By Rachel Dreyfus
The Women in Research (WIRe) meeting in NYC on October 14 was standing-room only. Put 100 Women in Research (and 2 or 3 lucky guys) in a hip Manhattan bar to meet up and you have a chain-reaction of smart connecting. Fiona Blades, President of Mesh (The Experience Agency), kicked it off in the absence of WIRe founder Kristin Luck. Fiona did a bit of education and advice — meet people, consider the mentoring program, learn from each other and from the accomplished speakers who offered some brief words of wisdom; Colleen Fahey Rush of Viacom, Susan Griffin of Brainjuicer and Dana DeGregorio of Harris Interactive.
The WIRe meet up was striking for the proportion of young women present. With curiosity typical of researchers they were eager to learn from the “more accomplished” women leaders in the room. They had passion for their jobs and substantive career questions. One asked me about length of time necessary to stay at one company since she tends to move every few years for better opportunities. Women are looking out for their careers first and foremost and I assured her that this is one necessary evolution of today’s career landscape. Others were excited about their company’s internal job fairs, training and development, and other opportunities to learn and grow within the company. These are the companies that will retain their talent.
I was asked by several of the young women if I had started my career in consumer research; as many in my generation at this event, I did not, having started at Andersen (now Accenture) in consulting. Many of the women leaders started their careers in other fields such as advertising or media marketing. Exposure to other disciplines and various industries before transitioning into consumer research can strengthen breadth of skills and business acumen.
And yet. Another career evolution occurred to me. The consumer research discipline has the momentum of blending insights skills with data visualization, big (behavioral) data collection, digital analytics and story-telling. More than ever, the opportunity to learn about and apply different disciplines is all available to a new grad starting out in consumer insights. There’s still no substitute to talking with consumers; it requires an art and creative curiosity that leads to smarter marketing and brand growth. Companies that support and nurture consumer insights have competitive advantage over those that rely on big data alone. And training our next generation of consumer researchers to integrate many analytical disciplines will be the key to a rewarding and successful career