I’ve always been curious about other people’s lives. After college, I set off for a stint teaching English in the Cape Verde Islands as a Peace Corps volunteer, thinking that teaching might be my lifelong career. It turned out that I didn’t love teaching as much as I thought I was going to. Inspired by my Peace Corps exit interview, I came back to the States and looked for opportunities in research—which is a perfect fit for my inquisitive nature.
My first job was with an organization that offered, among other programs, a parenting class for prison inmates. I was tasked with interviewing program participants in three New York State prisons. The organization then used what I learned to inform changes in their program offerings.
This job was eye-opening for me. I loved helping the organization understand what was working in their programs and what needed to be tweaked, and showing the funders what kind of impact the programs were having. I soon realized that all organizations needed this kind of understanding, whether they were offering parenting classes to inmates or software to IT professionals or shoes to millennials.
A few years later, armed with a Master’s in Applied Social Research, I segued from the non-profit world to working for PR agencies, helping account teams understand audiences, develop messages, and measure the effects of their work for clients like Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi, Trojan, and Charles Schwab. I was able to transfer the skills I learned interviewing inmates to designing surveys and conducting focus groups with everyone from moms and teens to CEOs and medical professionals.
Since 2008, I’ve been a location-independent solopreneur, working from all over the world to design and execute research that helps clients develop brand strategies, design products, and understand their target audiences. My clients range from small social service agencies who want to understand their impact to bigger companies who need to know what their brand means to consumers.
While building my business, I completed a PhD in Survey Methodology from the University of Michigan. I still stay abreast of the latest developments in the field and apply them to my work.
I teach Questionnaire Design every summer at the University of Michigan and have been a guest lecturer in research methods at New York University, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University. I’ve presented at the American Association for Public Opinion Research conference and the International Public Relation Research conference, and published my work in the Journal of Official Statistics and Field Methods, as well as Forbes and Alert! magazine.