Delighted to share this penultimate blog post in our PhD Horizons series from Maria Rejowicz-Quaid, a current PhD candidate, who alongside PhD studies, works as both a Research Manager and Entrepreneur. Maria shares insights into how PhD study has helped in both of these roles.
An overview of both roles
I’m currently a Research Manager for a London-based market research agency called Listen + Learn Research. The team is fully remote, and this setup adds much-needed flexibility when also working on a PhD, particularly in terms of saving time that would otherwise be spent on commuting.
In my Research Manager role, I apply qualitative research methods as well as a general research mindset to commercial projects. For example, each project comes with a client brief, but this can often be quite loosely defined and very ambiguous. I apply research principles which I have been working on during my PhD, such as developing a well-defined research question or analysing data rigorously and critically, to help clients gain clarity on what they want to get out of their research projects and to deliver outstanding research reports which inspire clients to think differently and more ambitiously about their marketing and comms strategies.
In addition to my Research Manager position, I’m also an entrepreneur. I’m the founder of Car Seat Jungle which is a website that helps parents and carers find out more about child car seats. As a founder of a small business, I wear many hats – I’m the business development and partnerships manager, marketing manager, product marketing specialist, product and UX researcher, finance head and design expert. My PhD has equipped me to understand and research problems deeply and I’ve applied this experience in the ‘real world’. Transferring my PhD research skills to a product setting has allowed me to create a better user experience and grow the business. The website was an idea that came out of my PhD; car seats were the context of my research. However, what really helped me turn this idea into reality was the support of the University and the Venture Builder Incubator programme.
Bridging my skillset in academia and industry
My PhD has been intertwined with a career in industry from the very start. To make this easier for me I opted for a part-time PhD, which has worked very well thus far. What also made this setup work well was overlapping the PhD with my experience from industry and vice-versa. My professional background was in the social media sector, and I incorporated this into my PhD during the data collection stage; I’m now taking the skills gained during my PhD and applying them to my professional work.
Reflecting on my experience over the past few years, I can see that I’ve always tended to keep one foot in academia and one foot in industry. There are countless opportunities for collaboration between the two but there are few bridges, at least within the marketing discipline. This has always stood out at me as a massive waste of knowledge and talent. I hope to be one of many future ‘bridges’ between marketing scholarship and industry.
I think that PhD students who are considering a career in industry should remember that research skills can be transferred to most professional roles – even some less obvious ones because most roles have some elements of research in them. It’s also important to note that both quantitative and qualitative researchers are in demand in industry.
The PhD gives an added advantage of being able to think more creatively and on a higher, more abstract level as compared to most people. It’s about figuring out, often by trial and error, what is interesting and following that passion wherever it takes you.
Remember, you can use the PhD Horizons tag to search and find other blogs related to the event. You can also browse our PhD Horizons website for related resources such as recordings from previous years PhD Horizons sessions.