How I became a researcher

The following is the story about how I became a researcher. I first wrote this story in lieu of a cover letter, so it may sound a bit too resume-like.

I was 16 when I got into research

I got my first job at 16 as a survey interviewer and was promoted to field supervisor one year later. As an interviewer I learnt the importance of obtaining the right answers and having appropriate instrument. I also learned that treating interviewees with respect is paramount to obtain high quality answers.

So not your regular McDonald’s job (though I’m sure working at McDonald’s also awakes a lot of skills). While I learnt a lot, I could have never imagined that this was just the beginning in my research journey. Instead, I went to university to become an actuary.

An actuary with a passion for Statistics and Mathematics

Being an actuary student was a lot of fun. I got excellent grades in my math and stats courses. I loved the courses on probability and statistic: linear regression, my multivariate analysis, stochastic processes, etc. Really the only thing I found uninteresting was taking insurance related courses (life insurance, liability insurance, insurance policies, etc).

When I found an opportunity to become an intern at a public opinion research institute, I jumped in with both feet.

From intern to senior data analyst and sample designer

Having done field work in the past, I was impressed by the amount of work needed before and after field work. Starting as an intern, I obtained a full time position six months later. Two years later I was promoted as Lead of Quantitative Research. I was involved in the whole process: talking to the client, creating research questions, determining the type of research (quantitative, qualitative), establishing quotas, designing instruments, overseeing field work, processing field work, writing technical excerpts and reports, and delivering presentation.

My forte was quantitative research: designing probabilistic samples, analysing data using Excel (pivot tables, macros), SPSS and other specialized software. As part of a multidisciplinary team I saw the importance and uses of qualitative research. In fact, this multidisciplinary team trained me to conduct qualitative research.

This was my first real job, and the last one I would have in Mexico.

A cultural explorer with mathematical inclinations on the move

Research taught me that to really experience a place you have to talk to locals, live like locals: From talking to a local trout farmer in rural Mexico to experiencing -35C in Montreal.

Actually, being able to endure and enjoy cold weather convinced me to move to Canada. That, and my desire to advance my credentials made me pursue a MSc in Mathematics at the University of Alberta. Aside from learning more math, my grad student experience awoke my passion for teaching and my ability to explain complex matters in plain words (while still being precise and rigorous).

Two years later I was back into research when, after attending a conference on entrepreneurship in Alberta I reached out to the principal investigator and together we started designing an entrepreneurship and happiness survey in Alberta. That was a short project which helped me obtain a research position at ECO Canada in Calgary.

An LMI researcher in Calgary

At ECO Canada I conduct Labour Market Information. Through the design of primary research (surveys, interviews, expert panel) and by subcontracting big data (web scraping) analysis I have been able to advance ECO’s research by measuring the environmental labour force at a granular level, and matching these measurements to Statistics Canada framework.

What’s next?

I moved to Canada 5 years ago and have loved it. From attending at the symphony in Toronto, tubing in Montreal, paddleboarding at Kootenay Lake, seeing the northern lights in Whitehorse, or going to the rodeo in Calgary, the opportunities are endless.

My professional experience in market research and my need for interaction have driven me to become involved with the local communities, currently holding many volunteering positions.

What’s next? Only time can tell, but one thing I want is to keep exploring and to keep finding challenges to my creative, research-minded being.


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