I sit here in the CLT airport on a short layover before my flight home to Dallas and my mind is still on info overload from the past few days. This was my third time to attend the QRCA Annual Conference, and it will definitely not be the last! In my opinion, attending the annual conference is one of the biggest member benefits for QRCA members. The amount of education, networking and fun that occurs over three days is amazing.
QRCA has played a tremendous role in my market research career. In 2007 when I joined D. Gustafson & Associates, Dave asked me to start early (Friday instead of Monday) so that I could attend the Philadelphia Chapter’s QRCA meeting. That meeting was my first day on the job as a qualitative researcher, and the beginning of several close friendships. The way in which QRCA’ers come together and share in mentoring and collaborating is something of a rarity in the world of professional organizations. I know many preach of collaborative spirit, but with QRCA, I can honestly say I look forward to connecting with friends every conference…..it just happens they are also qualitative researchers! Some of my first projects, upon starting Spych, have come from QRCA friends and I know this is true of many other members as well.
This spirit of collaboration was very strong at this year’s conference, and the topic of many sessions, like the one by Carla Essen and Amy Winstel. The positive outlook for qualitative research relies heavily on the notion of collaboration and community. The only way we can evolve the industry in a timely fashion and keep it on the forefront of the innovation spectrum is to collaborate and work together to educate and help mentor our quali peers. I had great conversations with Renee Murphy, Kendall Nash and Lynn Greenberg about the need to educate our QRCA peers and industry colleagues on the world of Social Media Research, and to help position QRCA as a leader in the scene. A few folks even brought up the topic at the Town Hall meeting yesterday afternoon, and expressed interest in helping out.
One of my favorite aspects of this year’s conference was seeing the continual growth of “young” researchers! I say “young” because as I explained at the conference, “young” to me is young in age, young at heart, young to the industry, or young in the organization. If you’re interested in joining the newly-formed QRCA Young Professionals Shared Interest Group let me know! We are looking for mentors and those with experience and knowledge to share with our youngsters as well. Kendall and I were VERY excited to have over 20 people attend the YP SIG dine-around on Wednesday night! It was a huge success, and I hope it is a true indication of what is to come from the group! There is a huge need to help educate others about qualitative research, and perhaps the YP SIG is a great way to do so. Also, a huge shoutout to our International Scholarship Winner, Sophie Van Neck, from Belgium. She was also in attendance at the YP SIG dinner, and has done some extremely interesting research work. Get to know her and thank her for adding to the talented young researcher pool!
Going forward, I hope that after next year’s conference I can report about having the biggest conference in the history of QRCA. I really believe this is possible, and hope that everyone will spread the word. QRCA is a MUST for researchers that live in the qualitative space. You will not find a source of information, education, friendship, and partnership related to the industry of qualitative research, as compelling as QRCA. It has made me a better researcher, a better mentor, a better educator, and a better business owner. I have made friendships with other QRC’s that I know will be ever-lasting, and I know that the organization will continue to provide these values to its members.
See you in Vegas for the 2011 QRCA Annual Conference!