connections member news

April 2015
Vol. 14, Number 3

QRCA Management News
Conference News
Chapter News
Committee News
SIG News
Member News

Welcome New Members!

Please welcome QRCA’s newest members. Feel free to email new members directly and help them transition to our association. See someone from your home state? Consider reaching out to say “welcome” — one click and one minute of your time brings immense value to a new member.

Julie Altman

2 Seaport Lane, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02210
United States

Jillian Domin

Hypothesis Group
811 W. 7th Street, Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90017
United States

Lauren Glatstein

Idea Greenhouse
2511 Crescent Ridge Rd
Minnetonka, MN 55305
United States

Jenny Karubian

Lotus Research LLC
2717 Seville Blvd #10106
Clearwater, FL 33764
United States

Robbie Mccarthy Rare Insights LLC
354 West Lancaster Avenue
Wayne, PA 19087
United States
Neal Sandin 643 Research
245 Lafayette Ave # 2
Hawthorne, NJ 07506
United States
Danielle Spiro

Liminal Research
2415 Everton Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21209
United States

Marsha E. Williams

Harvest Research Group LLC
3900 Rose Hill Ave, Suite 402A
Cincinnati, OH 45229
United States

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QuickTips: How Climbing a Mountain Is Like Taking on a Big Project: Eight Things I Learned Scaling Kilimanjaro

Sidney Clewe,

sydney clewe QuickTips is a monthly column for Connections, providing members with quick and easy (and cheap or free) ways of doing our work and living our lives. Give us your favorite shortcuts, from high-tech to no-tech! Send an email to:

Massive research projects can be very daunting. They feel surprisingly like what goes through a climber’s head when she’s standing at the base of a tall mountain and lifting her eyes up to the summit: “We’re going all the way up there? What?!”

That’s how I felt during my recent trip to Kilimanjaro. From our hotel in Moshi, Tanzania, my dad and I had a perfect view of the mountain (19,341’). Our hotel sat at 3,120 feet above sea level and the mountain towered over us for another 16,000 feet.

Summiting that mountain is remarkably like completing a huge research project. What I learned during my climb definitely can help back in the office:

  1. Have confidence and don’t give up. It may seem like a long way, and honestly it is, but you’ve trained and prepared for research, just like you do when you train for a climb. You just have to keep on moving with the same confidence throughout the project.
  2. Small steps/small goals. Some days on the climb I just had to focus on the next rise or the next rock — get there and then focus on the next farther point.  Breaking the project down into bite-sized chunks can help make the task seem manageable.
  3. Don’t run — you’ll only wear yourself out. We hiked a total of 43 miles on Kilimanjaro. If we tried to do it all in one day and run the whole course, there would have been no energy left for all the extras. Big projects are the same way: slow and steady usually wins the race. Our mantra on the climb was “polepole:” “slowly, slowly.”
  4. If you have a bad day, just keep moving forward. On Day Two of the climb I got very sick from a reaction to the iodine water purification tablets (only happens to one in about 100,000 people, lucky me). I knew that at the next camp I would be able to get boiled water which would improve the state of my digestive system. There was nothing to do but keep moving forward. Projects are bound to have bumps along the road where it just doesn’t seem worth it to keep moving forward. The only way out of the mire is to move forward anyway.
  5. Daily pre-climb meetings. Each morning on our climb the guides would brief us during breakfast and lay out our plan for the day. By taking that time, we were able to feel prepared to take on the challenges the day would present. Large projects can feel less daunting if you lay out a clear path and ending point for each day. Daily accomplishments feel much easier to attain than monthly ones — those are too big!
  6. Travel light. It is easier to move efficiently on the trail or in the office by dropping the extra weight. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it — focus on the research and business objectives (the weight of those “nice-to-knows” and off-topic side objectives can really weigh projects down and make them move much less efficiently and effectively). And learn how to delegate so you can spend time on the things that matter.
  7. Equip yourself with the right tools. I was able to save energy on my climb by upgrading my water system to a CamelBak hydration bag. It sat in my backpack and had a long straw so I could drink water while walking without having to stop and dig it out. In research, having the right tools, such as the appropriate online bulletin board platform, can make your massive project move more smoothly. Remember that some gear works for one climb but doesn't work for all of them! Take the time to find the right tools for each project.
  8. Celebrate. No better way to feel accomplished at the end of a big project than looking back and recognizing where you started and where you are now. Why not take a moment to celebrate! That was a big task!

