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22 Nov 2021 -

The MOAwards, are the professional awards for inspiring insights professionals. In the ‘Young Talent’ category, 27-year-old Rubina Oliana was declared the winner. SMART talked to her. What makes Rubina now Young Talent 2021? And what tips does she have for other young professionals?

Three things stood out in the jury report: there were doubts as to whether Rubina was a researcher or an innovation specialist (the conclusion: both), the relatively short period in which she is active in the research profession, and the human and personal touch she brings to her projects. The jury report is therefore extremely intriguing and it quickly became clear during this conversation.

How did you end up in the research profession?
“I started with the Creative Technology course. Technology and innovation have always played an important role here, but for a long time it was not concrete enough for me. What to do with all those new technologies if they have no application, I thought. That is why I started to focus more on Business and Innovation Management within my studies.”

This is not the route most research professionals take…
“That could be right. In innovation management I look at the entire process: you want to develop a solution, but what does the process look like and what is a really good solution? There is a clear link with the research profession. Insights has therefore always been linked to innovation for me. You have to ask questions in order to provide the right answer.”

How did you end up at Beautiful Lives after your education?
“I first started as a business consultant, but I missed the human aspect in the issues I was faced with there. Beautiful Lives believes that you cannot innovate without thorough research. My passion for innovation and insights come together naturally at Beautiful Lives.”

You have been working there for two years now. How have you been able to prove yourself as a Young Talent in such a short period of time?
“I was registered by my clients, on the initiative of our management. When I heard that they had nominated me, of course, I thought I should go for it. It didn’t immediately feel like I was the ‘researcher of the year’, because research and innovations always go hand in hand. My application was therefore also a confirmation that you can innovate with insights in a way that really makes an impact. Research is not an isolated story for me. If you want to create impact, you also have to link this to broader (business-related) themes.”

An important part of your presentation was the podcast reporting. Is this also an example of how your vision is being put into practice?
“My presentation was about research into investing, with the underlying question of what the drivers and barriers are to invest or not. The report had landed well with the client and she wanted to generate a wider reach. This gave birth to the idea of podcast reporting, where I would engage in conversations with experts on various topics in investing as a ‘voice of the people’ every episode.”
“We like to look at how you can present things in a different way. For example, we recently made a trailer where we visited people who participated in an online community. In this way, we give participants a face and the customer really gets to know their end-users.”

These are intensive processes for respondents. How do you get everyone willing to provide so much input?
“That’s right. We have many long-term processes, in which respondents also provide intensive input. Fortunately, I often get feedback from participants that they really enjoy participating. The interaction between the respondent and myself is experienced as fun, by both the respondent and myself. You may be asking a lot of them, but a nice conversation starts. You really get to know the people a little bit.”

You are very innovative yourself, but how do you ensure that you continue to develop yourself?
“Soon I will start a course in a new field that is approaching ours: Service Design. If you regularly visit the neighbors to learn how they are doing, you will remain fresh in your actions. Talking a lot with different people also ensures that you always keep a fresh look.“
“In the future, I also expect that different subjects and professions will increasingly merge. People are increasingly looking beyond their own projects. Also, what is involved in the phase before and after? Insights are increasingly becoming the basis for this.”

Where do you see yourself within these developments?
“Sustainability is a major interest of mine and there are more and more assignments in which I can express that. I hope that I can contribute to this theme with the help of qualitative research. How will you ensure that everyone contributes to a sustainable society? Not everyone is an idealist, but you do need everyone to bring about change. I want to change people’s behavior so that the world becomes better for these same people.”

Finally, what would you have liked to have learned when you entered the research profession yourself? What did you run into?
“I had good guidance, in which I was allowed and able to do more and more myself. The customer contact was my biggest challenge and in particular, understanding the customer so that you can communicate on the same level. If you really understand the customer, you know with which specific insights you can trigger someone.”
“If someone is currently considering doing the same profession, you simply have to start talking to people. I used to be at the station myself to have short conversations with people and to practice interviewing. Through short conversations, you learn to deal with different characters. And if things don’t go well, you can move on to the next person.”


This article is a translation of the interview that was published on the MOA website on October 21, 2021.

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