Office Hours

Office Hours is our one-of-a-kind, on-the-fly mentor program designed to connect industry thought leaders and professionals with the WIRe community. As of Q1 2020 we’ve retailored our Office Hours program to support more mentors, more dialogue, and more opportunities for remote connection and growth than ever before! Here’s how it works:

  • Read the responses at the bottom of the page. There’s a chance your question has already been answered!
  • If you don’t see a question like yours already answered, use the form below to ask our panel of industry experts your questions about career, methodology, leadership, work-life balance, and more. This is your opportunity to benefit from mentorship in a low-bandwidth, high response way.
  • Our Office Hours mentor pool will review your questions and respond accordingly. This means you might get a variety of responses from differing perspectives and backgrounds in the industry. Awesome!
  • We’ll post all answered questions here—check back for your response(s) over the next few weeks.

Looking for our archived mentor sessions from pre-2020? You can view those here.


Answers to questions from 2020 are below; scroll down! If you don’t see your question answered yet check back in a few days.

Our Mentor Pool

Baillie Buchanan
Baillie BuchananCo-Founder and COO, Research for Good
Horst Feldhaeuser
Horst FeldhaeuserGroup Services Director, Infotools
JD Deitch
JD DeitchChief Operations Officer, Cint
Laura Chaibi
Laura ChaibiDigital Research, Insights and Strategy Advisor
Marina Kosten
Marina KostenVP, Consumer Research, 20th Century Fox
Sarah Ryan
Sarah RyanDirector of Media Insights, BabyCenter
Sima Vasa
Sima VasaAdvisor, Infinity Squared Ventures, LLC
Tiama Hanson-Drury
Tiama Hanson-DruryExecutive VP, Product, Dynata

Answered Questions:

Q: Hi. I have 10 yrs varied experience in market research. I left the job market for 17 years while raising a family. Is it too late to work in Market Research?

from Mentor Baillie Buchanan: Absolutely not too late! It’s a hard truth that I would expect it may be harder to get your foot back in the door, but it is by no means impossible. Focus on highlighting things you’ve done to stay or get current on new research methodologies, technologies, advance your skills, presentation enhancement, etc. Consider whether there are opportunities to volunteer your skills for a nonprofit or school project that you can then use on your resume or job outreach to showcase your skills proactively. Address the gap up front and use what could be an objection to sell yourself instead. Did your time away give you new perspective? Empathy you can bring to research conversations? Improved listening and communication skills? 

Also, consider investing in yourself by taking an online course (for example through the UGA) and highlighting any/all ongoing learning at the top of your resume/cover letter or in direct outreach conversations. 
Make sure you’re building a network on LinkedIn as well, and actively connecting with people in the industry. Read relevant articles to the type of research or area of expertise you have/want to cultivate and provide thoughtful comments. 
If I may, I’d also point you to this offer from my company Research For Good. We’re actively trying to help current job seekers gain exposure in the industry by providing free quant data for analysis and report building and will amplify across our network. If that is of potential interest and a fit for your skillset, please reach out. 

Q: Hi there, Thank you very much for access to this panel!  I’m looking for some advice on how to shift into the MR field mid-way through my career, especially given that I’ve been holding some very senior titles the past few years (managing director, VP).  I’ve been on the agency side (integrated, digital) for over 15 years, mostly in lead strategy or digital roles.  Research has always been a part of my work, whether it’s working with a research partner or executing the research myself, however, I lack the formal education in MR and/or working under those who could teach/mentor me. I’m 100% willing to take a step back and start from the beginning.  I think my main question is – should I look for more formal education opportunities OR look for a more junior role within a company and learn within the role.  Note: I have taken some MRIA courses and I’m currently working Methods and Statistics in Social Sciences through the University of Amsterdam.

from Mentor Laura Chaibi: Hello, Thanks for your questions and welcome to steps deeper into research! It’s great to hear you are from a Digital background and seeking to move more towards Research. I’m from a similar background and aim to give you clarity around how you can frame your thinking and next move. Firstly, it’s important to highlight that research is becoming more and more a skill set in digital businesses while larger corporations maintain research functions. Many activities that would have previously been done by a research department such as user research, focus groups, customer surveys have become parts of other roles in digital businesses. Equally, statistics has been moved under ‘science and measurement teams’.This happened over the last 5 years with data access that was ‘cheaper and faster’ enabling staff to self serve. Examples include design thinking to map out consumer needs, solutions like or running polls on zappi store or via survey monkey. If you have a digital background it’s your advantage to potentially recognise these shifts and navigate them. As consumers take back their privacy, research is making a comeback to compliment incomplete data, there are doors opening :)You’ll need to decide where you want to focus your efforts and what part of the value chain interests you, this will help you determine where to invest your focus on upskilling to cross over. Look at the research buyers information guides to get a feel for all the options and read up on companies and their specialisms as well as methodologies:

