Staff Spotlight – Maria, Research Manager

In our Staff Spotlight serieswe get up-close and personal with the members of the Listen + Learn Research team to find out who they are and what their job roles involve.

Where are you from and where are you based?

I grew up in Poland and Germany and since have lived in many different places in Ireland, England, Scotland and in Germany once more. I did my undergrad degree in Cork, Erasmus exchange in Bavaria, got work experience in Dublin and London and moved to Edinburgh to pursue my PhD. I have now come full circle and am back in Poland (at least for a while). The funny thing is that having spent most of my life in a few different countries, I no longer feel that I’m from one single place. This is a complicated answer to a simple question!

How long have you been with Listen and Learn Research and what do you do here?

It feels surreal to say this but I’m an LLR newbie. I’ve joined the team only a few months ago but it feels like I’ve been here forever… in a good way of course! LLR is a small team which makes it easy to connect with everyone and gives the company an easy-going, friendly feel. I’m a Research Manager which means that my main job is to make sure that research projects run smoothly and are delivered on time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

First things first, get the kids ready for school. Some days I feel like I’ve achieved a day’s worth of work by 9 am! I then start my working day with a lovely cup of milky tea and a square of dark chocolate because why not? I check in with the entire team online. The fact that we are spread across different countries doesn’t stop us from having a chat about whatever is important to us that day, be it personal news good or bad, what’s trending online (Miss Excel on TikTok anyone?) or the latest headlines from our respective countries. I love seeing and hearing about Christmas in Sweden, sunsets in Portugal or a new puppy in London. 

I then get to work on my projects which, depending on which stage the project is at, can involve checking in with analysts and doing some quality control on the work that’s been done, adjusting timelines and juggling tasks to be done, synthesising findings, creating final reports and so much more. I also work on methodological approaches that we use and can be found reading and writing about methods, design or new perspectives in research using social media data.

You can also find me chatting to the team throughout the day and I often ping them or get pinged for quick video calls which is great when working remotely (which we all do) and for making sure things are aligned and progressing as planned.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a Research Manager?

What amazes me is the richness, and not necessarily the vastness of the data that we analyse. In other words, it’s not always about how much is being said but what the stuff that is being said means. And although we have a well-developed research process, every project has its nuances and no two projects are ever the same. Finding that human story behind all the data takes a team of humans to uncover. It keeps me on my toes.

What motivates you to wake up and go to work?

Becoming a better researcher. It’s taken me a bit of time in my professional career to realise that research is my true calling but once you know what you want, you strive to become the best you can at it. It’s a continuous learning process and I consider myself lucky to be able to do what I love each day with people who are kind and supportive.

What are your hopes for our industry?

To use social data for good and in ways that are ethical. There is so much opportunity and depth in social media and researchers will play a key role in how this data is used and to what ends. People all over the globe pour their hearts and souls out onto screens that we call our research fields – imagine all the good that can come out of it if used in responsible and caring ways.

Can you share a funny expression/proverb in your language?

This one always makes me laugh: “Kogut myślał o niedzieli, a w sobotę mu łeb ucięli”. It rhymes in Polish and literally translates as “a rooster was thinking about Sunday but they cut his head on Saturday”. You say it to someone who is making overly optimistic plans for the future without taking into consideration all the unknowns or things that can happen in the meantime. It’s great because it’s meant to keep you grounded but funny because apparently, roosters in Poland look forward to the weekend. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of your job?

Spending time with my family, especially my two small kids who just crack me up every single day. The things they care about, the things they say and do, are what it’s all about… “mummy, why are black holes black?”. They are 4 and 6 and I need another PhD to keep up with them.   

And Covid-permitting, I love to travel and explore new places, try new foods and see how people live in different corners of the world. I also play the piano which is the only hobby I’ve been able to keep since having kids but one that has become my go-to activity to relax and at the same time is good for the kids. Killing two birds with one stone – exactly what every mum needs. 

What children’s character do you relate to most and why?

Cinderella because you have to wear a pretty dress to a party for a prince to notice you. Lol… In all seriousness, I’m glad today’s mainstream children’s stories portray strong, independent female characters. Look at Bo Peep in Toy Story 4 or at Frozen where an “act of true love” means support from another girl. I relate to Moana because she’s curious, goes against the grain and after all her adventures comes back home to take care of the people who matter most in her life. What a great, yet underrated story. 

What is something people don’t know about you?

Drum roll… the big reveal: I’m certified in child car seats and I’m passionate about in-car child safety. Off the back of my PhD, I created Car Seat Jungle which helps people make sense of the complicated world of child car seats. If you’ve got a child under 12 years of age, do your research and make sure they are safe in the car. It’s a hugely overlooked area of parenting.

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