I first met Kristin in New York after I agreed to host a research conference. Turnout wasn’t great, but thankfully Kristin, who agreed to attend last minute as the key-note, graciously owned the stage, delivered an inspiring talk, and so the day was saved, and my reputation. Serial entrepreneur in the marketing measurement tech space, founder of her consulting practice, ScaleHouse and of Women In Research (WIRe), Kristin has also served on ESOMAR Council for 6 years, the last two as Vice President and is currently running for ESOMAR President.
Evening Kristin, such a privilege to chat to you about your journey so far! Lets dive right in. So, how did you get into the industry, and take us through how you got to this point?
Like most of us, I didn’t really plan a career in market research.
I worked my way through University as a research assistant at a social science research firm (Oregon Center for Applied Science). After graduation I bought a copy of the LA Times (this was pre-internet job hunting!) and managed to land a job at LRW. From there I somehow managed to convince AC Nielsen that I could build their first online research platform (which I miraculously did) before going on to start my first company, OTX. We were fortunate to start OTX right during the dot com boom and became the fastest growing research company in the world in 2002 and 2003. After we sold that firm to Private Equity (and eventually to Ipsos), I went on to start Forefront Consulting Group, which was acquired within the first year by Decipher. My new business partners and I took Decipher from a small services company to a SaaS powerhouse and sold to FocusVision in 2014. Since then, I’ve been working as an Advisor and growth strategist, primarily in the marketing research sector. In 2019, in the spirit of lifelong learning, I took FINRA’s investment banking exams so now I’m also a banker (again, in this sector), with Oberon Securities in New York.
Love that! Lesson number one, straight off the bat, never stop learning.
And so if you had to distil everything you’ve achieved right down, what would you say are three secrets to your success so far?
- Creating my tribe. I was able to build a support network early on in my career of people who were much smarter and more experienced than me- particularly at things for which I don’t have a natural aptitude (like engineering!).
- Grit. I don’t give up easily. That has also worked against me though…so I’ve had to develop a lot of wit to know when I need to change course.
- Curiosity. I read a lot and I’ve always let my curiosity drive my business ventures. I’m definitely an advocate for lifelong learning.
So, come on, if you’re allowed to say, what’s the most interesting, crazy, fun project you’ve ever worked on?
I think interesting, crazy and fun are likely three different projects but, one of the most memorable was testing an advertisement for a tissue brand back in 2001. In the ad, the main character (a cartoon) was designed to resemble Pinocchio; but the way they’d drawn the nose looked really….phallic. Needless to say, the ad didn’t air. It was one of those rare research scenarios where, if you have to ask, you probably know what the answer is already.
That’s hilarious, how did the creatives not spot that. But thank goodness they tested it!
With work from home being the norm at the moment, and 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?
Asking questions and sharing your opinion is imperative. It can be more challenging in video calls to break into conversations, which also means it is imperative for managers to make sure everyone has an opportunity to talk.
Attend as many webinars and free educational events as you can because for the first time, location doesn’t matter!
Also, this is a great opportunity to build your global network online. Get active on social media, particularly on LinkedIn. This benefits your company and also builds your personal brand.
And thinking more long term now, what two things should junior researchers focus on as they progress in their careers?
Try a lot of different things! We don’t always know what we’re good at, or passionate about, until we try it. If you’d told me when I first started in my career that 15 years later, I’d be running a company and primarily focused on sales and marketing. Or that 25 years later I’d be running a consulting firm and working as an investment banker. I would have thought you were INSANE! A lot of people are surprised to hear that I am pretty naturally introverted and in the early stages of my career, I went from operations role to operations role. But as we get older and try new things we evolve. And as it turned out, what I truly excelled at was sales and marketing, building brands and scaling companies. I would never have had the career I have had if I had just “stayed in my lane”.
Secondly, ask for work that is interesting to you. In the early stages of my career, I volunteered regularly for work that I would not normally have been asked to take on, simply because it sounded interesting and I wanted to learn something new.
You’re running for President of ESOMAR, congratulations! What is your key message and how do you plan to make a difference?
Thank you! I have been an ESOMAR member for over 10 years and a member of Council for six so it was time to throw my hat in the ring. ESOMAR had been so critical to my success, not just in research but also in business – it is an association for which I feel an incredible amount of gratitude and passion.
There are three key pillars to my candidacy.
- Expanding on Council’s current platform of “building bridges” so that we are a truly global association that serves our members on any and every continent. I’ve been asked a few times “How will it work to have a President on the West coast of the States?” and my answer is that “It simply has to”. We are a global association. We have members all over the world and we need to serve them all, equally.
- Bringing younger researchers into ESOMAR so that, as an association, we remain relevant to the new generations that are driving the evolution of the industry. It is absolutely imperative that we’re attracting and mentoring DIVERSE young talent.
- Opening our arms to data scientists as well as second- and third-party data providers so that the importance of data quality and ethics is not lost as our industry evolves and expands. Too often we turn up our noses at behavioral or other non-primary data sources. Not only do we need to understand how to work with these data, but we also need to ensure that we’re welcoming in the firms that provide it.
My entire candidate statement/video can be accessed here.
Best of luck!
Last question, 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?
I have been really fortunate to have had incredible mentors (both formal and informal) and business partners.
Too many to list them all but certainly Joanne Robbibaro (who was more than a boss…really more of a guide in my first research role at LRW [now Material] and still is a great champion for me today), Brent Willman (now the CFO of Pac-12 Conference who taught me business finance), Eric Salama (great sounding board and asks all the tough questions!), Eileen Campbell (who is exceptional at giving me the “Come to Jesus” talk when I’m suffering from self-doubt), and my former business partners; Jamin Brazil and Jayme Plunkett…we had an incredible ride together with Decipher and some of my most treasured working years. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the women of WIRexec (our exec forum within Women In Research) and all the lady bosses that I lean on when the going gets tough- it’s a network that I created to benefit other women but has, as a byproduct, benefited ME immeasurably.
Thanks Kristin! So great to catch up and thanks for sharing your journey, insights and tips, especially for the younger researchers out there, who I know really look up to you. Best of luck for the ESOMAR campaign trail, see you out there!