Reviewing job descriptions to determine skills matching will also help. Research is multidisciplinary and it may be you already have the right mindset and skills to move into Research teams that have other team members to compliment areas you want to develop. Once you find areas of interest draw up your shortlist and the best advice I can give you is to maintain a T shaped skillset – broad business and research skills with a honed specialism that is as future-proofed as possible. Aim to go forward with your skills rather than ‘step back’. Map out the paths you would like to consider and start networking to learn if the ‘day in the life’ of these roles sounds suitable. Research is an extremely rewarding career and with your seasoned background agency side, you’ve likely been exposed to many industries and have a great wealth of acumen to add. Good luck!

from Mentor Sarah Ryan: Two additional thoughts (or rather, one thought with two branches): As data use becomes more prolific within organizations, it is incumbent upon researchers and analysts to ensure that it is being interpreted and used correctly.   While I agree with the T shaped skill set recommendation, I think every researcher going forward will need a few key skills: 1) the ability to storytell to make research and insights actionable and 2) a solid base understanding of data sources (often data collection in our case) in order to be able to gauge the reliability of data or identify potential risks and weaknesses in interpretation.  What can you do with the data/ insights at hand?  What can you NOT do with them?  When data can easily be manipulated to serve many masters, I find myself and my counterpart in analytics often playing the role of guiding that translation.  If these skills are not currently in your toolbox, I would work to acquire or strengthen them.

Q: What would you say is the best way to go from working “operationally” – getting the surveys through the field, populating the reports – to more “consultative” being able to create a story from the report when you don’t really have the time to dig into it because you are also doing the operational work?
Does anyone use a really great automation tool for populating custom research reports?

from Mentor Horst Feldhaeuser: Thanks for your question, which applies to many research and insights professionals. There is no silver bullet, but there might be a few pointers. Automating your reports becomes harder when looking at ad-hoc and custom research. Due to its nature, you will need to drill into the data first before you know what the story is. But there are still a few things that you can do. Firstly, depending on your data collection and analysis platform, you might opt for a solution that is integrated or has an API feed. That way you get data as soon as it’s available.

Secondly, you might want to look at your data half-way through the fieldwork. There might be some specific topics standing out already, which you might want to further explore once you have the full data set.

Thirdly, really understand what the objective of the research is. We often ask a lot of additional questions in our surveys, but try to get to the crux of the project first.
Lastly, use technology where possible. There are some good tools out there that help with coding or finding insights faster. Here’s a cool approach to look at an entire data set and quickly determine where the story is. You can view a short DISCOVER video here.

For trackers, look at an analysis software that automatically updates your previous reports/analyses. Even better if it can point out significant changes without you going through the whole report yourself. There are many good tools out there, one is Harmoni from Infotools. Shameless self-plug here, so happy to show you what it can do.

from Mentor Sarah Ryan: Adding on to what Horst says, I think there are great opportunities to use the creation of an analytic plan to frame up a story.   I find that crafting one of these when the survey is being written helps reporting go quicker- I know what I want to look at, I have outlined my hypotheses, I have defined all of my variables, etc.  This also helps keep the key business questions top of mind.

Q: Hi, mentor program for researchers is such a wonderful initiative. My question is about returning to workforce from a sabbatical. I moved from the US to Tokyo to support my husband’s career and will be back States-side soon. While I contracted remotely for a year, I took a sabbatical for a year after that. How should I go about job search, especially during these unprecedented times of dealing with CIVID 19 around the world? I have over 10 years experience in research from India and the US.

from Mentor Laura Chaibi: Hello! Thanks for your questions and it’s understandable that getting back into a rhythm can feel a bit daunting, with or without Covid.The first thing to say is that a sabbatical does not take away any of your foundation skills and experience unless you are in a fast-moving field of research (digital) in which case it would be wise to invest in brushing up on your skillsets to ensure you have contemporary skills. Next, refresh your network and find out how peers in your line of work have been impacted (lost jobs, business as usual or busier than ever). Get a feel for the market and how proactive you’ll need to be. Most businesses have hiring freezes right now, at best you might need to have open conversations with the aim to be first in line