New Member Interview: Michael Selz, Dallas, TX
Mike Courtney, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please tell us a little bit about you. I'm guessing you were born young. What is your earliest memory?
I had a plastic toy gun that, when you looked through the sight, you’d see a wild animal in a tree. When you pulled the trigger, the slide would change to the animal on the ground. I loved it then, but I shudder to think of it now.
Any childhood nicknames we should be aware of?
None that you should be aware of.
Who were you and what did you do before you got into marketing research?
An ad agency account guy.
What drew you to qualitative research? Did you stumble into the field or was it your childhood dream to moderate?
I was a journalism major in college because I loved—and still love—to write. With one foot (still) in the journalism world doing freelance, I got a job in a small ad agency and got my MBA in marketing. After 12 years and three agencies, I realized I was much more interested in strategy—figuring out the message—than in shepherding ads through production. And none of these places had planning groups, so when a friend started an ethnography practice, I jumped. I loved it from go.
Please tell us about it about your company, what brought you to this company, and your role within the organization?
I got the entrepreneurial bug and left my last employer last April. I am the president. I also change the toner cartridge.
Is there a story behind your company name (Hummingbird Strategy)?
I think hummingbirds are fascinating. The honeysuckle in our backyard had just burst into bloom as I started working at home, and it was immediately set upon by these tiny relentless dive bombers of the bird world. I also heard a radio segment around the same time about how tough hummingbirds are, punching way above their weight. They dive in, drink deeply, and move on to do it again. Just like a good strategist/moderator.
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?)
My dog is very happy to have someone nearby as she sleeps away the day. I just have to be careful not to roll over her with my chair.
Tell us about your typical day.
I start at the gym, because no matter what else the day holds, that is a good thing. Then I tackle the hardest stuff, because I am smartest in the morning, when the caffeine is still dancing in my brain.
Do you remember your first few moderating sessions? If we were able to watch a video of that first session what would we see?
You’d see someone barely able to keep a group of crazed Chicago twenty-somethings on task as they were pre-gaming for a night out. I learned a lot about pacing a group.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve encountered thus far as a qualitative researcher? How have you managed (or overcome) this challenge?
I’m big on empathy. So, when I’m in a group, I’m listening hard to get to know them as well as I can. It’s only afterwards that I see the connections that provide the best opportunities for a brand.
Imagine the government has given you access to the NSA database of consumer information to help you recruit the perfect respondents for an upcoming study—how would you use that information?
I wouldn’t. I don’t need to conduct a sneak attack to get to the deep truths.
Imagine someone has created a clone of you, and the only thing left is to program the clone to act like you act. What are the most important habits and attributes your clone needs to master? What is the one thing that would tip off friends that it’s not really you?
My friends say that I am endlessly curious and collect an absurd amount of (useless?) information about everything—musical, cultural, political, anthropological. So the clone better have gotten a liberal arts education.
What motivated you to join the QRCA and what do you hope to gain from your membership?
Networking and partnering. I learn from the people around me.
What advice would you give others in the research industry who might be thinking about joining QRCA?
Can’t say yet. But my first meeting was a blast.
Many industries, including qualitative research, have experienced significant changes over these last few years. What do you imagine qualitative research and/or QRCA will look like in the year 2020? Any predictions?
More use of science to augment what we learn face-to-face.
For you, the ice bucket challenge was… a brilliant piece of viral marketing that all my non-profit friends should learn from, instead of just resenting.
We locked you in a room and told you to watch YouTube videos for an hour—tell us what you would do.
I’d watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, RSA Animate lectures, PBS Idea Channel, and indie rock videos.
We are both in your favorite city with a day in-between groups. What do we do? Where do we stay? Eat?
I am very food-involved, so I would already have a list—not necessarily the most expensive, but the most interesting. Also, a walking tour, even in Chicago when it’s 0 degrees.
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?
My kids like that they understand what I do. And they know the brands I work on. And no, I do not moderate at dinner. Do you think I’m crazy?
A new phone app coming out helps you double your brainpower for 7 hours each week—what do you use your super brain time for?
Its 6 a.m. on a Saturday, what are you doing?
Its 6 p.m. on a Saturday, what are you doing?
Cooking or planning to go out.
What books are you reading right now? (Real printed paper book or e-books?)
Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Paper.
Your approach to technology would best be described as… an enthusiast and early adopter.
Hypnotism and brain reprogramming are becoming useful tools, what bad habit or subconscious trait would you most like to change?
A preference for morsels over mouthfuls.
You have just been invited on an all-expense paid trip to speak at a (non-research) conference, who is in the audience and what do you talk about?
How listening to out-there music has changed my life.
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?
Trivia. I’d win. Or be really disappointed in myself.
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