Over spring break this semester I was able to take part in the A.C. Nielsen Center trip to Silicon Valley. It was, by far, the best experience of my semester. We left a temperate Wisconsin April to brave the California heat to uncover what the world of market research was like in the tech industry. Much of the experience we take part in during the school year is centered on CPG, so getting this different perspective was beyond exciting. We had four jam-packed days I’d love to tell everything about, but due to the space constraints of this post I’ll just give a small taste for now.
Monday started with a trip to Lowe’s Innovation Lab with our center alumnus, Kyle Nel. He works with his team out of a small space at Singularity University, a startup incubator of sorts. This allows him to couple his classic research training, knowledge of consumer behavior, and emerging technologies to keep Lowe’s ahead of the curve through radical innovation. Of all the lessons we took away from Kyle, the most powerful was that for true, game-changing innovation to take place, you need more than insight – you also need foresight.
Tuesday was packed with visits to Linkedin, Facebook, and eBay. This powerhouse day allowed us a unique perspective into how tech companies manage, interpret, and act upon massive (unbelievably massive) amounts of data. It also validated the importance of learning and mastering both the quantitative and qualitative methods we learn in the A.C. Nielsen Center Program to be the most effective research leaders in a company. We also learned that traditional market research training in CPG is the best possible starting point if you want to pursue the tech industry later in your career.
Wednesday we were able to attend one of two possible industry conferences, The Predictive Analytics Conference or MarTech. We spent the day learning from industry thought leaders about how to carry research into the future by leveraging current understanding to implement and build technology to improve our ability to extract consumer insight. We ended the day with a dinner and networking night with Bay-area alumni. This was a special chance to connect with past students and see what amazing things they have accomplished after leaving UW.
Thursday, our final of the trip, was filled with trips to Clorox, Google Consumer Surveys, and Walmart.com. To hear such drastic approaches from CPG, tech, and retail perspectives in one day was incredible. Analyzing unstructured text data, reformation of sampling techniques, and website A/B were among the hot topics of conversation. I only thought that kind of experience could be gained by watching some panel discussion, but here we got to visit each site and have intimate time to ask questions and really learn how their business and approaches work.
Again, this is but a sampling of all the wonderful experiences we had during the trip. If you have a few spare hours, I’d be happy to tell you even more! I love all the opportunities I have had to talk with industry leaders during my time at UW, but this was the most special. It was so powerful to see how my chosen specialization was valued within these mammoth tech organizations. It made me that much more excited to continue my current career path. I can’t wait to see what other experiences I will have during my second year!
A.C. Nielsen Center Students with the Oshbot at Lowe's Innovation Labs