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The Latest QRCAtv Videos

One of QRCA’s core tenets is to provide continuing education for members. QRCAtv features short educational videos for our members to keep you current on the latest trends in qualitative research. By sharing content like this from our events, we are excited to provide member-only resources that are helpful for your work and personal development.

Interview: Isabel Aneyba

In this short, seven-minute educational video for members, Isabel talks about highlights from her conference presentation, “Making Your Research Pay Off in Latin America.” Isabel shares key nuggets about research in Latin America including using lifestyle questions instead of asking about income levels, not mixing genders or different income groups in one focus group and allowing Latinos to share their stories in their own way.

Click here or on the video below to access:

Interview: Liz Van Patten

In this short six-minute educational video for members, Liz talks about highlights from her conference presentation, “The New Qualitative Research: Finding the Pony.” Liz shares key nuggets from several QRCs who have successfully transitioned into today’s world of research as well as insights gleaned from interviews with today’s research consumers … our clients.

Click here or on the video below to access:

liz van patten

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Personal Connections

Trekking in New Zealand

Manuela Fletcher,

When we see JR Harris at QRCA Conferences we always encourage him to visit New Zealand again.  He’s trekked many of the world-renowned hiking trails in our national parks and says:

 “There is no shortage of gorgeous vistas in NZ.”

Imagine our excitement in New Orleans last year when we heard he was planning another NZ adventure for March 2015!

JR’s trip allowed for a few days in Wellington, a city he hadn’t visited before.  We offered to host him and show him the sights.

We met him at the airport at the end of his very long journey.  He’d travelled from New York to LA, from LA to Brisbane, Australia, then from Brisbane to Wellington, New Zealand.  The connection at LA was tight, and while JR made it okay, unfortunately his hiking gear didn’t.  When he arrived here he only had a small backpack and the clothes he was wearing.  

Our original plans were to have a fun and relaxing time together, showing JR around, helping him find trekking/outdoors shops so he could buy the freeze-dried food he needed for his trip, and stocking up with other high calorie, low weight supplementary food from the supermarket.  Now we had the added challenge of trying to expedite, as much as we were able to, the relocation and eventual delivery of the crucial (and expensive!) equipment he needed for his trekking adventure.

We had constant emails, phone calls and website checks with the airlines – even visiting Wellington airport’s luggage services department to personally plead our case for speedy delivery - and thankfully JR’s pack was finally couriered to our home the night before his planned departure.  It had been held up for some inexplicable reason in LA.  We could all have done without that stress for sure!  It was a very relieved JR who danced around our office, repeatedly kissing his large and weighty pack after it had arrived!

A very relieved JR, Manuela and Andrew Fletcher, relaxing after JR’s luggage finally arrived

Spending time with our QRCA buddies when they visit here always brings to light interesting things we didn’t know about them.  In Judy Langer’s case it was a love of photography and architecture; with JR it was a love of photographing urban graffiti.  We searched high and low for this art, visiting parts of our city we had previously overlooked.

Art, graffiti, tagging lane behind Wellington Opera House

JR ended up with around 180 shots, making up what is likely to be the most comprehensive collection of Wellington graffiti and wall art that currently exists.  He now has the challenge of appropriately cropping and labelling each photo and colour-enhancing some of them.  When that work is completed, he intends posting them on his Facebook page alongside images from Montreal, Philadelphia, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Oslo, Mar del Plata, Lima (Peru), and each of the counties of New York City.  It's quite a collection.

JR did this NZ hike with friends John and Monica Chapman, two respected and well-known Australian hikers.  They have written several trekking guide books.  One of them features JR on the cover!  Their hiking adventure was a very rugged trip and JR worked hard on his fitness in preparation.  In JR’s words:

“Our trek in Nelson Lakes NP was awesome, although not without difficulties. In fact, parts of it were very challenging and we had a few genuinely hazardous moments.  Even the ferry back from Picton was a scare through heavy seas.  But all in all, it was a great trip.”

