30under30 Nominee Marlena Mattei

We interviewed Significant Insights Global 30 Under 30 Nominee Marlena Mattei who is a Senior Manager at Real Chemistry, where she works as a hybrid researcher using a variety of methodologies to create holistic insights that drive patient impact across the healthcare ecosystem. She is a recognized leader in the space and has been awarded the QRCA Young Professionals Grant and a Full Scholarship from RIVA. She has also been selected to lead presentations and seminars for the QRCA, Insights Association, and the Haverford College Incubator program.

Take us through your industry journey so far? How did you arrive at this point?

I’ve always loved understanding why people do what they do.

As a child, this led me to read a lot.

As a college student, this led me to study cultural and linguistic anthropology and to conduct academic research on our behaviors, motivations, thoughts, and feelings. I was lucky to be able to work on research both independently and alongside professors. During this time, I developed a real passion for social science research, and I knew it was at the core of what I wanted to do.

As a professional, this led me to a career in insights and research. My first job was at a boutique firm that did primary qualitative market research. There, I learned the tricks of the trade, applying my academic understanding of research to business and learning the ins and outs of marketing.

After a few years of living and breathing primary qualitative research, I wanted to expand my skillset into other types of data and methodologies, so I joined Real Chemistry, where I now work as a hybrid researcher using all different types of data – including primary, social media, search, and beyond – to develop holistic perspectives and insights.

Even outside of the 9-to-5, I am passionate about giving back to our industry’s collective body of knowledge. I mentor aspiring insights professionals, develop and share research best practices, sit on advisory boards, and lead insight-generation seminars at startup incubators. 

So, what’s so inspiring about our industry?

This is a hard one, because there is a lot I love and respect about this industry, and in many ways, the core principles of research and insights reflect my own values – open-mindedness, curiosity, and embracing different perspectives, with not just a willingness but an eagerness to learn and improve.

As an industry, we challenge previously held beliefs, discover where we might be wrong or misinformed, and help build improvements using that information.

I also find it really inspiring how the types of people in our industry are such a fascinating mix of these almost philosophical truth seekers looking to understand and improve the world and their part it in, while also being these pragmatic problem-solvers bringing their work back down to earth and going a step further to understand how findings can translate into their areas practically and drive solutions to unmet needs. 

What message do you have for anyone considering a career in our industry?

For this, let me start with some seemingly basic career advice, and then I’ll build off of that. The basic part, which you have probably heard, is to find mentors who you connect with both individually and professionally. Building on this, I strongly recommend that you work on fostering meaningful and real relationships with them so that they become not just your mentors but also your advocates, who will speak on your behalf when you aren’t in the room, who will champion your work, and who will drive your specific goals and interests forward. There is no way I could have gotten to where I am without several advocates along each step of my journey.

Look for these kinds of people at your current organization, companies you’d like to work for, and fellow alumni from your universities. Industry organizations like Significant Insights, QRCA, Insights Association (and so many more!) are also fantastic resources for this. Not only will you meet people with interests that are aligned with your own, but these organizations also offer professional development, skills training, thought leadership opportunities, and a look at how others in your industry are solving similar challenges that you may be experiencing.

How do very junior researchers stand out?

Don’t be afraid to form your own point of view and express it! I’ve often noticed that researchers and analysts, especially newer ones, keep their findings limited to just a basic retelling of what the data said but not necessarily what it means. It is comforting and less of a risk to stick to the cold hard facts, especially in a field that’s all about being data-driven and informed!

One of the most valuable contributions that insights professionals can offer, though, is their interpretations of their findings – what do they mean, what are the implications, what should be done next? Often, these are the questions that our research stakeholders are looking to answer. We live in a world that is inundated with data, and we can move this feeling of overwhelm into one of clarity and motivation.

Practically speaking, my tips for doing this are to lean into insight storytelling in your reporting and to call out potential implications in a way that still offers a compelling point of view, while making it clear that this is a subjective interpretation.