Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Marguerite Steyn. 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 Marguerite Steyn of Hello Ara
Marguerite has spent most of her career so far trying to make research better and making it fun for respondents. First, by pioneering mobile research techniques in Africa with her colleagues at Pondering Panda back in 2014. Fast forward to Kantar. where she jointly wrote a SAMRA paper about getting better insights through great survey design (Win by Design). Something, to this day, she still believes in.
Furthermore, the Sub-Sahara Africa Mobile team and her started doing reliable brand tracking studies in feature phone markets. They addressed everything from lengthy questionnaires to better sampling techniques for mobile/online panels. She has been able to share her thoughts on using voice notes in WhatsApp to collect open-ended answers in 2019 (ESOMAR). This year, she contributed to an award-winning paper that utilized conversational AI and TikTok to do research with Gen Z, the environments they are most comfortable in.
Outside of insights, what are your passions and interests?
I feel it’s important to do something outside of work because I can get absorbed into the details of projects quite quickly and spend too much time on them. So, in my free time I do like spend a lot of time in and around the ocean – surfing, open water swimming, or walking. I’m not an accomplished surfer by any means, but it’s about the enjoyment of catching a wave – the ‘stoke’ that any surfer will tell you about. On days where I do not have much free time, I try to just go and catch the sunset on a quick walk. There’s something about it that is just so calming and relaxing. I also enjoy going on day hikes and finding great coffee spots with my boyfriend. He has a coffee roastery, so we are always on the lookout for places where people are doing some great things with coffee.
Who is your career role model or source of inspiration?
I try not to have one role model and source of inspiration, because putting one person on a pedestal is quite a bit of pressure for that one person to always be perfect. I rather try to find inspiration from different people and sources depending on where I am in my life at that stage. For example, I like the good work ethic, life outlook and no-nonsense approach to research that some of my previous managers have had at the previous companies I worked for. I like the tenacity my sister approaches her career with and the resilience my brother has shown in his career. And then I love to listen to a variety of podcasts for inspiration to handle different situations – Adam Grant, Cautionary Tales, Rich Roll, Brene Brown, People I (Mostly) Admire, and Wavelength Community Radio to name just a few.
What advice do you have for folks hoping to start a career in insights?
Always stay curious! I think that is probably the biggest thing you can do from start to finish in your insights career. I’ve seen plenty of new starter employees with little curiosity about people and the world around them and they typically did not enjoy the world of insights. Show interest and curiosity about the work already at your interviews. Furthermore, if you are curious, it will drive you to e.g., find answers to why data is spiking; find answers to why people are behaving in specific way; learn more about topics/ product categories that you previously did not have any personal interest in and pick up on new techniques in the field. If you stay curious, you’ll find there’s always something to learn
along the way.
What do you think the key characteristics or qualities of a leader are? How does this play into MRX?
I think a leader need to have at least these 3 qualities. I don’t know if they are correct according to the numerous leadership models out there, but I think those things are key for me: 1. They are great listeners. Those who listen intently, a) make others feel heard and b) can make informed decisions when they need to. 2. They can inspire those around them. People need to be able go on a journey with you because they believe in that journey that you have told them about and how you will get there together. And sometimes they might need a pep talk to keep them on that journey when things get tough. 3.
They empower their teams to make decisions. They can help their teams by giving them the opportunity to make decisions in their respective areas of expertise and putting trust in them to do what’s best for the team. If they fail, there’s room for learning and correction. #no-lets-throw-each-other-under-the-bus-mentality In MRX we can always listen more, whether we need to listen more to internal clients in our organization or whether we are service providers interacting with our clients.
There’s always something more to be learned about the problems people are facing before we make snap recommendations about e.g., products or insights at the end of the day. In terms of inspiring others, we need inspire our clients too, because they must want to come on a journey of uncovering insights for their brands. They put their trust in us, therefore we need to make sure they are with us every step of the way. And I think when you are on the same journey, then both will trust that the other can make decisions that is for the good of the project.
Where do you see the future of insights heading in the next 10 years?
This is a difficult one and I don’t think I have a crystal ball big enough to answer this accurately because so many things can happen. Firstly though, I don’t think insights as a function will disappear and just be run by super search engines without supervision (maybe it does happen, and we all get to retire on the beach? 😉). Curation of insights will still need to be done, because I think information overload will be a bigger problem than ever before in 10 years’ time.
Knowing what data is relevant and what solves a problem the best will be extremely valuable. I see us as an industry doing a lot of co-creation between newly evolved Quant and Qual techniques; sample being sourced from panels, CRM databases and popular social media platforms for the same project as the norm and techniques like conversational AI having fully matured into what it can be and consumers being very savvy with their own public data. I think researchers themselves will have to be in a place where they are well versed using the latest analytics tools of the day and generative AI tools. We are just beginning to see how tools like ChatGPT and MidJourney can potentially shape our future (think product iterations; ad iterations and simulations; market share simulations in seconds) and therefore it’s important to keep an eye on it before we fall behind.