Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Step Back to Move Forward: Developing Customer Journey Maps
I came to the 2019 QRCA Annual Conference with diverse experiences, an interest in qualitative research, a love of people, and a lack of direction. I’m not going to say that attending the 3-day conference at the end of January magically fixed all my professional woes, but I will say that it gave me the resources, a community, and a direction that I had been looking for.
Before attending, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had undergone a career pivot a year before and had been feeling my way through the research world largely on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I had been networking my booty off, attending workshops, getting certifications and generally making a name for myselfbut it turns out I had siloed myself into one small niche of the research world without realizing it. Luckily, during this time, I met Janet Standen, an amazing qually and big advocate for QRCA who encouraged me look into the upcoming conference. Boy, am I glad I did! Participating in the QRCA Annual Conference opened my eyes to the abundance of opportunities in the qualitative research world. I was able to find more in terms of a network, career directional opportunities, and resources in three days than I had found in a year of searching on my own.
Using the Young Professionals Roundtable to learn from each other's experiences and strategize solutions. Photo by Annette Esquibel
Another “a-ha” moment in the works courtesy of genuine and ample networking opportunities. Photo courtesy of Babbletype
The conference was chockfull of diverse learning opportunities:
- Conference Sessions: There were a variety of conference sessions focused on five themes: honing methodologies, expanding thinking, refreshing convention, building business, and tackling technology. There were sessions that could be of value whether you were a novice or expert, and with videos and materials from each session available after the conference, you didn’t have to worry about missing out on something incredible.
- Roundtables: Presentations not your thing? There were also multiple small group and roundtable sessions to participate in. The Young Professionals Roundtable, called The Young Professional Exchange: Career and Life Hacks to Super Charge Your Growth, may have been my favorite learning opportunity. Recognizing that my peers face similar concerns and issues in our professional pursuits was reassuring and I gleaned actions from the solution-focused discussion that I am still applying in my day-to-day.
- Case Studies: Tired of only hearing about things in theory? Then the case studies presented by the Qually Awards finalists were for you! With a real-world challenge set, these researchers presented pitches of creative, thorough, and diverse methodologies.
- Exposure to Tools & Vendors: The marketplace was always an interesting place to spend a break. Seeing all the tools and vendors that are available to us as researchers on exhibit was very helpful in figuring out the most effective way to work.
- Structured & Informal Networking: Last but certainly not least: the people! As a Young Professionals Grant winner, we were given multiple scheduled events to get to know each other. And what a great group of professionals to be a part of. I also learned a ton just through conversations with other attendees. Coffee breaks, meals, evenings out, and even chats in the lobby led to a-ha moments and genuine connections that are invaluable. QRCA is made up of qualitative researchers of all walks including independent consultants, researchers at agencies and in-house researchers so there was never a lack of interesting people to get to know! Speaking of interesting people - let’s talk about the First Timers program for new conference attendees. Ambassadors are available for all first-time attendees and help make your time at the conference more productive and less stressful. I was lucky enough to be paired with Kate Wagenlander Watson, a QRCA rockstar and overall amazing human being. Before the conference, I connected with Kate and we created a game plan to make sure I was able to get the most out of my time in Savannah.
The beauty is that I know attending the conference is just the tip of the iceberg. Since the Young Professionals Grant includes a year membership to the QRCA, I have access to all the online archives of past discussions, blogs, and articles as well as current posts, newsletters and webinars. The online community is a welcome and welcoming resource that I am so excited to put to use. I am joining my local chapter as well as Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to continue building my community and engage in learning that I am especially interested in. Plus, I can continue to grow my toolkit and support this great organization through the ample leadership and volunteer opportunities available. Really, the only thing limiting how much I can be involved is myself.
An amazing breakfast for the Young Professionals Grant winners served as a warm introduction for the group. Photo courtesy of Shannon Danzy
In case it isn’t clear yet, the people are what make QRCA and its annual conference so great. I was absolutely floored by the genuinely collaborative and supportive attitude of the members I met. One phrase I heard that perfectly describes their attitude is “There’s plenty of room in the sandbox.” While many of my past conference experiences have been tinged by an undercurrent of competitiveness and transactionality,that was not at all the feel of this gathering. I am confident in saying that because of the YP grant, I am now a member of a community. I have found kindred spirits that are more than willing to act as mentors and friends in years to come. I am confident that this network will be integral in finding my niche in the wild world of qualitative research.
Comradery was abundant from the get-go with both first-time attendees and long-standing members. Photo courtesy of Babbletype
So, thank you QRCA for welcoming me into your fold and for providing the generous Young Professionals Grant that made it possible for me to attend. I’m so excited to continue my qualitative research journey as part of this amazing community. If you are questioning the value of joining QRCA, are starting out in the research world, or would like to hear more about the annual conference and funding opportunities, please reach out! See you all in Austin in 2020!
Anthropologist turned research strategist, Annette’s global experience is based in people-centered research aiming to do the most good possible. Currently located in Minnesota, she is now an active member of QRCA and invites you to connect.
LinkedIn: Annette Esquibel