15 minutes with: Daniela Aguilera
Our experts are on the frontlines of bringing ingenuity to life for our clients. They accelerate new growth ideas from concept, through design and development to commercial success. And they revitalise organisations with the leadership, culture, systems and processes to make innovation a reality.
In this series, you’ll meet some of the brilliant minds creating change every day.
How would you describe your job to someone you’ve never met?
I work within human insights and our aim is to ensure all research and product testing is human/customer centred, and representative of the society it serves.
My work is operational, specialising in participant recruitment for our research studies and working to understand who we want to speak to, and how, and why. A lot of this job is account management, project management, and resourcing – just about anything outside of conducting the actual research.
How do you bring ingenuity to your work?
I have the opportunity to bring ingenuity to my work all the time in lots of different ways. No two projects or research objectives are the same. Human beings are all different and varied, so I’m constantly thinking on my feet.
Over the past few years, my role has focused on inclusion and I was nominated for an award for challenging stereotypes in the industry. Representation is important, there aren't many people who look like me or have my background in the industry (something we're thankfully seeing change).
I came to the UK at seven years old and didn’t speak English. Through my role with participant recruitment, I can see where we have gaps in recruiting people from different backgrounds. I can also challenge the ways we engage with different groups and ensure we're not leaving anyone behind.
It’s not about going in with a magnifying glass to put people in the spotlight, it’s about coming in to work sensitively and creating spaces of emotional safety.
I brainstorm the best ways to make people feel comfortable enough to open up. That’s what I love about this industry and my job, I’m there to represent people.
I have an opportunity and responsibility to empower and amplify lesser-heard voices.
What are you most excited about and inspired by in your industry right now?
For a really long time, it felt like an uphill battle getting diverse voices heard. I’m so excited for younger generations seeing the diversity of talent we have coming in now. I can see the hunger and desire for change and innovation within the industry.
Inclusion benefits everyone. We’re thinking more about how we conduct interviews and create a safe environment. We’re questioning things in a way we wouldn’t have before. For studies that represent a niche part of society and specific demographic – is it right to do research around racial identity and how people respond to advertising campaigns if the moderator doesn’t reflect the participants?
Which project are you most proud of?
There are a lot of projects I’m really proud of. Inclusion is my passion, so my favourite projects have focused on consideration and sensitivity around the work we’ve done, and where we’ve had positive impact.
There was one project earlier in my career with parents of young children who were recently diagnosed with diabetes. We developed a testing game to help kids understand what the diagnosis meant for them and their energy levels. The character would represent the child, and the character’s battery would get low.
I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to find participants, as parents found it hard bringing their kids in to test the game. But it was nice having the kids running around, they bring a different energy and you felt like good things could happen in that room.
On a recent project, we were working with people with cancer. Bringing people together who were going through the same thing was facilitating therapy in some ways. It goes to show how beneficial this work is to everyone. I’d spent a long time in hospice in another country while my mum had cancer.
Nobody likes for anyone to assume how they’d like to be spoken to, but the feedback was that they were being treated like victims who were about to die. On this project, I was asked to help to find an array of people recently diagnosed, receiving treatment, on NHS, on private insurance, and a mix of people receiving end-of-life care.
I was brought in during brainstorming sessions with the client and helped determine the type of approach to be taken. In this case, it was an online community, which allowed some anonymity for the participants, and allowed them to complete tasks in a number of ways. Some might want to write, some might want to talk and some might just want space to say what they’re feeling. I enjoy thinking about things that seem to be on the periphery but have a big impact on the overall project.
What are your goals, professionally and/or personally?
Continuing to find ways to have social impact and create change. From a personal point of view, it gives me a sense of purpose. In the wider context, it’s the right thing to do. I think that’s why I’ve stayed in the industry so long. The variety keeps me occupied, but it’s also an opportunity to have impact. Now, I’m at an experience level that I’m excited about.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar career path?
Speak up, and don’t be afraid of taking risks. It feels strange to me now, being celebrated for and having opportunities thanks to experiences I’d been uncomfortable to speak about. Now all of these opportunities and doors are opening. If you speak from a place of integrity, you’ll feel better about yourself and opportunities will find you. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have.
As a project manager, which was my title for the longest time, we’re not traditionally expected to have an opinion on the projects. Consultants make the decisions and can be creative. The operational side is usually there to make the consultant’s idea a reality. Now, we’re starting to see that flatten.
Even if you don’t have a university degree, don’t think your experience and opinions won’t be relevant. You have a secret weapon because you can approach situations in a way that others won’t think to. Get comfortable speaking up and sharing your ideas.