If you are curious about their route, check out this link:

JR never travels without his trademark collection of red hats – yet another reason for joy when his luggage finally arrived!

JR surveying one of the wild and isolated vistas on his journey


Kilimanjaro: Living the Adventure

Sidney Clewe,

This is a follow up from my November QuickTips article about the start of my Kilimanjaro trip.

“Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.” John Muir

The final weeks before my dad and I left on our trip to Africa raced by, taking us closer and closer to our summit and our goal. After checking off all the “to-do” boxes, double checking all the bags, and triple checking all our travel documents, we finally flew off — away from the craziness of life in Colorado and towards a dream that, until now, had seemed so distant. Once we were on the plane, my dad and I looked at each other and nearly freaked out — it was happening! One and a half years in the planning and here we went!

The climb was fantastic. We spent eight days out on the trail in the Tanzanian wilderness. We started at 7,000 feet on one side of the mountain, ascended to 13,000 feet, circumnavigated around Kili, summited, and then headed back down the other side all the way down to 4,000 feet. The climb started and ended in the lush, hot, overgrown rainforest. We hiked through rainforest to barren volcanic landscapes to glacial views along the volcanic rocks for 43 miles on our journey towards the summit and back again.

The summit (19,341’) at 6:22 a.m. on February 3, 2015 with one of Kili’s glaciers in the background.

From start to finish, we had 48 staff members with our 12 client climb. There were six guides from the local tribes who spoke English very well, one cook, one assistant cook, two toilet porters, and the rest were baggage porters. We had so many porters because they not only carried our personal gear but also food, tents, the large dining tent, the cook’s tent and tents for all of the porters to sleep in.

Each day we would wake up around 6:30 a.m. Breakfast would be served from 7:10 to 7:40 a.m., and we would be on the trail by around 8 a.m. We would generally have a net gain of about 2,000 feet per day across varying distances.

Once the hikers had packed their personal gear and left camp, the porters would pack up all of the tents and remaining supplies at camp and then hit the trail. Each porter had his own personal gear plus 20 additional kilograms that he would carry on his head or shoulders. These porters blew us out of the water with their incredible strength! They would usually pass us on the trail within an hour and would reach the next campsite before us, so they would set up camp and greet us with smiles on their faces once we finally arrived in camp three to five hours later. John, the porter who carried my gear every day, would see me walking into camp and immediately take my day bag from me, ask me how my day was, usher me to our tent, and put my pack in for me. Once settled, we would head over to the dining tent where popcorn and snacks were already awaiting us to keep our bellies happy as we waited for dinner.

At first I thought this was practically cheating! How could I say that I climbed Kili when I was being waited on so dutifully and all the heavy lifting was being done by someone else? Seeing all these men in action helped me realize how extremely integral the mountain is to their culture. Not only is Kili a revered mountain where the men of this area bonded and grew in their community, but it gives many men jobs to sustain their families. By allowing John to carry my bag for me, I was providing him a job and helping to support him and those who rely on him. After understanding that, my hesitations became enthusiasm. Sure, John! Take my bag! Please!

And of course, summit day was the highlight. The day before, we had reached base camp (at 15,000’) fairly early so that we could eat dinner around 5 p.m. We slept from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., when we were awakened in the cold of the night. Adrenaline rushing to help keep us warm, we dressed and hit the trail by midnight. We had six guides and two porter guides with us. After a couple hours of climbing, we split into three groups — slow, medium and “fast” — with the goal to get all climbers in our group to the summit by sunrise. In the dark, each hiker’s world was the 2 foot-wide circle of light from their headlamp, which prodded us forward one step after another, up and up and up! The stars offered a stunning display of twinkling beauty and the lights of Moshi were far below us, as we kept trudging upwards for hours. Finally, with some hints of light on the horizon, we came to 18,800 feet, which is at the crater rim and called Stella Point. We had 500 feet to go.

My dad, our guide Robert, and me on Day 2. Robert (31 years old) had been climbing Kili for 11 years, starting as a porter, getting kicked out of the cook’s tent as an assistant cook (apparently he wasn’t very good in the kitchen!), becoming an assistant guide then junior guide and finally a senior guide. Incredibly knowledgeable. He cared deeply about helping us reach our dream of summiting.

