Going places! Lily Spencer

Great to catch up with Lily Spencer, who is a data analytics manager at Tapestry Research and the winner of the MRG’s Rising Star Award.

Lovely to meet you, Lily, lets get right onto it then shall we? So how did you get into the industry, and take us through how you got to this point?

Before I applied to university I was looking at quite a variety of different courses as I never had one particular “passion” (my A-levels ranged from further maths to product design!). After some hard deliberation I decided to study statistics, but had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after that. Everyone on my course had already decided that they wanted to go into finance and all I knew was that I very definitely didn’t want to take that route! I started looking into other industries where I could apply my degree and stumbled across market research. I’ve always been interested in human behaviour (and arguably a bit nosy!) so it seemed like a perfect fit, and I’ve not looked back since.

And if you had to distil everything you’ve achieved right down, what would you say are three secrets to your success so far?

I feel like being open and honest is really key in all industries, but particularly in this one. When I first started I felt like I shouldn’t be asking constant questions, but as anyone who works with me will confirm I’m now the person who asks the most questions before starting a task to make sure that I know exactly what is needed, which I like to think results in my work being of a higher quality!

For me it was really important to find a company where I felt valued and like I belong. One of the main reasons I didn’t want to go into finance is that a work/life balance is really important to me. At Tapestry I manage to get both as well as genuinely really liking all the people I work with – something that I know from friends isn’t always the case!

As cliché as it sounds, the third is probably just giving it your all whenever you can. I’m always happy to learn how to do a new task even if it’s technically not within my “role”. This means I’ve had lots of experience with all kinds of tasks so although I don’t do them all on a regular basis, I can tailor my work to ensure that it fits with what the research team might need!

Not being in the office and around colleagues, it is incredibly challenging, for younger researchers to stand out. What two bits of advice do you have for a junior researcher, working from home in lockdown, on how they can best stand out and impress their teams?

As a company we’ve been pretty good at organising virtual socials which has really helped give junior researchers who have joined remotely a sense of who we are as a company. These have included a virtual cook-a-long with a Masterchef contestant, a “brush and bubbles” painting night and wine tasting to name a few! These socials can be suggested and organised by any members of the team, including new joiners, so it’s a real chance to show off what you’re into outside of work! We also have a “juniors” group where the newer team members meet monthly to chat and problem solve. This really helps newer team members to feel included with their peers in an informal environment, although as a company we are pretty transparent and everyone of all levels interacts on a daily basis!

And thinking more long term now, what two things should junior researchers focus on as they progress in their careers?

Focus on learning as much as you can from as many different people as possible! Whether this is asking questions within your company, attending industry events or keeping on top of anything new that is going on within the market research world, it’s all valuable and you never know what’ll come in handy later on!

One of the key things I’ve found is that having the confidence to voice your opinions is always helpful. It shows that you are invested in your work and want the best results and making mistakes is the best way to learn sometimes! This can start just internally and once you’ve built a foundation can be extended to when you’re speaking to clients.

How do we make our sector more inclusive?

Acknowledging that we all live in a “market research bubble” is the first step in realising where we need to improve in term of inclusivity. There are lots of great industry events that I’ve found really helpful in terms of acknowledging what we need to do and thinking about steps we could take to get there. There is a long way to go, but as a company we’re very open and welcome suggestions from anyone, recently we’ve discussed having our pronouns in our auto signatures in an attempt to be more inclusive. Another thing I feel could help is getting out and talking to young people about the industry and encouraging them to apply for internships etc. so that you end up with a more varied range of people!

And do you have anyone who has helped your career so far that you’d like to acknowledge and say thanks or give a shout out to?

To be honest I’d have to say everyone at Tapestry, especially our joint MDs Ian Wright and Kevin Thompson. They have always had a lot of trust and confidence in me, which has helped massively with my confidence seeing as I’ve always felt a bit like I “fell” into the market research industry, but thanks to them am now very firmly on my feet!

Tapestry is a lovely place to work and has a great atmosphere, something that has made all the difference since we’ve been working at home. I’m very much looking forward to when we can have a proper “real life” night out and catch up. I’m very aware I sound like an advert for working there, and I can promise that I’ve not been bribed to say this!