I was a first-time attendee at the 2017 QRCA Conference in Los Angeles. Although I have been an independent QRC for 20 years, it wasn’t until the QRCA bylaws changed last year that I was finally (finally!) able to join the organization. I joined QRCA the day the expanded membership guidelines were announced and signed up for the conference soon after. The fact that it was taking place practically next door to me (I live in Pasadena) was just gravy.
Although it was my first QRCA conference, I was pretty certain what to expect: There would be interesting speakers and presentations, I would meet other QRCs, I would learn new things, and, of course, there would be dine-arounds. (Even though I had spent the preceding years being QRCA-adjacent, I knew about dine-arounds!)
I certainly wasn't wrong, but I definitely underestimated the magnitude. I expected “good,” even “great,” but the conference was AMAZING.
I attended presentations that filled my brain with tons of fantastic information, given by QRCs whose names I recognized as rock stars in qualitative research.
I learned new techniques and approaches and ideas. We were encouraged to approach and think about qualitative research in novel and surprising ways, and it all made me more excited about a field that I am already pretty darned excited about.
Perhaps the best part for me was connecting faces with familiar names as I finally met the colleagues “IRL” with whom I have worked with for years via phone and email. I also met many more QRCs that I only knew by name and reputation. In many cases, all I had to say was, “Wait, you’re So-and So?” and a fun and energetic conversation would take off from there.
And yes, I “dined around” and that was fabulous too – another opportunity to connect with colleagues and talk about anything and everything. Not just qualitative research or business or client issues or “work stuff,” but everything else under the sun. Dogs, favorite travel destinations, restaurant recommendations, you name it.
I came home every night too excited to sleep and couldn’t wait to get back the next morning. At the end of the conference, I had collected a stack of business cards from all the people I met, and had heard so much to inspire me and make me a better QRC. But the best part by far was the feeling throughout the entire three days that I had found “my people.” Working independently can be isolating and leave QRCs feeling like we are on our own with no backup or support, even just to commiserate about difficult projects or clients or respondents. For me, the conference was three solid days surrounded by nothing but support, collaboration, commiseration, and conversation with smart, friendly, interesting people who “get” what I do. I went expecting to meet colleagues but left with a lot of new friends as well. Needless to say, I am already booked for Phoenix in January 2018 and I can’t wait!