How did you get there? Joy Uyanwune

So great to get the chance to chat to Joy Uyanwune who works as the Global Marketing Director at Decision Support, a full service Marketing & Social Research agency that conducts research in sub-Saharan Africa. Joy is pretty inspiring! An AMRA African Marketing Research Association Director, a past Nigerian Marketing Research Association (NIMRA) President, AND from the great Igbo tribe in Nigeria. Joy is also running for ESOMAR council. Tired of discussing the ‘potentials’ of Africa, Joy has stepped forward to encourage positive and inspiring narratives about Africa. As a researcher, Joy recognizes the power of data and insights in pushing development through businesses and governments.

Hi Joy, so lovely to get a chance to catch up with you and hear about your journey and your advice for junior researchers. Lets get stuck right into it shall we? How did you get into the industry, and take us through how you got to this point?

Was really searching for a job having had reason to relocate to Lagos; however, I was praying fervently that I did not want just a job, but a career. When I got into a researcher’s office, saw the paper questionnaires all over the place, I broke into laughter and tears at the same time. Was so excited. I felt so at home; I knew I had hit the right chord!

Working in the industry wasn’t like work at all; it was fun as it entailed a lot of travel, a lot learning, and the excitement was always in witnessing the “Aaah!” in the boardroom following fresh revelations.

A graduate of Business Administration & Marketing from University of Houston, Texas, USA, I have an over 27-year experience in Marketing and Market & Social Research from both client and agency sides. My career has been built through years of resolving marketing challenges for multinationals and small companies in various sectors. With experience in most of the fields of marketing and social research in terms of focus and methods, I currently work with  Decision Support a full service Marketing & Social Research agency that conducts research in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our research work has provided marketing direction for numerous brands and companies in several sectors.  Over the years we have provided research support to a long list of top establishments: Nigerian Breweries, MTN, Coca-Cola, several Banks, Givaudan, ExxonMobil, May & Baker, Nestle, Ford Motors, Nigerian Communications Commission, Government Ministries, etc. plus Political Parties and a good number of international organizations with interests in Africa.

I have utilized my positions as the Country Representative for ESOMAR, a global body of market research professionals, the President of the Nigerian Marketing Research Association (NiMRA) as well as being a conferred Fellow of Market Research, to build the practice of market research through trainings, presentations and mentoring of young persons and marketing practitioners to encourage the use of insights and scientific data for innovation and growth. 

Inspired by the opportunities for economic growth in the continent, my current interest in the field of market research is the erudition of relevant skill-sets by local market research practitioners in Africa. The need to raise professionals who can lead businesses and governments through strategic, data-driven decision making processes is glaring.  I join colleagues with like-minds to provide learning opportunities to market research practitioners across Africa.  The birthing of an African Marketing Research Association (AMRA) in 2017 with industry colleagues in the continent was to facilitate the sharing of contemporary knowledge with local market research providers.

Beyond the research world, I am currently hands-on in working to improve lives of the indigent in the society.  Currently a JDPC Coordinator, I contribute my time and efforts to the Justice, Development & Peace Commission, a faith-based community development group, and a registered non-profit initiative for helping to eliminate injustices against the poor especially.  I am additionally President of a women’s support group that intermittently carries out social developmental programs in my town. 

I belong to a number of think-tanks focused on brainstorming innovative ideas on various pressing issues in developing countries and highlighting the capacities from democracy and good governance, economic empowerment, education and social security to improve people’s lives. I associate with (ODI) Overseas Development Institute, UK and the Royal Institute of International Affairs [The Chatham House] one of the world’s leading organizations for debates and ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world.

I am absolutely in awe, Joy. How you have time to do all of this inspiring work, I think you and I need to have a chat, will you mentor me?

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

Absolutely love the work: every project is a new experience.

Curiosity: an inquisitive mind brings out the quality in one’s investigations.

Training and interacting with professionals in other markets, to keep up with new learnings and industry trends.

So, come on, if you’re allowed to say, what’s the most interesting, crazy, fun project you’ve ever worked on?

Gosh, I readily remember a healthcare study involving HIV sufferers. At the time, the stigmatization was so high in the society and yet we had to find them and interview them. This was a time also when understanding of the virus was relatively minimal and the spread of the virus not quite understood; everyone considered it highly contagious with no known cure. We had to come up with creative ways to interview them in confidence (without modern tech. then).

There are several; across my part of the world you just have to laugh or smile at many things and also find ways to work through encounters even if it involves going to the police to bail out (duly identifiable) fieldworkers nabbed for placing unbranded test products.

One situation that really got our team crazy was a project that was very keen on understanding the family structure and who influenced what in the decision-making for child care and product purchase. Well, it so happened that in one of the locations, the word “sister” was not at all limited to a sibling and the respondents just couldn’t seem to single out only siblings as “sisters”; besides, they were largely polygamous and lived a communal life. We had to amend our strategies immediately, across board.

Her team at work.

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?

It is important that they recognize that they are the future of the company, whether they work from home or not, they unfold the business to the world. They must also appreciate that timelines are still critical in satisfying our clients even in a lockdown.  Time use is absolutely important; in accounting for the hours, get into reading research publications, find audio or video materials from mentors and join relevant webinars that could be the effective replacement of travel time to and from office.

Don’t forget to share some new knowledge with your boss/team members.

Her team at work.

You’re running for ESOMAR Council, congratulations! What is your key message and how do you plan to make a difference?

The Council is a team for the entire community, interacting with others to activate identified pressing issues for our research and insights communities in order to make impacts on people’s lives and businesses. Being a Member of Council would mean serving our global community by interceding with authorities, advocating to remove or modify blockages or frameworks, for example, or by sharing knowledge to accommodate new or unique perspectives.

I would among other things, be supporting specific policies and actions on Education. The industry stands to gain from engaging Marketing & MR professors at Universities to get students to become aware and engaged with ESOMAR. The industry, especially in parts of Africa, would gain immensely from having graduates and certified personnel available in human resource, as not only would they perform better at whichever establishment they work, they would promote research and insights as they rise up the ladder.

Another high interest area for me would involve New Technology companies and Tech associations with my interest being to find means to have them gainfully carried along in ESOMAR programs not only globally but in the regions also.  

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?

There are way too many persons to mention. I appreciate even the simplest help that I receive in getting things done. I really would never be able to thank them all nor thank them enough.  Ultimately, I recognize that being in this career and having come this far, is a prayer answered by God.