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How to start a career in innovation

by Adriano Galvao

Read on!

In this short article I share what typical pathways for an innovation career looks like, at least at Sylver Consulting.

First, you need a degree in design, communications, business, engineering, psychology, marketing, anthropology or sociology. Most of these degrees will provide the basic research skills associated with collecting costumer data and market information, and generating reports, dashboards, and final presentations.

Practical experience comes next!

At Sylver Consulting we offer innovative career pathways at the intersection of Market Research, Design/User Experience, and Strategy, all within the realm of innovation projects. We frequently talk to candidates who are interested in working on one, two or all three of these disciplines; looking for an opportunity to transfer their skills from other fields. Some of them have no previous experience, while others have extensive practice in the innovation world. We do our best to find the perfect alignment between their skills and the positions that we offer. This is not an easy task. Schools and universities are not training people to do what we do, and previous industry-specific skills are very difficult to assess, especially concerning the innovation practice.

Solid writing skills is one of the top qualifications we are always looking for in our candidates. These skills can make or break our project outcomes and they are hard to find these days. Strong social skills are also essential for our team; including great command of meetings, interviews, presentations and workshops. And finally, a high-level degree of organization is needed to navigate smoothly in our practice. Our projects are very complex and involve many moving parts. It's important to know how to effectively use to-do lists, reminders, Gantt charts, and update these things on a daily basis.

Now, how you start a career in innovation can happen in many ways. At Sylver you don't have to bring practical experience to begin with. Our innovation "beginner" position allows someone to step into this field and quickly learn the ins and outs of innovation "on the job."

At Sylver you don't have to have practical research experience to begin with.”

Research Recruiter

The innovation beginner position is called Research Recruiter. The primary responsibilities of our Research Recruiters are to successfully find unique individuals for our studies, utilizing our research panel or social media channels. They meet many new people on the job and are constantly building internal and external relationships. Our recruiters are excellent listeners who can also ask many questions, read between the lines, and quickly find out if potential research participants are a great fit for our studies. If you don’t have experience in innovation, this is a great opportunity to start a career in this field. It usually takes two to three years to get really good at this position.

Next in our career pathing is the Design Researcher or the Quant Researcher, depending on your preferred area of focus.

Design Researcher

Becoming a Design Researcher is often the next step for those who enjoy talking to people and learning about their lives. The role of that position is to support the design and execution of research projects. You must show passion and persistence when working collaboratively with interdisciplinary teams (including members of the Sylver team and our clients). You will leverage mostly qualitative research techniques, such as in-depth interviews (IDIs), focus groups, ethnography, observation, asynchronous online bulletin boards, to plan, collect and interpret research data, produce insights, and define areas of opportunity for our clients.

Quant Researcher

For those who enjoy working with numbers and statistical data, the Quant Researcher position is generally the career path chosen. This person will execute quantitative research projects. It involves planning, analyzing, presenting and reporting to a collaborative team involving clients. Anyone who excels in this role has acquired deep knowledge of survey programming, statistical and data analysis tools, online research technologies, and is extremely methodical.

It usually takes four to six years to master qualitative and/or quantitative skills for the innovation process. But once you have mastered those skills, you will move into a what we call a Senior Research position.

Senior Researcher

Our Senior personnel are research wizards with unique research skills, know-how and the ability to successfully and swiftly manage and execute multiple innovation and strategic initiatives. Naturally curious to dig deeper and uncover the big picture in any messy pile of data, our senior researchers can navigate client storms and last-minute problems. In addition, our senior researchers write exceptionally well, push the limits of data analysis tools, and have proven success exploring areas of inquiry that require strategic and critical thinking.

And then after learning all of that, some years down the road, you will likely embrace a director-level position.

Innovation Director

And then after learning all of that, some years down the road, you will likely embrace a director-level position. Yes, it may take you ten or more years to become an innovation director. But, once you have made it there, you will easily lead research teams, as well as execute, manage and prospect market research and strategic projects like no one else. Our director plays in all states of consciousness (from 3D to 5D), successfully executing mid- to large-scale research projects, facilitating workshops and ideation sessions and delivering insights and strategic recommendations to support innovation and new product development initiatives.

Our director plays in all states of consciousness (from 3D to 5D), successfully executing mid- to large-scale research projects, facilitating workshops and ideation sessions…”

Finally, we have two creative positions in our career path that we can’t live without: our Visual Designers and Social Media Strategists.

Visual Designer

Visual Designers are our magicians, giving life and excitement to our text- and number-based insights reports. They are masters in creating various visuals, from presentations to newsletters and web pages under tight deadlines. Their graphic art is essential as it evokes emotions and connects insights to action for our audiences.

Social Media Strategist

Social Media Strategists, as the name implies, are experts responsible for planning, developing, and implementing our company's online social media and video campaigns to engage our clients and research participants, while supporting and improving our presence and the overall digital marketing efforts.

I hope this short article has helped to give you some direction on starting a career in the innovation field and what the career path at Sylver Consulting would look like if you were to join our team. If you'd like to know more, send us your resume along with the position you are interested in, and/or post your comments in the area below!

Learn how Sylver might help you to start your career in innovation.

About the Author

Adriano Galvao is Sylver's Vice President of Operations. He oversees responsibility for human resources, accounting, vendor relationships, and the office’s physical and digital infrastructure. Adriano holds a PhD and a master's degree (MDES) in human-centered design and design methods from the Institute of Design at IIT, and a BA in design and mechanical engineering from the University of Brasilia in Brazil.

Categories
  • 2022
  • Careers
  • Innovation
  • Quantitative Research
  • Qualitative Research

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