Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Antje Venjakob. The GreenBook Future List recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, passion, and excellence in the next generation of consumer insights and marketing professionals within the first 10 years of their careers.
Introducing Antje Venjakob of Oculid
As CEO & Co-Founder of a tech startup, Antje Venjakob is helping all-size businesses scale their research efforts by transforming eye tracking and attention measurement into something accessible. The technology combines eye tracking with performance metrics, thinking aloud, and questionnaires to deliver complete and holistic insights. Antje’s research efforts are helping turn eye-tracking technology research into something easy, cheaper and scalable, disrupting the attention measurement field with Oculid’s tool.
Outside of insights, what are your passions and interests?
I love to spend time with other people, learning about them and getting inspired, ideally while sharing a good glass of wine, be it white or red. On a typical evening during the week, I like to keep myself informed about the state of the world by reading the international press. I have a passion for the BBC and the Economist, and following podcasts on history, politics, and the like.
To get away from the very brainy stuff, I go camping on weekends, whenever the weather in central Europe allows for it. I take my binoculars with me, go bird watching, and swim in the lakes around Berlin.
Who is your career role model or source of inspiration?
I have never had a specific role model. I take inspiration from working in a team and exchanging challenges and new ideas. I prefer to gather insights and inspiration from different people when it comes to a specific topic rather than looking up to an individual, who supposedly takes all the right decisions.
I believe that there is no “one size fits all” approach to problems and that it is incredibly important to look at each challenge and the specific surrounding circumstances and make decisions in the face of that. You cannot simply transfer a solution that worked well for a particular situation to a similar problem where the details in the circumstances are different. A similar challenge might need a totally different approach in a different scenario.
When did you know you wanted to enter a career in insights, and what inspired you?
I never planned to enter the insights industry, partly maybe because I was not really aware of it. I started as an academic researcher in Human Factors, an applied branch of Psychology. I used eye tracking in my PhD to study the perception and cognition of radiologists when diagnosing CT scans. I loved eye tracking as a methodology to gather insights about human states and draw conclusions from it. I hence decided to found an eye tracking company with two colleagues from uni. We stumbled upon the insights industry as a field of application for our technology and I immediately fell in love with it.
Before I entered insights, I did not know that there was an industry outside of academia that was so focused on research and its methodologies. I found it very easy to connect with people, share ideas and immediately felt at home.
What do you think the key characteristics or qualities of a leader are? How does this play into MRX?
“Being a leader is all about setting an example, I believe.”
Being a leader is all about setting an example, I believe. People sense how seriously leaders take values and work ethos, so actual behaviour will have a much more significant impact than fancy visions, mission statements or values that you define and put in the onboarding material. Leaving up the standards you set regarding integrity and quality is, in my opinion, the most essential characteristic of a leader. Wanting to understand the motivation and thinking of your co-workers is another.
This is the same as the many challenges we face in MRX in general: Things are not always what they seem. You need to take time to understand a situation beyond the obvious and take appropriate measures with the people that it concerns.
What challenges do you see facing newer MRX professionals as technology advances?
We observe a growing desire for AI to be applied to all research questions. Behind this often stands the wish or need to cut costs and time to generate the desired insights. While this, of course, is understandable and can yield excellent results concerning a range of topics, one needs to keep in mind that there are questions that simply demand an individual approach, data collection involving fieldwork, and proper analysis to yield insights that go beneath the surface. I believe it will be a growing challenge to convince customers of that. It will make very substantiated knowledge about the different methodologies, the unique insights they provide and their respective advantages, all the more important.