It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks...

Six months ago, I made a scary yet much-needed decision to jump ship. Off ‘The Good Ship, PR’ (the sector that has kept me afloat for many years), and climb on-board the unknown vessel of market research.  

With a wealth of experience in PR, journalism and events, working for worldwide hospitality brands, I believed I must have some transferable skills, so I decided to dip my toe in the water and accepted a position as International Project Manager at Beam Fieldwork. 

Here is what I learnt about myself, and the traits needed to be successful in market research… 

Once a night owl, always a night owl...

As my mother would agree, I’ve always been a ‘party animal’…I was (somewhat proudly) the only student to get kicked out of uni halls for having too many parties. I remember my mother’s exasperated voice “You’ll never get anywhere partying like this and staying out late!” My ballsy response, “I’ll work in events.” And that is exactly what I did. 

Fast-forward twenty years, and the list of late-night clubbing brands I’ve worked for would make every student weak at the knees (knees that already unstable from a Tequila derived hangover). From interviewing world-famous DJs at Warehouse Project, to launching flagship bars for the Revolution brand, say the name, and I’ve probably had something to do with the party!  

Now, what has this got to do with market research? Well, I did start here in the international team. As you may have picked up, I’m not exactly a 9pm-5pm type of person, more of a 9am to whenever. Or whatever is needed to get a job done. 

This put me in a perfect position to deal with international clients who are only just grabbing coffee, as we Brits are having a nightcap. It turns out that orchestrating global research projects in five different time zones is much easier when you’re used to working all hours throughout your career. 

An eye for detail, unlimited patience when dealing with people, and a calm nature also required in tonnes. All are just as welcome in the fast-paced market research sector, as they are when party planning for clubbing brands. 

MS Excel is both my friend and my foe…

An eye for detail, unlimited patience when dealing with people, and a calm nature also required in tonnes. All are just as welcome in the fast-paced market research sector, as they are when party planning for clubbing brands. 

I didn’t get on well with Excel when I started as a Project Manager. In PR, it was only ever used to create VIP guestlists. No fancy formulas or complicated calculations, and so it was daunting to say the least, moving into a job where Excel is open 99% of the time.  

I’ve certainly had panic moments. Master spreadsheets have been deleted (me), or someone has used a wrong formula messing up data for over 1000 people (the client). I’ve spent countless infuriating hours figuring out how to perform the simplest of tasks in Excel, but it’s exceptionally satisfying when you and Google get to grips with it. 

Now, I’m almost at one with the dark arts of Excel, I’ve noticed more handy transferable traits such as a definite eye for detail and pride in presentation. Even an Excel sheet can look pretty, and it best do if it’s going to pass the OCD eye of MD, Amy Middleton. 

Event orchestration issues are universal…

Whether organising a festival for 10,000 people in the UK or a research focus group for just 10 in the US, I’ve discovered that the same event orchestration principles apply. Efficiency, ability to deal with situations calmly, and the power to think on your feet are traits that are needed wherever you are based. Unfortunately, the same issues also arise whether in an EST or GMT time zone, and all require a level head to deal with efficiently. 

Problem one: Assets you need will always arrive way too early or too late, whether it’s mops for a product research test or invites for a VIP party. 

Problem two:  People will never arrive on time, whatever industry you are in, whether it’s event staff taking part in training or recruits that must log onto Zoom. 

Problem three: Catastrophes happen! No matter how many plan A, B, C and D’s you have. Unprecedented events such as a Monarch’s funeral will take place last minute, throwing the best-laid event plans into turmoil. 

How to deal with all the above? All you can do is be agile, flexible, and not panic. I’ve found that with a touch of ingenuity, some logical thinking (and a black book of valuable contacts) the show will always go on. 

You’re never too old

A career change at the age of 39 was not what I ever thought would be on the cards, but as they say it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.  

As an ex-journalist, it’s in my nature to be inquisitive and ask questions, which makes me a damn good screener according to client feedback.  

To further satisfy my thirst for knowledge, I’m about to take part in a training day specifically for applying market research to the Metaverse. If you don’t know what that is, then come and work with us and I’ll fill you in.  

The Metaverse certainly wasn’t around when I was knee high to a grasshopper. I was born in the good old days of RAM and floppy disks, but as they say if you don’t change with the times, you get left behind (actually that might be just me….) 

Anyway, after always being at the end of the product creation pipeline, throwing lavish parties to celebrate (and promote) the end of the product creation journey, it is refreshing to now be at the beginning, helping shape the direction and future of the worlds’ most innovative, next-gen products. 

I love being able to bring interesting ideas to the table, identifying fresh ways to target clients, promote the business and take the brand to the next level through the creation of a cohesive PR and communications strategy but that is a whole other blog…

Rachel Perera – Growth Manager

Searching for a new career? Don’t know where to start? Drop your CV and covering email to to make a start…


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