30Under30 Nominee: Bisma Zafar

Great to hear from Bisma Zafar who is a Senior Project Manager at Fieldwork constantly finding new ways to tackle challenging recruits and thinking outside the box to help her clients achieve their research goals.

I got in to the industry on accident. My senior year of high school, my best friend had gotten a job as a recruiter and that is how I heard about Fieldwork. I was looking for a part time job and my friend encourage me to come work with them. At the time, I wasn’t sure what market research or a even a focus group was.  At the interview the HR representative described to me all the ways I saw the effects of market research in my daily life. She explained that there had been research conducted that influenced which order the cereal boxes were in on the shelves at the grocery store, the ads I saw on TV, to the layout of the stores I shopped at. I enjoyed being a recruiter, and being a part of this process fascinated me.

I continued to work at Fieldwork part time and continued going to school but none of the majors I selected in college felt like they fit quite right. I switched from education to accounting to pre-law. My junior year of college, I asked my boss if she would be open to hiring me as a project management intern, and she said yes. I loved doing project managing and decided to continue on this path. In the past few years, I’ve taken on taking hiring new project managers and training them as well. Last year in July 2022, I became a Senior Project Manager and this is the role I am currently in!

I came into the industry when I was 17 years old, not knowing what market research was. I am so proud of the skills I’ve gained along the way and I love being able to confidently speak to what we do as a company and industry in detail. Every time I have a call with a new client who has never worked with Fieldwork before and I’m able to describe to them all of the services we provide, the ways we recruit, and what sets us apart from other market research company. Every time I walk away from a client call with a new client, I feel so proud of how far I’ve come. I’m also really proud of being able to train new project managers. I am still so grateful for all of the people that spent years sharing insight and lessons from the projects they worked on and how they navigated those and provided me with guidance. Being able to give back, and training project managers coming into the field is a very gratifying experience.

The first thing I would urge all junior researchers to do is to strive to understand how your role interacts with the rest of the market research industry, no matter what sector you work in, whether you’re on the client side or vendor side.  I do this in my day to day when kicking off new projects. Often, when doing briefing calls with clients I find that when discussing the reason the research is being conducted and why the client selected those questions, though they don’t change the way I do my role in the day to day sense, they do enrich my understanding of my role in the market research project and understand how I can be a better recruiting partner and offer more educated, tailored suggestions to my clients. Attending industry events is another great way to learn where more about the market research sector. Through attending WIRe, Insights Association, Quirks and UXPA conferences, I’ve made so many connections with so many wonderful people that I continue to learn from.

The second thing I would encourage all junior researchers to do is to create relationships with people who have been in the industry a while and to identify a someone, or a few people, that you look up to. This allows you to not focus on your day to day and stayed focused on your long term goals and find a career trajectory that you can strive towards. If the people you identify are able and willing to mentor you, I would encourage you to take this opportunity. There is no better way to achieve your goals than by finding someone else who has achieved them already, and can offer you guidance along the way.

Everyone has a bit of imposter syndrome, all the way from CEOs to recruiters (I promise). Don’t let that feeling stop you from taking a seat at the table and feeling like you belong there.

If you’re afraid of going into the industry because you don’t know anything about it, don’t be. You will meet so many people who’ll be happy you’re here and will go out of their way to mentor you.

I would advise everyone in our sector to stay adaptable. Things are always changing and being open to new ways of doing things helps everyone grow.

This is always a hard question to answer because there are countless colleagues that I am so grateful for. However, there are 3 people that stick out who have provided me with invaluable mentorship, insight, and inspiration.

The first is the president of my office, Karyn Picchiotti. I’m grateful for her taking a chance on me despite my lack of experience. There were many times I asked her to create a new position, or presented ideas for new procedures, and each time Karyn always embraced my ideas with open arms and supported me. Karyn taught me, and continues to remind me, that my ideas are valuable and worthwhile. As I’ve taken on new responsibilities, Karyn has taken the time to mentor me in each of those, and I continue to constantly learn from her.  

The second is Mary Pedersen. Mary trained me as a project manager and taught me almost everything I know about the corporate world, and business communication. To this day, I strive to emulate Mary’s patience, kindness, and character in everything I do. Thank you Mary.  

The last person I would be remiss not to acknowledge is a friend and colleague. I’d like to thank Tommy Podgorny for always taking the time to be a sounding board for my constant questions, reviewing complicated skip patterns for the 3rd time to make sure my screener is good to go, helping me create game plans for projects that need a boost, and most importantly for being a cheerleader for me on the days I wasn’t able to be one for myself.