Julia Gichuri is a Researcher at TNS Research Surveys, She spoke to Margaret Harris about how she needs good people skills, as well as the ability to sort and process data, for her job.
What does a researcher do?
A market researcher speaks to members of the public who meet specific criteria (in terms of gender, age and even personality, if need be) about their behaviour and thoughts on various topics. The end goal is to inform marketers on how to better meet people’s needs and where the gaps are in the market.
Give me an idea of what you do each day in the office.
I would typically be involved in writing proposals to inform potential clients on a research approach that we would use to address their business problem.
This details who we will speak to (the sample); the methodology we will use (face-to-face interviews, online surveys, qualitative focus groups and so forth); and other logistics. I may also be involved in performing analysis on data that we have collected and generating insight reports for the client.
Often my day will involve meeting new and prospective clients, perhaps to discuss their business needs, to kick off a study that has been commissioned or to present the results of a study we have conducted.
What are the “tools of your trade” (the things you can’t work without)?
My computer is the main tool, and I have different software that I use regularly, including MS Powerpoint, Excel and Word, but also proprietary data-manipulation software. An important aspect of research is the people. Being in client services, I would be the client contact, but behind the scenes are people working in the field, doing face-to-face and telephonic interviews; a data-solutions team; and a projects department that coordinates many of the project logistics. Research is often far more about the people involved than the physical tools we use.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a business science (finance) degree from the University of Cape Town. In the course of my degree I studied applied statistics, which is relevant to research.
Did you always want to do this kind of work?
Surprisingly, I was not aware that market research, as a field, existed until I was in my final year of university. It helped to speak to people like my former statistics lecturer, who informed me of the possibilities out there. I was more focused on working in financial services while I was studying.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I loved books and always thought I would end up being a writer. I do some writing (papers and articles mostly), but not the imaginative adventure stories I thought I would be writing.
What skills and personality traits do you need to be a researcher?
People skills cannot be overstated. Dealing with clients is a regular part of the job, and internally it helps to work well in a team environment. It is important to be numerate and enjoy working with data, whether as an end-user or as a data processor. One needs to be very organised and a multitasker to work on different projects in various stages. It helps to be a creative thinker in order to find new ways to approach a business problem, design a research study and present results while keeping the audience engaged.
What would people find most surprising about your work?
That there is a difference between being a marketer and a market researcher. Market research is one of the disciplines that supports marketing strategy and activities, and researchers make recommendations to marketers. Marketers, on the other hand, are responsible for designing and overseeing marketing strategies for a company.
What do you love about your job?
The fact that I get to interact meaningfully with people every day. Doing studies on various industries means that one is continually learning, and no two projects are ever the same. It is not possible to get bored with one’s work in this industry.
What would you like to change about your job?
The way that research is conducted in South Africa. It would be much better for the planet if we could conduct more studies online (minimal usage of paper questionnaires and travelling to various locations). However, until more people in South Africa have internet access, it won’t be possible to survey a wide range of people this way. Mobile surveys have some potential in this area, but their own limitations too.
If money or logistics were no problem, what would be your ideal project to work on?
I would love to explore the similarities and differences between the broad culture groupings in various regions in Africa and determine to what extent culture, as we know it, affects our mindset as consumers. That’s quite ambitious, but feasible on a smaller basis.
What is your favourite time of day?
My day varies so much. There is no set routine and thus every day is different. However, I do like the moments after a status meeting. There is renewed direction and energy to start tackling one’s tasks.
Author: Margaret Harris
Source: Business Live