30under30 Nominee Molly Strawn

As an inaugural Significant Insights global 30 under 30 nominee, we sat down with Molly Strawn who works at InnovateMR and is a Senior Marketing Strategist. Molly has experience in market research-specific content creation and B2B marketing.

Molly, first of all, huge congratulations on being nominated onto the shortlist of our inaugural 30 under 30! Take us through your industry journey so far? How did you arrive at this point?

Thanks James, surprised, and delighted! I started my career in insights nearly 4 years ago, and it was my first professional experience out of college. I started as a project manager for PureSpectrum which, at the time, was a 5-person startup out of Hub101, an entrepreneurship center spearheaded by my alma mater, California Lutheran University. Even though I “fell into research” as almost all do, I was still passionate about a career in marketing, so I essentially worked “two” jobs. PM by day, marketing and content creator by night. As it often goes with a startup, it was some of the most exhausting but rewarding work of my career. I gained an undying respect for the services side of our industry and earned my stripes in the sampling grind, all the while learning the brand voice of a market research company. It was a launch pad for my insights career, I made lifelong friends, and I am proud to have helped build the company’s brand during my 2 and half years with them. I moved to InnovateMR in late 2020 to do it all over again: build a brand I was proud to be a part of with awesome people. In some ways, it was easy. Our tech stack is next level, the talent that founders Matt Dusig, Gregg Lavin, and George Llorens, as well as new CEO Lisa Wilding-Brown have attracted is phenomenal, the multicultural initiatives that we champion are industry-leading, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many exciting things going on, and I’m honored every day to be part of the journey.

Lisa WB is absolutely brilliant, isn’t she? So, what’s so inspiring about our industry?

Oh, Lisa is an inspiration! It is a privilege to work with her. I had many crash courses in research when I first started: what was LOI, IR, EPC, and why the heck were there so many acronyms? Like many, including my family to this day, I had no idea what being in this industry actually meant. I learned that at its core, we answer questions. What do chicken farmers in Manhattan think of mini travel-friendly spray on deodorant? Sure, it’s that, but it’s also: what do American minorities value in a brand message? How are perceptions shaped by multinational social media and peer reviews? How is always-on consumerism changing how brands need to function? We’re the bridge between consumer wants and brand delivery; research and insights are intended to break down ivory towers, appeal to nearly every industry, inform decisions, and ensure we are all successful. We hold the power to do that!

Loving that! So, what message do you have for anyone considering a career in our industry?

As it is starting any job in a new field, there are going to be things you don’t know, and that’s OK! John Hammond’s first theme park guests were eaten by dinosaurs, Robert Frost’s first poem probably sucked, and my first project failed spectacularly, requiring refielding $5,000 worth of sample. I wanted to puke and curl into a ball, but I learned that the first person who needed to take it easy on me, was me. Embrace failure, be patient with yourself, commit to being a lifelong student who is always improving, and never make the same mistake twice. My second piece of advice is stand up for yourself, and trust your gut. If something feels wrong, speak up to someone you trust. If your manager does something that makes you feel anything less than empowered, commit to doing better when you finally manage someone. You are in this position because of your merit; don’t let anyone tell you differently or gaslight you into thinking otherwise. If you aren’t being respected or listened to, high tail it somewhere else that will welcome your ideas.

Last question, how do very junior researchers stand out?

As a junior researcher, think of yourself as a sponge; soak in everything you can get and think critically about how you apply those learnings to your own career. Ask your leaders to have a virtual coffee to talk about their role, there aren’t a lot of things people love more than talking about themselves. Also, use social media to your advantage. Hold yourself to posting something insightful, or a commentary on content, every few days. It is a fantastic equalizer and gives everyone a voice to showcase thought leadership. Make connections and get involved with WIRe, the Insights Association, ESOMAR, etc. There are so many organizations in this industry to gear you for success. Dive in, be loud, and I guarantee people will notice.