We reached the summit, 19,341 feet, right at sunrise (6:22 a.m. to be precise). It was gorgeous! We could see the shadow of Kili from the rising sun on the clouds to the west. We did a little dance; got pictures with the summit signs; waved our Colorado flag around; took deep breaths of thin, cold mountain air; appreciated the glaciers; and tried to take as many mental pictures as possible (as well as real ones). Our guides ushered us down after about 30 minutes, seeing as it was about 15 degrees (single digits with the wind chill) and also because the longer amount of time spent at altitudes like that, the more likely altitude sickness is to hit. Two in our group felt the effects and threw up multiple times during the summit climb and descent.

When we got back to camp, we took a two hour nap, ate lunch, and headed another 5,000 feet down to our final camp. My favorite part of that day was how every person we passed on the way down congratulated us on our accomplishment. That has never happened to me before on other mountains I’ve climbed! Our cook, Little Man (he was 5’1” and was called Little Man by all the staff), made us a cake as a surprise at our final camp at 10,000 feet. It was incredible! He iced it and drew a picture of Kilimanjaro and wrote the elevation in the icing on the cake and brought it in singing and dancing with the staff to our dining tent. These are memories of a lifetime!

One of the things that I deliberately and consistently tried to do on the trip was to be present; it is so easy to think about the work, friends and family we left behind in the States, but we were in the midst of our climb and I wanted it to last forever.

One of my favorite experiences was the final night of the climb — we were back at 10,000 feet, and had just summited Kili 12 hours earlier. It was dark and you could hear the insects and the distant joyful laughter of the porters enjoying their last night out on the trail with their comrades before returning to town. There were a gazillion stars and the air temperature was perfect. The moon was full and casting a silver glow over all of our tents. I liked just standing outside our tent, alone, thinking of the wondrous setting I was in and wishing we had another night out on the trail.

What had amazed me was that there was an option for climbers to head all the way from the summit down to town in one day. One, that was crazy for the pure fact that that is at least a 15,000-foot elevation difference and one freaking long day of hiking down-down-down. But too, I felt that would be rushing the experience. The moment we got back to town, there would be the internet, showers, people to catch up with, planes to catch, and traveling to happen. Why rush back to all of that? I wanted a day to recognize and appreciate what we had just done. We had just summited one of the highest peaks in the world. We had been on the roof of Africa. Whoa. I wanted us to slow down and take that in, to be present and be aware of the experience we just had.

My dad and I checking out the summit and Kili’s glaciers at sunset from camp at 13,000 feet. Still unable to believe that we were heading up there!

Being present is something that needs to be a constant part of life, on and off the trail. I think it greatly contributes to general happiness at work and out of work. Spending time worrying about all that that needs to be done just muddies the water. I think if there’s one thing to truly take away from this article, it is the brilliance of learning how to truly live in the moment and be present. I’d hope that that is something we can all do actively in our lives.

By the way, for any of you who know the song SexyBack from Justin Timberlake (yay JT!), here’s a little treat from me and a fellow hiker. Just remember that we had a lot of time day after day on the trail with only our creativity to amuse ourselves.

Here’s the re-written version for hikers:

I’m bringing CamelBak - yea!
You other hikers don’t know how to pack - yea!
Un-iodized water is one thing that I lack - yea!
I’m climbing Kilimanjaro and that’s a fact! - yea!

Take it to the trail!

Stinky babe —
Sleeping in a tent for 8 days.
I’ll wear these same socks if that’s okay.
Recycled underwear is not okay!

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News from VIEWS

Kay Corry Aubrey,

  • Spring 2015 VIEWS should have already arrived in your mailbox. Of course, you can always access the digital version of our magazine on
  • The VIEWS editorial team has been hard at work putting together the summer 2015 issue.
  • Karen Lynch has agreed to become the new editor for the Schools of Thought section, switching from Tech Talk/Online Qual section. The VIEWS team is looking for a QRCA member who wants to take on the Tech Talk/Online Qual editor role. Please get in touch with Kay Corry Aubrey via or Joel Reish via if you are interested.
  • Please be sure to check out Mike Carlon’s podcast with Richard Owen, founder and CEO of Crowdlab, on how to integrate mobile techniques into your qualitative practice. This can be found on
  • As always, please get in touch with us if you would like to write an article or join the editorial team.

