all kinds of other associations and groups that have popped up, so the opportunities are there and it's just, not only is it a chance to kind of do something that you might not otherwise get a chance to do, and by the way if you're volunteering no one's really going to care if you'd had experience doing it before, so you can kind of just do it and kind of learn on the go. But it gives you such a broad perspective on the industry, on the people and as your perspective grows people recognize that, even within your own company and then they believe you have this great, big, broad perspective and you can answer questions and you can bring back information about the industry to bear within your company, within perhaps with your clients, with your peers and that's the one piece. And then of course there's the networking piece and then just the people that you get to know and the way that you can build a network, which ultimately then drives your own personal brand. So, there's so many benefits and in this particular, in our industry there's so many opportunities. And I can't think of a better way to- especially early to mid-career to really grow and accelerate your own path than that, and that's not like a paid plug from the association, just it's been my passion.
Melanie Courtright: Well, so we have two questions that have come in from our participants. One is about sort of feeling like you're behind, either you've been out of the profession for a while or you've been just doing the same thing for a little while and you feel like you're behind and you need to catch up. Do you guys have advice for people who feel the need to catch up and to become relevant and current again in their skills and in their thinking?
Stephen Kraus: I think I would say don't try to catch up in every area at once. You know building a brand, finding your own unique strengths, really dig deep on that. As I think about what I've really enjoyed doing, kind of the little niche I've tried to create for myself has been doing a lot of public facing work. So, for clients who want to put out a white paper, put out a webinar, put out a press release with some interesting findings. You know there's a unique set of skills that kind of comes with that. I mean you have to be methodically strong because you might get grilled in a public forum about representivity of samples or statistical significance that kind of thing. You also have to understand what's the industry white space? What are the strengths of the company that you're working for? And then what are the angles that the media might be interested in? So, I like to think I'm good at kind of thinking about oh here's a really interesting question and an interesting topic, that could be the little pie chart that goes at the bottom of USA Today or that's the angle that the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times would be interested in, that they would want to pick up. So, you know at times when I've kind of gone in and out of different sub-fields within market research and I felt a little bit behind, I kind of try to go back to that core of you know, what's my brand? What are my unique strengths? And yes, you know, UX is hot, CX is hot, you know I'm not an expert on those, I'm not going to try to become an expert on those, I'm going to go back to the things that I'm really strong at that I've kind of got a demonstrated body of work that I'm good at and you know build on my strengths rather than try to, this is something that's been shown a lot in various studies about who succeeds in large organizations. It's the people who knows their strengths and they double down on their strengths. And they're not trying to get their weaknesses up to adequate levels. Double down on your strengths.
Roddy Knowles: I'll agree with you Steve and I'll piggyback on a couple of things that you said. I agree on the doubling down on your strengths and so, I want to highlight that. But if it's not something you're passionate about you have to consider that too. So, it's one thing if people feel behind and it's oh I've been doing the same thing, I haven't been paying attention to what else is going on, I've been working in a thicker part of the industry or focused on a specific methodology or whatever it is. I'm missing everything that's going out there. I think you also point to something important which is it's easy to get overwhelmed and think about all the things I'm missing out on. You're never going to catch up. So, what I encourage people to do is like think about, you're thinking about educating ourselves and really going out and actively learning. Think about what you do now and if that's your passion, awesome, go for it, go deep. If it's not, pick one thing, pick one topic, one area and go there too. If you think about 10 different things you're never going to do it, but if you focus on one or two different areas you can still stay focused enough and ultimately you'll find, if you start to explore, say I'm in area A and I want to be in area B, I can sort of start to learn about area B, start to get my toes wet, start to actively learn more, look for opportunities and figure out if that's a place you want to go deeper.
Katrina Noelle: And tell people, I mean be a little transparent. You know this is the time to talk to someone who is where you think you should be. Like where is this place where you think you should be that you're behind from. What are you seeing? Can you tap someone for 15 minutes of advice? You know a virtual coffee. This does not need to be a whole new mentor relationship, this is just tap into people where you think they have all this knowledge. And often when I've been in those situations, I have been reassured that you're OK, you're not that many miles behind. Like this is specialization or this is a nuance or we're using a new word for that these days or something doable, something approachable that it makes it seem less overwhelming by just talking to people and saying you know, hey what are your thoughts on this catch-up that I've decided I need to do.
