How did you get there? Arundati Dandapani

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Great to hear from Arundati Dandapani, who is an inspiring leader and founder of, a social enterprise media platform and community that places North America’s newcomers at the forefront of data and insights innovation globally. She is also a well-respected Professor of data, analytics and insights at Humber College, the Vice Chair of the Program Advisory Board at Algonquin College’s Marketing Research and Analysis program and leads on the Certification Advisory Board of the IAPP, the world’s largest community and resource for information privacy professionals, sits on the ad-hoc strategic planning committee of AAPOR, and has earned significant honours in the global and North American industry including various publications and conference features. She is also an Insight250 Judge and a Judge of the Canadian Marketing Association’s Annual Gala Awards and an author of two published books with more upcoming.

So, how did you get into the industry, and take us through how you got to this point?

I fell into the industry both accidentally and deliberately, beginning my career as a data journalist, business consultant and writer / editor in global affairs, news broadcasting, scuba diving packages and PADI/CMAS certifications, real estate advertising, book retail and publishing. I wanted to use data and insights to save the world of book publishing initially as a former textbook publisher and editor at the world’s largest publishing house working with leading international authors and their works like the late Kotler, Armstrong, Bade and Parkin, Dessler, Robbins, Arcemogulu, etc. to create non-North American textbook adaptations on an accelerated supply-chain. On my path, I discovered so many underutilized possibilities and applications of data leadership to drive business growth and social impact. My moving to Canada was thus an interesting leap as it brought me full circle to all I had been born to do – create and produce stories that activate and elevate research impact. From doing business with leading research suppliers and clients with my unique offerings both in-house and as a consultant and entrepreneur, to founding my own insights social enterprise media, career connections and resource-led platform that integrates Canada’s and North America’s newcomers better, to being critical to the launch of the industry’s national research associations as their founding CIO and founding COO, and teaching research at top post-secondary institutions – currently at Humber College’s postgraduate and undergraduate courses across data, analytics, insights and business information systems as a Professor – I’ve managed to see and do a lot professionally and for my communities. My interest in technology and complementing passion for information privacy awareness and education has seen me further my leadership and board governance skills at the International Association of Privacy Professionals in the highly competitive worlds of AI, data ethics and ISO and ANSI accredited certifications.

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Why should anyone consider a career in market research, data and insights?

For a soon-to-be globally strong US$130 billion industry (ESOMAR data) there are opportunities for every type of data professional, whether in traditional research or adjacent and reliant functions or sectors as well as in the exciting worlds of information management and privacy. Insightful data professionals who are creative and analytical and want to lead with impact across public or private sectors, can forge opportunities that haven’t existed before thanks to the significant power and currency of our technology-enabled profession. We are a profession that rewards and is led by human curiosity, passion and collaborative skill sets at the leading edge of business, culture, and industry. For all these reasons and more, it is important to choose a career with vibrant communities and professional development resources you can leverage, contribute to and shine within and beyond as you build your own legacy on this planet!

Career paths are rarely without challenges. Can you share an honest moment from your career when things didn’t go quite according to plan, but the lessons remain with you to this day?

Every opportunity in my life has been born out of a challenge (or set of challenges) or obstacle (or set of obstacles). Recognizing and understanding that has kept me inspired, persistent and resilient in adversity. You grow up hearing cliched proverbs like “necessity is the mother of invention” or “work is worship” and they turn out to be the exact truth in how life plays out. As a South Asian woman from India, I saw first-hand the challenges faced by women at work and in society, and the dangers that came with being in a certain place, time or moment in history and geography, despite achievements, triggering my own move to what is widely perceived as a more stable society with a higher quality of life. In moving to North America and seeing however, the underutilized talent pool for example of globally educated immigrant professionals in specifically Canada, I was forced to examine the barriers faced by first generation immigrants of colour who went about building their own destinies alone, and often pulled down by roadblocks of systemic discrimination, shocking poverty levels, inequities and abuses of human rights. All this and more gave me really the impetus, reason-for-being and the purpose that is really built on, to showcase narratives of an overlooked, less understood and yet significant part of the Canadian and North American landscape, and create this powerful resource, I am often told, for data leaders globally.

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What two things should junior researchers focus on as they progress in their careers?

When you progress through your career, you want to keep looking for people who will cheer and support you unconditionally, while also providing the candid feedback and honest inputs you need to advance and grow. Authenticity starts with building authentic connections by showcasing your genuine desire to understand others’ needs to help them with your skills, wisdom and expertise – and this can be a big challenge when you are low in the food chain, but often yields the highest rewards. Everyone has something unique to offer and fully understanding your value is the first step before offering that to others. With constant practice, and as you keep honing your unique skills and strengths (or selling points), you’ll find it a lot easier to own your position and place in the industry.

Do you have any advice for our sector?

  1. We need to encourage more debate and questioning across organizations to actually build cultures people are proud of than those that are exclusionary of diverse education, experiences, skills and talents. This translates to developing stronger learning and development programs across organizations that are vetted and audited.
  2. We can’t be trapped in silos, literal or figurative. We need to learn from each other and especially those from different cultures and in other markets. If we are curious about technology, why can’t we be as curious, careful or concerned about people? What do others do differently that helps them succeed? What can we do better? This is only possible when we collaborate more with different individuals and teams across functions, organizations and markets to drive our positionality and customer-understanding better (internal and external).
  3. Think harder about our sector’s overall sustainability impact across businesses, clients and stakeholders and into the next decades. Build stronger succession plans with ESG frameworks baked in early in the process.
  4. We need more public-private partnerships led by civil society and social economy entities. As an instructor, I’m constantly encouraging my students, several of whom are professionals too, to think outside the box to devise new ways to elevate and improve the condition of our industry’s participants across the ladder and landscape to achieve greater collective impact as a sector. This could take the form of facilitating more scholarships, awards, contests, grant opportunities, and partnering with causes and initiatives that take us to where we want to be as an industry of the future with a collective conscience. I for example, am super passionate about the work we do at including our North American Virtual Insights Career Fairs that have proven a superhit.

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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?

ESOMAR and Crispin Beale have been extremely strong positive influences in my career, right from when I was a finalist at one of the YES awards to my participating in, chairing and leading some of their sponsored events and conferences, collaborating on publications, joining the founding global jury of our industry’s highest awards and formulating more lasting bonds with diverse leaders. They are a perfect example of how good influence transcends miles and geographies. I very much appreciate all my colleagues across academia as well who can be overlooked sometimes for all the phenomenal work they do in influencing career professionals helping them grow their expertise, influence, impact and net worth. I value very much the public opinion research communities as well for providing me with the tools, techniques and methods to induce more rigour and care into my investigations and data stories, and AAPOR and WAPOR have always been strong platforms that have generously enabled my regular participation in their conferences and publications, and especially through a depressing pandemic! My friends and colleagues at GreenBook were also a very supportive influence in the earlier stages of my moving to North America when we collaborated on several publications, and later on Quirk’s, MREF and MRII remained special influences too.