"How I Became A Research Nerd" is a fun look into the lives of the researchers behind Audience Insight & Research. We will feature a new researcher in the coming weeks. This is the first of the series.
Working on my Science Fair Project in middle school was certainly not my idea of fun, but it was inevitably my first experience with formal methods of inquiry. "Research" and "The Scientific Method" were terms I ascribed to my chemistry, biology and physics classes. You could only have a career in research if you were in these types of fields; at least that's what I thought back then.
Some years later, as I carved my way through college, I ended up in a research program. This was an odd scenario since my university was not a research-based institution and I was majoring in advertising and marketing; fields that you might not associate with reliability and validity when you're an undergraduate student. Was I here by coincidence? Maybe. But there was something intriguing about a research program that had the flexibility to move beyond the hard sciences, allowing me to conduct a research study in advertising instead of the usual science laboratory experience. Soon after, I was able to understand the role played by research in other fields of knowledge. My first thesis project was then completed and a bittersweet feeling towards research stayed with me after that.
My experience as an undergraduate researcher encouraged me to go to grad school. When I started to work on my master's degree on Media Studies, for the first time, I was exposed to new and interesting career possibilities within research. I got the chance to observe communications practices with a different lens, the magnifying glass of research. I explored strategic communications and the psychology of mass communication within the frame of academia. This led me to recognize my interest in consumer and audience research, something I can do without trying to skip the chapter.
My first industry experience started here, at NPR. As an Intern in the Audience Insight & Research department, I have been able to test the waters. Everything I have learned is now seen from a different perspective. I feel encouraged to delve into this field now that I confirmed this was the right thing to do 4 years ago when I first looked at my introductory marketing course. Although some people don't know what I do and every organization has a different name for what I do, I can always say I work with the people who tell stories with numbers. Perhaps this type of storytelling will continue to have an impact on today's leading organizations and the next generation's 10 year olds will say they want to be audience researchers when they grow up.
Jessica Ruiz is the 2011 Summer Intern of Audience Insight & Research. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration: Advertising/Marketing and a Minor in Public Relations from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. Currently she is pursuing her Master's Degree in Media Studies at Pennsylvania State University.