INTERVIEW 20:
SALLY HARRIS

  1. Tell us your story?

I grew up in the UK, studied in Liverpool and fell into research by happy accident. Part of the degree was a gap year so a friend of mine at university mentioned they knew a friend of a friend whose daughter owns a research company and they would take someone. Passed the interview and spent a year working for a small boutique agency called Intrepid.  Had a fantastic year as a research assistant learning all the basics from questionnaire design to checking hard copy tables by hand.  Finished my degree and returned to Intrepid in a full-time role, based in London which was a great city when you’re young, surrounded by an eclectic group of people, which was probably the reason I decided to travel, and ultimately led me to Australia.  I spent a year here travelling the whole country, loving Melbourne and Western Australia – go West people, it’s an amazing part of this country.  I went back to London for a couple of years but couldn’t settle:  you see the difference in work/life balance and the travel times compared to Australia.  I look back now and can’t believe I would travel 1.5 hours to get to work each day and wouldn’t complain, well much.  So I came back to Australia, worked for an agency who were happy to sponsor me, became a permanent resident and now citizen.  I’ve been working for Public Transport Victoria since it started in 2012 as a Senior Insights Officer.

  1. The Interpreters spend a lot of time trying to understand our clients’ customers and segments within the market. How do you get to know your customers?

I would say like other clients The Interpreters have, we have tracking studies which help us understand customer satisfaction amongst other key metrics.  We also have an online community which we regularly engage with for adhoc research and that ability to address a variety of requests that pop up across a business our size is invaluable.  And recently we’ve been going out and about, into the field, with a camera to speak to customers in-situ to truly understand what’s going on with their lives and how we play a role in that process.  And having that ethnographic view really means you can watch and observe and relay those insights back into the broader business.  We have also started to run internal debates within the business where we pose a question we have, set up two teams of three and watch how people from various departments think about the business challenges differently. It’s fascinating to see how views change when you get different perspectives involved as we take a poll before the debates on their point of view and how that changes post discussions.

  1. We do a lot of problem solving at The Interpreters so we’re interested in how other people solve problems. How do you approach problem solving?

I think you need to have an open mind as a starting point and a willingness to involve others.  Our role within PTV is to support any function within the business so we’re asked challenging questions, often in challenging timeframes so you need to think quickly on your feet and be open to new and innovative ways of solving problems.  It’s the wisdom of the crowds mentality – keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry, leverage internal teams, workshop the ideas and don’t dismiss the suggestions as the more minds you have access to, the more likely you’re able to solve the problem or the challenge.

  1. Interpretation is subjective but a key part of our analysis. We’re always interested in the ways other people might interpret key trends or things of interest from their specialism. While now an Australian citizen, but maintaining your Brummie accent, interested in your view of Brexit? How do you interpret that as a trend?

I might start broader if that’s ok.  I think there’s a lot of countries out there, not just the UK, who are struggling in their identity and I think they think the grass is greener or they’re looking for something more.  And while there’s nothing wrong with striving for better or wanting more or different, there’s more distractions and information that is either fueling the desire for greener grass or being targeted to an audience looking for something different and open to believe.  But as we know, sometimes the grass isn’t necessarily going to be greener and sometimes it’s better the devil you know.  So I think it originates with looking for something better and you learn over time that maybe what you have, isn’t as bad as what you originally thought.

  1. Because we firmly believe that Information is Beautiful, we would like to give you a copy of Information is Beautiful, ‘a stunning visual journey through the most revealing trends, fascinating facts and vital statistics of the modern world’. Because first impressions matter, have a scan through and tell us which visualisation caught your attention and why?

I chose ‘Selling Your Soul’ – I don’t know necessarily why but it visualises workers on Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk illustrating their souls, split between males and females and it’s a fascinating way to show and represent the information.  They could have so easily charted or written about how they were feeling but this draws you in as you start to easily see the differences by gender and just an insight into how people doing microjobs for micropayments feel.  Based on the drawings, I would keep the female workers and have some serious concerns over some of the male workforce.

Selling Your Soul