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dan snider
Dan Snider

New Member Interview: Dan Snider

Mike Courtney,

Please tell us a little bit about you.
I grew up in the great Canadian city of Toronto while it still had the “small city” feel. We used to grab our toboggans and hop on the city buses to go to the nearest “killer hill” for tobogganing in the winter (and late fall and early spring – it used to snow a lot more). Now I live in Michigan and when I visit Toronto I can’t believe how much it has changed over the years. Toronto has turned into this big metropolis with too many high-rise condos, my suburb of North York now has its own downtown and city hall!

What drew you to qualitative research? Did you stumble into the field or was it your childhood dream to moderate?
One of my main clients, for whom I was conducting a lot of quantitative projects, began to require more and more projects that included focus groups with contractors, builders, architects, and consumers. I have always been a “people” person so that intrigued me. I went to Burke Institute to train as a focus group moderator. I have been doing most of the focus group-related projects in the company ever since.

Please tell us about your company, what brought you to this company and your role within the organization?
I ran a business for 12 years buying and selling industrial machine tools in the U.S. manufacturing industry. After going back to school and getting my MBA, I moved to Ducker Worldwide — an industrial market research company, specializing in building construction materials, heavy construction equipment, industrial products, and metals and materials. I am a project manager/director conducting both quantitative (higher-volume online surveys) and qualitative (focus groups, product clinics) projects.

What’s it like in your office? What do your co-workers talk about around the water cooler? (Do you have a water cooler? Co-workers? Pets?)
We have an office of about 80 people here in Troy, MI, but we have other offices in Paris, London, Berlin, Bangalore, and Shanghai. It is a very collaborative environment where we work hard but also try to enjoy ourselves (summer BBQ lunches, Halloween party in the office, bowling parties). It seems that most people in our office own dogs that play an important part in their lives. These dogs find their way into the office every so often, but we do have a cat person! And yes, we have two water coolers and a Keurig machine.

What motivated you to join the QRCA and what do you hope to gain from your membership?
I have been getting involved in a lot more focus group and product clinic projects recently. I feel that being part of a group of professionals would be a great opportunity to brainstorm on creative ideas, as well as help others who find themselves with projects that involve groups of non-consumers (like contractors, builders, construction workers, etc.) with whom they are unfamiliar.

We locked you in a room and told you to watch YouTube videos for an hour – tell us what you would watch.
Anything science-fiction, especially related to time-travel and parallel universes. I know that most of them don’t make sense but they intrigue me.

What do your family and friends think about your career? Do you find yourself moderating the family dinner discussion? What would your family be like in a focus group?
They don’t really understand what it’s all about; I have to spend time explaining what “market research” means. My family (including three young adults on very different paths) would be the best focus group ever because there would be no “group-think” going on. Everyone has a different opinion on every subject! There’s never a quiet meal together.

What books are you reading right now? (Real printed paper book or e-books?)
I’m reading Dan Brown’s “Inferno” (in paperback). It’s my “travelling” book for when I’m travelling by plane and there’s all that downtime that I can’t check my email.

Mac or PC? iPhone or Android?
I started out with a Mac in my old business (very simple to run a small business and I had an older partner who was able to master the simplicity of a Mac much more easily), but switched to a PC with this company. I was a big fan of Blackberry (I liked the physical keyboard), but our office migrated to the iPhone and I now use speech-to-text and it works great (and I can also watch Netflix on-the-go).

The Final Question:
A client tells you they'll triple your project fee if you can beat them fair and square in a game. You get to choose the game. What game do you play and how likely are you to win?
I would challenge them to a game of Puns (just for “funs”). I think that I’m pretty good (bad?).

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Kudos Corner

Kudos to Abby Leafe for recruiting an amazing group of chapter leaders to work on the chapter success task force!

Kudos to Valerie Esqueda for joining the sponsorship committee and developing some great marketing materials to promote QRCA.

Kudos to all the chapter leaders for submitting their year-end documents in such a timely fashion, making tax preparation easy.

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