A Look Back... and Forward
Kathy Doyle, firstname.lastname@example.org
As a new member of the board and a person whom many of you may not know, I wanted to share some background. I live on the north shore in Chicago, IL, within two blocks of Lake Michigan, and have recently become an empty-nester. I was warned about how lonely it would be, and how adrift I would feel. Wrong. Perhaps something is wrong with me, but I like it! And it has given me some extra time to give back by joining the QRCA board.
I have been a member of QRCA for over 25 years. In that time, I have seen our industry change in ways that are so dramatic it's hard to believe they have occurred in my lifetime.
When I started my business in 1986, it was me and my father, a fax machine, a typewriter with carbon paper, and just the beginning of an awareness of something called the Internet. The competition was minimal – especially if you were willing to step inside a focus group room with kids! I literally outfitted facilities around the US with colorful pillows so I could sit on the floor at kids’ eye level. Radical! Clients were amazed.
The life of a qualitative researcher was a life on the road. QRCA conference speakers shared tips and tricks for surviving the travel and making the most of the opportunities that travel brought. After groups, clients would want to go out for dinner and drinks – and this was when groups routinely finished at 10pm. I recall one outing where the client insisted on going to a bar with a glass dance floor, with pacing lions below while patrons danced above their heads. It was very hard to get up the next morning and talk to seniors about laxatives...
That was also a time when you could come squealing into an airport 15 minutes before your flight, race down the hall to the gate, and hop on the plane. I know… I did it many times. It’s hard to imagine pulling that off today, even with TSA Pre-check!
Today the life of a researcher – at least at Doyle Research where we have embraced online and mobile methods – looks very different.Travel is minimal, and there are times where we never meet the client. In fact, sometimes we have to make a concerted effort to get them to even speak to us on the phone! Water cooler conversation now focuses on how to build a relationship with clients you may only ever meet virtually. And yet... mobile and online research have created unprecedented opportunity to really understand a respondent's life, day to day and over time, that simply was not possible before. At least not within the budget and time constraints of most of our clients.
The business aspects of our profession are much more challenging than they used to be. For someone who fits the profile of a qualitative researcher who really doesn’t like to write, the need for constant content marketing creates heartburn. And procurement... not my favorite business change! They don’t know what we do, and really don’t care what we do. What they care about is getting the best possible price, and enforcing the worst possible payment terms.
However, the QRCA has been a part of my life through all of the changes in our industry. I have been able to stay abreast of trends, learn best practices, make new friends who know what I do, and meet new vendors who have gone on to become valued partners. It is our challenge as a board to continue to offer our members a vital organization that is embracing change while treasuring our past; welcoming new members from across the globe; recognizing that the digital generation has very different needs and expectations than those of us from the “boomer” generation; and elevating our profession across the broader market research community. I’m glad to be a part of that mission!
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