I consider myself extremely fortunate having been selected by IE, and ESOMAR, a worldwide association for market researchers, to attend the Qualitative 2013 conference in the beautiful city of Valencia, Spain. The two-day event centered upon the theme of “Brilliant Transformations,” and brought a number of the brightest minds across the industry together, in a forum to share innovative projects and ideas. I participateESOMAR IE Studentsd in the conference as a Networking Facilitator through ESOMAR’s Future Talent Meets the Industry initiative, which aims to educate and expose future market researchers to the current talent.

Before the conference started, a fellow MRCB’er, chosen by ESOMAR, and I traveled to Valencia a couple days early to explore the city. This was one of the best decisions I made that week! Our hotel stood right on the foot of the breathtaking Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, a linear architectural complex based in a former riverbed. This series of modern structures provides a fascinating contrast to the much more historic city center. After exploring both of these areas (during the day and night), we ventured to La Malvarrosa Beach, and enjoyed some Valencian beer, made surprisingly enough, with seawater. Although it sounds strange, it was delicious, and offered the perfect compliment to the seafood paella we enjoyed overlooking the water.

When the conference began with a networking session of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres I learned my position technically entailed helping with logistical matters; but the ESOMAR staff was so incredibly well prepared, that I spent the majority of my time mingling with others. It was unduly refreshing that the staff’s main priority was to allow the five Facilitators (three from IE, and two from other Spanish Universities) to network and learn from the exceptionally diverse attendees. I must admit, as a student with no prior experience in the field of Market Research, approaching some of the participants was quite intimidating. However, I quickly found out that qualitative researchers are some of the most open and welcoming professionals, which seems obvious as their job usually entails these traits. This stereotype apESOMAR presentationplied to both the participants who ESOMAR selected to share their research papers, and those who were simply present to hear their peer’s thoughts. Many levels of management were present, but there seemed to be a great deal of participants who assumed leadership roles in their companies, whether by ascension or creation. During the first session I was privileged to meet the CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation, Gayle Fuguitt; Stacy Graiko, Director at Firefly Millward Brown; Ray Poynter, Director at Vision Critical University; Jack Ramsey, Social Strategist for VisionsLive, and also reconnected with IE Professor Andrew Vincent, founder of Waves Research UK. Thirty-five countries and seventy-five companies were present, yet regardless of an individual’s background, everyone seemed happy to share insights about navigating the industry.

Perhaps the most salient portion of the conference occurred when the 250 participants split up into roughly twelve groups to discuss topics pertinent to the current market researcher. Our group depressingly received, “What are the biggest threats to qualitative research, and how do you see this affecting the industry?” Initially, I watched, fascinated, as such a diverse group of individuals attempted to communicate, and then related their strategies to my own group work at IE. Age does not change the fact that working with others is, at times, difficult! However, my group eventually agreed that the biggest threat to their industry is convincing upper level management and C-suite individuals of the significance of qualitative research. This was not exactly an encouraging development, but as one fellow member told me, “It’s your job to overcome this perception.”

Her words resonated with me, and I think summarized the broader implications of this conference. I was there to learn about the industry, both the good and the bad. Consequently, it is now my responsibility to utilize the knowledge gained in conjunction with my own ideas to situate myself within this exciting profession.

Skylar Elisberg, MRCB ’14, USA 

Skylar in Valencia


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