by Jun Shi
Honestly, the Research Analyst Program gave me the career I’ve always wanted. I truly don’t think I’d be where I am today without it,
Currently working as the Director of the Consumer Insights department at Environics Research Group, Elizabeth Nowicki (2006) is one of over 600 alumni who has been successfully connected to the research industry via the Georgian College Research Analyst Program. Jun Shi, a student in the 2012-13 Fall-Winter cohort caught up with Elizabeth recently and conducted the following interview:
What was your background before coming to the Georgian Research Analyst Program? What got you interested in a career in the research field?
I’m one of those very rare people whose interest in market research began back in high school. When I was growing up I always loved advertising and watching commercials on TV. I knew I wasn’t the creative type who would be able to come up with advertising concepts or ideas, though. But in high school when I took a business course that talked about market research, this caught my attention. I realized that this is a way I could work with advertising, but wouldn’t have to be too “artsy” or creative. From there, I went to university and majored in marketing management, still knowing this was the path I wanted to take.
Why did you choose to study at Georgian?
I chose to study at Georgian for one big reason: upon graduation from university I had trouble landing a job in marketing/market research (I was looking for an “in” in either area). At that time all I could get – without some years of experience under my belt – was a temporary position as a sales support administrator, but was never satisfied with the position. I sought out some of the people working in this company’s marketing research department and asked how they got into the industry. One woman explained that she took the Georgian College Research Analyst program a few years prior, and recommended it to me. Immediately I was checking out the website, loved the fact that it included an internship (a foot in the door!), and soon made my decision to quit work, go back to school, and get back on the career path I wanted.
What were some of the most important skills that you learned in the program that helped you in your internship as well as your current job?
I feel that the most important take-away from the program, for me, was the basic understanding of research fundamentals. Understanding the research process, how to properly design a questionnaire, how to best present results, etc., enabled me to hit the ground running when I started my internship at Millward Brown. The only training I needed was on the company’s proprietary products and services (such as Millward Brown’s specific advertising pre-testing approach).
Also, my time management skills that were built up during the program are very useful. In my field of research now, when you’re working with a lot of consumer packaged goods companies, there are always multiple projects going on with tight timelines.
I suppose in a nutshell, the program gave me a sense of preparedness for what was ahead. That was very important.
What did you think about the internship process? Where did you do your internship?
As mentioned earlier, I did my internship at Millward Brown and subsequently stayed there for almost two years. I really enjoyed the internship as I was finally getting my feet wet in the type of work I wanted to do. Millward Brown has a good training program for new employees, so with my background from the program, I soon felt quite capable in doing the work. And although there’s always more to learn throughout your entire career, I was given great opportunities at Millward Brown to get exposure and experience with all aspects of the research process.
What I also liked about my internship was that there were other Georgian Research Analyst graduates at the company. These people were great to talk to when I had any questions, since I knew they were coming from the same place I did. That provided a level of comfort at the company as well.
What was the biggest challenge you had when studying this program, why?
The biggest challenge for me was trying to balance my time and to get all the work done on schedule. I found the program workload very intense and had to learn how to get through it all. It was a bit stressful for me because I wasn’t used to that type of work environment (my prior jobs and even university experience were not that busy), but I did develop the skills over the course of the program to prioritize and manage my projects. Having gone through that in the program was very worthwhile, though, because it truly is reflective of how the market research environment operates: often there’s a lot going on and you don’t always have long timelines for getting it all done.
What are you doing now? What does a typical work week look like for you?
Right now I am working at Environics Research Group in the Consumer Insights division. A lot of our work revolves around the consumer packaged goods and retail industries, conducting advertising testing, concept testing and brand health studies.
A typical work week for me includes a wide variety of things. It’s very common for me to be found on the phone with a client talking about a prospective or upcoming project, writing a questionnaire, developing a tab plan, creating a PowerPoint report (sometimes by myself and sometimes with the help of other team members), and even helping other staff find new or different ways to analyze data for their projects. Every other week or so I’m also likely to be at one of our client’s offices discussing a project or presenting the findings from a recent study. There’s always plenty to do!
What do you enjoy the most in your work?
I actually enjoy creating reports the most – especially for new clients because this sometimes means you have more room to experiment with the report. I like being able to visual data and to take on the challenge of figuring out how to simplify the insights so it’s easy for anyone at the client’s organization to understand. As researchers many of us default to using typical pie or bar charts for communicating findings, which is fine (I do it too, quite often), but I like exploring new approaches as well for showing analysis such as through infographics or data mapping. I feel this makes the insights significantly more interesting and impactful.
Would you recommend the Georgian Research Analyst program to others?
Absolutely – yes! If you’re interested in research, I think the program at Georgian is the best way to learn the fundamentals and to get a foot in the door at a research company. The program has such a great reputation in the industry – all across Canada – because of how many competent and driven graduates that have come out of it. It’s a great program to give you the foundation to succeed in this type of career.