Melanie Courtright: I love that and I think it also relates to the next question and then Dave and Stephen if you have more to add, of course please do. But it's about how to go from being an individual contributor to a leader. I know that if you've been an individual contributor for a really long time, sometimes people will thing well they must like being an individual contributor and so, sometimes you have to go and tell the people around you that you're ready to manage and to lead people and tell your executives around you that you're ready for that next step. But what else? So, not just about reinventing yourself, but then how do you go from being an IC to being a leader? Do you guys have thoughts on that? A leader of people. By the way not everybody wants to be a leader of people and not everybody should attain to being a leader of people. It's really hard and it's a calling and it's a skill set, and so, I'll start with that, but if you feel called to it and you feel led to do it and you think you have the unique skills for it, how do you do that? How do you move?
Roddy Knowles: I just want to, before we throw it to everybody else I want to just reiterate that point Mel, because I think it's super important. I think that's where people get stuck sometimes is they think if I want to be a leader I have to be a manager of people and like those terms are not synonymous and it's not true, so that's the first thing to ask is if I want to grow in my career and I want to become a leader, is managing people a part of that?
Melanie Courtright: Yes, I love that, it's a unique skill set that you have to love, it needs to be a passion area for you, you need to be really excited about leading people and you need to be prepared and to have the skill set for it and it doesn't always come naturally. Like being curious comes naturally, being able to lead people especially in crisis and mentor them is not always an innate skill that you sometimes have to sort of be trained for.
Kai Fuentes: Yes, I mean I would say one thing. Once you get to that place of leadership, be a servant leader. So, that's something that I like to do. So, how can I serve you? How can I serve my team? What can I do to make your job better? Do you need more of a network? What do you need? And I think servant leadership, empathy, servant leadership, is not always- is really what's needed and that's the way I've learnt to lead, I've kind of fallen into it. And your leadership style changes over the years and it changes- my leadership style is very different than what it was pre-pandemic, it's very different now, I'm ever evolving. But yes, as a leader providing servant leadership and then as a leader having other folks, other leaders that you talk to that can fill your well. And what do you need as a leader to fill your well? Do you need Friday's off? I need Friday's off. You know what do you need? So, I think understanding the balance of servant leadership and then serving yourself. What do you need as a leader? How can you make your own leadership job better? So, I don't have the answer of how to get there from there, but I have the answer of how to be a good leader.
David Rothstein: There's probably no specific answer but one of the challenges that we see here as people move their way up their career and become leaders here from individual contributors is people are challenged by not doing all the work themselves and understanding that you need to delegate and your job is transitioning from doer to coach and to as Kai's talking about remover of barriers and elevator and all of these things, and I don't know if we see it more in our industry because of the nature of the kinds of people that the Insights industry attracts and maybe to some degree the passion for the actual work, but that's definitely one of the challenges that we're constantly battling maybe too harsh of a word because well it's a harsh word but it's a challenge that we are working to help people overcome that yes, we know that you can do that you've done it for five years, what we're trying to get you to be is this manager and this leader, so that these other people can learn what you know. And that's hard for people to do.
Katrina Noelle: And I think especially in this industry because if we just from the first part of this conversation, we all love it, we're all curious people, we're into the data, right? We like picking apart the data sets and finding the ah ha's and so, it's a little you know fingers on the edge of the cliff gripping to let go, to not get that experience ourselves. Sorry, Stephen, that was so important David, I think. Because it is an inherent issue with people who love the work and the data and the story is to step back from it and make sure other people get a chance to do that.
Stephen Kraus: Yes, I agree a hundred percent and I also really like the point that you put in the chat that thought leaders are leaders too. Because I'm somebody who's now primarily an individual contributor and there have been points in my career when I've managed teams and I've been kind of like, it's not really me. But there are still a lot of ways that you can lead whether it's through thought leadership, just through the amount of effort that you put in. So, I've been with companies where I'm not managing a big team, but people are like wow, you know Steve's really working hard, he's always here in the evenings, wow he's had this big impact, he's put out these things that have gotten us a lot of press attention. There are ways that you can be leaders in an organization without necessarily managing a big team if that's not your passion or your skill set.
Melanie Courtright: Yes, the last thing I would say is you don't have to have your name in a box to be a servant leader to the people around you. And so, start doing it now. Like find someone that you can teach how to do something you're really good at. Sort of replace your position with people around you now, so that when you're ready to move into actually having your name in the box you're not leaving a gap. That proves that you're already trying to- leading, servant leading the people around you. Replace yourself, make yourself obsolete so that you can move into that next role. And then people will notice that and be like oh, this person's really good at helping us succeed, so we want that kind of person leading us. It will happen very naturally. all right, so we're getting, we have about 10 minutes left and so, I just want to give you- well, nine and I still have some housekeeping. I just want to give each of you a chance to take a few minutes to say if people are on this precipice where they really want to advance their career, what's this one piece of advice that you really want them to take with them as they go? Like something you want them to do, something you want them to remember. What is this one piece of information that you would really want them to take from this and take back to their desks in the next couple of weeks? Who wants to go first? Katrina's nodding her head. Katrina can I volunteer you?
