"We Have No Social Lives."

Leigh Wright is a 2018 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient. First launched in 2014, the Young Professionals Grant recognizes promising qualitative researchers aged 35 and younger with free passes to the QRCA’s Annual Conference.

“Funny thing is, we have no social lives,” said a lady at my lunch table. Everyone laughed heartily, but I did only slightly. I am emerging into the qualitative field and as a research consultant. I’ve worked as a Director of Brand Strategy for six years, building internal marketing departments, looking through ad stacks, etc. The QRCA 2018 annual conferencewas one of the best — if not the best — places for an introduction.

All conferences are about teaching and education and professional accolades and training. QRCA is different because attendees come for the people and education is lagniappe (New Orleans’ slang for “an extra little gift”) or to support their peers’ work. As consultants, we do not get out and about to see one another during the year, so the QRCA holds a dedicated, sacred spot on the calendars of many.

Needless to say, I arrived in Phoenix with little knowledge of the QRCA, its benefits, the people, or the structure of the conference. To say I am blown away by the supportive structure of the community is an understatement.

From a beginner’s standpoint I found the talks from Naomi Henderson, Susan Abbott, Marta Villanueva, et al., all very enlightening and critical to understanding where I will find my niche in this industry. There were a lot of moderating tools discussed and quite frankly the point of creative flashcards was hammered home. Tory Gentes’ presentation on online recruiting was spot on. I’ve only done bespoke recruitment and have used online platforms to do so. (You would be surprised at how many preschool teachers are part-time babysitters through Care.com.)

The sessions I found the most insightful were about client presentation, online recruiting, business development, and behavioral economics. This is partly because I have done little moderating, but I believe presenting a variety of sessions is impactful. As Jim Bryson said one day during the conference, “It’s not ‘do we need another moderator.’ We need another good researcher.” So, let’s stick with the holistic approach. I believe it is working.

The roundtable discussions were fantastic and I enjoyed Peter Totman’s talk on Failure. There were so many going on at once and I did find it hard to choose which to attend.

In terms of the Young Professionals Grant, I am forever indebted to the sponsors of this program. Without them I would not have known about the QRCA, I would not have attended this year’s conference, and I would not have met the other YPs who I now consider friends. I will consider that week in Phoenix as a career milestone and springboard.

I’m sure others have tried to convey what makes QRCA special, and my words will fall short just like all the rest. The only thing left to say is thank you, and see you in Savannah.

Visit qrca.org/YPG to learn more about the Young Professionals Grant.

Originally written for QRCA blog and can be read on Medium.