Conversations with Justin Tan

Justin is a market researcher with Kantar, a leading research, data and insight company. He shares with us in the piece below on his daily work and gives us insights into the workings of the industry.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and where you work?

I’m Justin and I work for Kantar, a leading research, data and insight company. I’m a market researcher and work towards client servicing. We design comprehensive research study (such as survey) for our client and initiate the data collection process. Once we receive the survey data, we start analysing, reporting and share our information with our client.

What kind of clients do you usually get?

We are not limited to certain industries, but the common industries we work with could be IT, telecommunications, government, FMCG, automotive and more. There is quite a wide variety.

Do you have colleagues who specialize in a particular industry?

Instead of being grouped by the industries we work with, we are grouped by accounts and expertise. Which means, each team serves different clients from different industries. Our expertise could involve brands and communication, product development, consumer insights, shopper study and more. We recommend different research approaches or business solutions.

Are the solutions you provide to different industries vastly different and, are your experiences in one project transferable to another?

It depends on the business objectives of your client. Let’s say the study is more towards customer strategies or how to retain your customers, we have dedicated solution served for the purpose.  It’s possible to apply these solutions across industries. We would tailor to the clients’ needs. Whichever skills we have learned or experienced in a project, it is always valuable. We could apply to the next project.

How has your experience in this line of work been? Could you share with us your story?

Actually I had no idea what market research was when I was young. When I was at the end of year 3 in NTU, I was working as a part timer in a market research firm – a stint recommended by a senior to me. That was my first exposure to this industry. My job was simple – data entry and fixing appointments. It was really minimal but it allowed me to know more about this industry. After I graduated, I managed to secure a job as market researcher but things didn’t go well. I was a Malaysian and there were some employment pass issues.

I also had a passion for teaching when I was younger, and was actually with the teaching industry for 1.5 years!  It was an awesome experience, but my interest towards market research remained stronger. I subsequently made the decision to leave and seek for a market research job. I was lucky to have offered an opportunity in Kantar – It is a well-established agency and helped me to get to where I am now.

What did you like about market research at your part time job in a marketing research company?

During that time, my job was more on data entry and fixing appointments. I love to look into the data while doing the entry, and wonder about the findings you may extract from all these figures. In fact, I should thank my senior for sharing about market research with me, such as the challenges they face in daily life. Those sharings are still helpful to me up till now!

What is a typical workday like for you?

We usually have 3-4 projects on hand. Every single workday is different, depends on which project cycle you’re at on that day.  We may be discussing the details in a typical project time frame – in client agreement, for instance, you would focus on the design of studies. Once all set-ups are completed, we would launch the fieldwork and start getting supplier to gather survey data. In post fieldwork, we will start analysing and generating the final report. However, the job is not purely about report writing and data analysis. Client servicing also plays a huge role as you will spend time managing and meeting your client’s expectations. Therefore it’s always crucial to understand what your client wants to achieve!

Do you enjoy working in this environment?

There are definitely times when you need to compromise and spend some time after work or weekend to complete certain tasks. The turnover in this industry is quite high so sometimes would be tougher when the team is lacking in resources. Apart from these, I really enjoy working in this environment. I also wish to highlight the fantastic culture of my company!

What are your colleagues like? 

We work as a team and I love the collaboration. When there are issues, no finger pointing and more to resolve issues timely. My colleagues are open minded, flexible and fun-loving.

Is this unique to your firm or is it like this in the entire industry?

I would suggest it’s unique to my firm. Not too sure about entire industry. We celebrate and organize cool events like Running Man, Twins Day etc. This bonds and brings everyone together.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your job?

The flexibility and exposure to different types of research. I’m more inclined towards consumer insights, but still I would be given the chance to work on social media study. Every single study is unique and you would always learn something different. That’s really exciting! Every time you deal with difficulties, you learn how to react, resolve, improve and grow.

What motivates you to come to your job every day?

When I smell the challenges ahead! It’s highly fulfilling to complete tasks and deliver reports. Even encouraging when your client appreciates the hard work! Another factor that motivates me is my peers. I really like engaging and interacting with them.

In terms of career aspirations where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I am inclined towards a consultant role in digital research. It could be on the client side or agency side. I would also definitely wish to move on to a managerial role and lead my own team.

Have you worked in different departments of your company?

Yes, I was given the chance in the past to work with different peers from other teams.

What sort of soft skills did you learn on the job?

It’s more on honing communication skills with the client. How do I deliver the message clearly? How do I address their business issues? How do I manage a conversation properly and achieve desired outcomes mutually? It’s a broad knowledge to learn.

Did you find it hard when you first entered the company or was the transition quite smooth? 

The transition was actually quite smooth. My teammates were friendly and willing to bring me through any queries that I had when I first joined.

What are some of the problems you face at work?

Some might not enjoy a good work life balance. However, this is subjective as it depends on how you manage your time. We can voice it out and discuss how we may arrange the manpower allocation more effectively. On daily work, probably sometimes you might run out of ideas on how to deliver a report. So just go for a walk or short break and refresh yourself.

Could you give 3 pieces of advice to those looking to join the industry?

First you must possess excellent project and time management skills. This is essential. Secondly, you are not just running data and getting percentages as our job is beyond that. We interpret and provide insights to our clients.. Lastly, be fearless when talking to clients. They wouldn’t bite you. Most importantly, passion is the key to build my career as market researcher. I love what I have been doing in the past three years.

Are there any entry requirements for the market research firm?

For entry level, firms usually look out more for Singaporeans and PRs. We have quite a good mix of Mass Communications, Economics, Statistics students in the company but it’s not a limitation.

Does your company offer internships for university students?

Yes, we do! The next batch of interns are coming soon. Some might join for a semester while some join us during their summer holidays. Interns at my firm would usually be given an overview of the company. They could experience what we do daily, such as report writing, project execution and even join us for our regular training! It is definitely useful if you wish to know more about market research industry!

Harvard University has compiled this list of 42 professional competencies. In your opinion, which of these would you consider the most relevant or most applicable to your work on a daily basis?

Adaptability, maintaining a high drive, activity and productivity , building a successful team (we work as a team), facilitating change, planning and organizing (especially on time management), , quality orientation, formal presentation, gaining commitment, safety awareness (data confidentiality is essential), coaching, information monitoring, strategic decision making, communication, initiating action, technical and professional knowledge and skills, tenacity, customer focus, building customer loyalty, valuing diversity, decision making and open mindedness.