Katrina Noelle: Yes, you can. I was just nodding like I was listening, yes Melanie. But no, that's fine.
Melanie Courtright: A nod means call on me to Melanie.
Katrina Noelle: I think I'm going to underline and reword something I said earlier about keeping yourself open to options, I think and this is most- I have a lot of conversations with folks at the early stages of their career and trying to get into this space and they have very prescriptive ideas of exactly the job title that they're looking for and the industry that they're looking for and what they've read about. And I think this is a very- I love this industry because it's nebulous and ever changing and there's so many opportunities and so many different names for things, different topic for a different town hall, but so I think being open to clicking on all the things, having all the conversations, trying to figure out what is a good fit for you without going in with a prescriptive I need to do these things on this imaginary ladder. I've been hearing this trend lately of people really boxing themselves in to exactly what they think they need to do and this is a very warm, safe industry to float around in and find the best fit. So, that's probably what I would say more than anything.
David Rothstein: I guess piggybacking a little bit on that and the idea of saying yes to things and I would just go back to what I said before and I think the one thing I would advise people to do is find an association, an organization that sounds interesting and get in and volunteer, find something to do and the kind of investment that guaranteed will pay off, maybe soon, maybe much later, but you're going to learn things and have experiences that you won't otherwise have and it will be impactful.
Kai Fuentes: I would piggyback on that and say certainly network, that's one thing Katrina and Dave is saying here. Network and learn and always be a forever learner and that's OK. Going back and learning new things or learning how to do what you've been doing differently, these things are OK and that makes you sharper in that way. So, I would say network and learn.
Stephen Krauss: Yes, I would reiterate both of those, you know networking especially in the context that David talked about of volunteering, making a positive contribution in a way that you don't have to and learning. You know read books, take classes, get a certification, listen to podcasts, start a podcast, write articles, you know it's hard to grow just kind of sitting in a vacuum, because you may come up with some ideas and you're probably going to be reinventing something that somebody else has already thought about. But if you're reading books and you're listening to podcasts, you're understanding, oh this is what's already known, what can I add that will be above and beyond that?
Roddy Knowles: I'm a big fan of taking small steps and I want to give a specific call to action here. You know we all mentioned, Katrina you mentioned reaching out to people about something. So, in the next two weeks you got essentially two weeks left in the month, think of the one thing you wish you knew more about. Again, whether that's I want to do my job better at this, I don't know what the heck is going on but this seems cool and find someone who will talk to you about it for 15 minutes. It's a really, really easy thing to do and when something is small and something is time bound, at least for me it tends to happen, so that's my sort of I don't know call to action for everyone here.
Melanie Courtright: I love it. Thank you. Don't hang up yet because I'm about to share something exciting with you, but I do want to say thank you and I think those are all really good pieces. Network, learn, continuous learner, be brave and find that thing that you want to learn more about and do something tangible about learning about it in the next two weeks. And so, in that vein really quickly I want to share with you that the Insights Association has a new event coming up and this event is called the executive leadership summit. If you're someone who wants to move into executive leadership or you're already in executive leadership and you want to learn and hone more about your skills, this is a brand-new event, it's going to be in Chicago, September 13th to 15th, we're going to talk about things like managing up, down and sideways and how to be the same up, down and sideways. About how to build your empathy skills. It's all about executive leadership, about the power of leading through change and through chaos even. The power of leading through uncertainty and leading through fear. It's a very cool event, it's brand new, it's going to be tethered to our CEO conference which is the same week, the couple days before and there's even sort of some joint time to have a keynote together. So, if you're interested, if you're an executive leader, you're interested in executive leadership, learn more about this event and go and talk to your leaders and see if they'll invest in your ability to attend this event. Even before that though our idea forum, if diversity and inclusion is something that you would like to spend more time, it's a passion area for you, evolving the way we do research so that it is improved in terms of inclusion and diversity, the way we ask questions and even evolving how we hire and how we build culture and how we build energy around us, then the idea forum is a great place for you to spend a few hours. And then finally, we have our CRC event coming up this is the big corporate researchers event, we're going to be talking a lot about what's new, what's coming, the new trends. And so, this is an opportunity, I promise you we have to fund these events, we have to pay for them, but our goal in putting these events on is not money, it is to continue to help you learn and grow and educate the profession. You will learn a lot by attending events like this and like the one today. So, lots of events coming, I hope you'll find out about them. Let me stop sharing now and just thank everybody again. Thanks Stephen, thanks Kia, Roddy, Katrina, David, thank you all very much, appreciate it. Thank you all, have a great rest of the week and onward and upward.