Meet Swagata- Technical Account Manager- Market Research
This week we meet Swagata who works at Toluna UK as a Technical Account Manager. Essentially she helps ensure the implementation and delivery of online surveys across various Toluna platforms like Quick Surveys, and Automate Surveys. She sits within the Toluna Corporate team and works with colleagues in Sales to help advise clients on optimum research designs for their survey platforms.
Why is the role is important to the business?
The role was actually created on the back of my team’s sustained success and a great appetite for several of Toluna’s products like our (assisted) DIY survey platform Quick Surveys (TQS) and other innovative tools like the ground-breaking reporting tool, Toluna Analytics (TA), amongst our clients. As our team works directly with corporate clients, they generally need a bit more assistance in terms of advising them on optimum research design, especially with respect to our survey tools and also assistance with generating insight for their project (which are often time-critical) using Toluna Analytics.
Previously, due to the volume of business that our Corporate team was turning around, my colleagues in Sales ended up spending long hours at work as a result of additionally taking on the responsibility of advising clients on optimum questionnaire design and/or training them on TQS or TA.
Therefore it was decided that the team would potentially benefit from having someone like me with consultative market research experience across sectors, to helps clients with the implementation of their surveys and delivery of data, as well as training them on our tools as and when required.
How long have you been doing what you have been doing?
I have been in the Market Research industry since 2010, but am a recent starter at Toluna – been here just over 2 months..
What attracted you to this sector and how did you start your career in this sector (academics or experience) : what did you do before you worked in this sector ?
My degree in Economics (I have an M.Sc. in Economics from University of Warwick) really honed my interest in analysing data, in search of discovering crucial insight answering different kinds of questions (usually socio-economic). Fact based consulting therefore quickly grabbed my attention while I was researching different careers at university, and a career in the market research industry was therefore almost a logical conclusion to my search for a suitable career.
But as luck would have it, I graduated right in the middle of the recession – in 2008. Nobody wanted to hire graduates, and that too an international candidate with little UK experience was absolutely the wrong profile to have for a while. Nevertheless, I applied for all and every kind of job from fairly clerical, administrative roles within organisations to Analyst positions at Consultancies. Finally, I got a break as a Christmas temp at M&S that same year, and also one at Phones4U, both in London. For a couple of months I worked both jobs, but then I went on to accept a permanent position with M&S and worked there until February 2010, before joining KAE, a competitive intelligence consultancy, in March that year.
What was the interview process like to get this position?
Following my application, I had a short telephone interview with my current boss, Director of Client Solutions and thereafter I was invited for a F2F interview at their offices.
The F2F interview involved an exercise pertaining to my role as well as a personal SWOT analysis, which I thought was a great idea – it gave me the opportunity to speak about the things that I value about myself and things that I’d like to work on. This gave both my boss and me the opportunity to discuss my fit within the team and the wider organisation, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
What tips would you give someone who was interviewing in your company?
We are an extremely innovative and ambitious company, constantly pioneering the development of new products and services to make our clients’ lives easier, whether they be our agency clients or corporate ones.
The UK Sales team within our organisation, within which our team sits, is truly diverse in terms of the experience and skill set it encompasses, and phenomenally successful. I put this down to two things – you work without being micro-managed in terms of meeting your sales targets, and yet the work culture it constructively cohesive with everyone regularly sharing stories of their successes and failures with one another through weekly team meetings. Also, everyone works tremendously hard to deliver on their targets, so hard work is part of the company ethos.
Therefore, if you are considering interviewing for Toluna, evaluate yourself along these lines – are you an ambitious individual and yet a team-player? Do you like thinking out of the box? What new and different things will you bring to the table? Think about all the instances where you set yourself targets and not only achieved them, but exceeded them…
What do you do on a daily basis?
Each day is different, but most of my work revolves around critiquing client questionnaires and implementing surveys for our clients across our platforms, while making sure that it is structurally and logically sound. I also help our clients maximise the benefits they can reap from using our ground-breaking reporting tool like Toluna Analytics (TA) – some days I could be showing them how to use it/training them, other days I could be running some DP tasks for them on TA which generally take a regular DP team a couple of days to run!
What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
What I really enjoy is working with corporate clients across different sectors – it really helps me draw on my experience of working with global companies across industries in the past and also build on that.
What are the challenges faced in the role?
The team and training schedules around here have been quite helpful, but I guess the biggest challenge which I’ve had to overcome has been wrapping my head around the many different Toluna products fairly quickly – I started handling communications with our clients from day one, so it was literally baptism by fire! But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it..
Why do you think some people are more successful than others when they do your job?
Personally, I think that it is very different to really enjoy what you do, and also that you enjoy working with your team (if applicable; if working in isolation, that might present it’s own set of problems).
I myself have been in some situations where I simply haven’t enjoyed my role or where I’ve not felt like I’ve made any real contribution to the success of my clients or organisations, and during those phases I know that my productivity has slipped. If you’re not satisfied doing what you do and don’t feel as part of the team that you work with, it is not surprising then to think that you won’t be able to give your 100%.
What 3 adjectives would you use to describe the type of person/ skills needed in your job?
Detail oriented, organised and methodical and a strong communicator, would be my top 3 choices! A close fourth would be related to adaptability – to adapt quickly to changes in such a fast-paced environment
What do you most value about your employer?
The work culture that they’ve inculcated within the organisation. I’ve worked in sales environments before, but what I really enjoy at Toluna is a distinct lack of cut-throat competition – everyone works hard to meet their own they also have loads of fun together as well!
What is the highlight of your career to date?
Nationwide Consumer Confidence Index – a project that I used to manage at TNS, being discussed as one of the favourite economic indicators on BBC Newsnight
Do you have any career regrets and if so what would they be?
No career regrets as such, but I do feel it would have been better to sit for the Advanced MRS Certificate examination to complete my certification for the training that I received – professional certifications always add weight to your CV and add credibility to your profile when dealing with clients. But at least I completed the training, so am well-equipped with the knowledge of research best practices.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt in your career so far?
Personally, what I’ve found invaluable is the opportunity to work for, and with global companies. It has really helped me learn a lot within a relatively short period of time due to the scale and breadth of projects that I’ve worked on. When I’ve worked for just UK based employers, I’ve found the experience to be slightly more predictable. So I’ve learnt that for satisfying my appetite for challenges and diverse professional experiences, I’ll benefit more from working for and with MNCs.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your sector?
Research the sector well – see if working with data and the process of gathering it excites you. Your research into the industry will also help you decide whether you want to join consultative MR agencies who directly work with corporates, or work directly in MR departments of large corporates or work with agencies who facilitate the execution of research fieldwork by providing the platforms and samples for the research studies.
Ensure that you research your prospective employer(s) well – also go well prepared for interviews, eager to demonstrate your aptitude and ability to be organised, to work with data with great attention to detail and also let your strong communication and presentation skills shine through in the exercise based activities usually constituting the 2nd round of interviews (F2F). All of these are required to some extent on a day-to-day basis to execute the daily responsibilities of any given role within the MR industry.
Finally, although the MR sector is not as time-intensive as the investment banking sector for example, but sometimes (and not surprisingly) you do have to put in long hours, especially if you are working for an agency and just before project delivery deadlines. So worth bearing in mind that while this sectors is largely favourable to those seeking a good work-life balance, sometimes you have to put in extra hours to ensure that client expectations are met.
Overall, it is a great sector to work in with demands for different profiles within it, so if you know that the MR sector is where you want to be, then start applying today!