Women in Research: Alina Serbanica

8 March

More than three decades ago, I started working in the market research industry, in the most exciting times of the industry, as the ‘pen & paper’ data collection started to be replaced by more advanced techniques like CATI and CAPI.

More than three decades ago, I started working in the market research industry, in the most exciting times of the industry, as the ‘pen & paper’ data collection started to be replaced by more advanced techniques like CATI and CAPI. It was a time when scanning became a norm in operations and when qualitative research was far more advanced than its predecessors' thanks to the new audio/video technology capabilities available at that time.

I felt so honoured and blessed by having the chance, in the late ‘90s, to work closely with Alec Gallup, the son of George Gallup, pioneer of the survey sampling techniques and inventor of the Gallup poll and to meet and work with Don Clifton, who acquired The Gallup Organization and continued the work initiated by George Gallup. Their mentorship in my first decade of work instilled in me a passion for excellence that has guided me through the years.

My first 14 years in the industry were dedicated to full research services, working as a quant & qual researcher, creating and managing research companies from scratch, experiencing the entrepreneur role as a research company co-founder, and managing large portfolios of local and international clients in all fields. During those times, I learned so much about diverse industries, from FMCG to niche markets, about how disruptive the socio-economic and political environments can be, or about the volatile nature of socio-economic landscapes when macro-economic disrupts the micro-economic.

But I could not anticipate the fantastic future journey during the eras to come, bringing into the market research the online panels assets, rapidly changing the operations, and making the research adaptable to speed, automation, and accuracy.

This was an impressive experience I had once I switched from my researcher profile to operations in this industry, taking over a challenging role in online operations, working to build from scratch new online panels capabilities, tools, and systems to manage such assets and to improve or create points of differentiation and market advantages for the company I work in, in the new era of adopting technology.

When I started to work in online operations, my belief was that this part of the research industry delivers high speed and reduced costs, and all can be set up by lowering investments. I learned that this belief was a myth, as embedding advanced technology in the research industry is not at all cheap and is affordable to strong companies, establishing coherent strategies. The technology must be high class, well-designed and robust to serve the business purposes and generate the return on investment as planned. But the journey, the learning and the personal development were impressive.

Like many of us, I did not anticipate the impressive and invaluable positive disruption the era of artificial intelligence would bring into our industry when highly advanced technology is rapidly shaping all we do in research and all we are representing in this industry.

Nowadays, I am constantly fascinated by new technology and by how much AI and GenAI can reshape the research industry in all specialisations. I am confident that, despite some traditional professions in our industry will disappear, new ones will be created. AI will shape amazing new journeys for the professionals and the researchers working in this industry.

My involvement with ESOMAR has been instrumental in enriching my experience in the research industry by actively being part of the ESOMAR community, an impressive international organisation, connecting researchers and professionals, service providers and research buyers, reshaping our mindset about our industry, challenging us to be innovative, to dare beyond the limits, to constantly raise the profession bars, and to build the future generations of professionals.

For 14 years, I served as ESOMAR Representative for my native country, Romania. I experienced the amazing power of this organisation by connecting our local market research industry to the international one, organising local events with international attendance, and inviting well-known research professionals as guest speakers to our local events organised under the ESOMAR umbrella in partnership with the local Market Research Association (SORMA).

Currently, as a member of the ESOMAR Council, I am honoured to continue to serve the industry from a different perspective, as a contributor to regulating the industry, providing adequate resources to the international research community, and establishing the right industry’s frame to the benefit of the professionals worldwide, all of us making an important effort to understand the rapid changes we are living in and impacting all of us, regardless of geographies and other potential multi-cultural differences.

In over three decades, my passion for market research has only deepened. With each passing day, I am reminded of the industry's enduring capacity for growth and transformation, of the capacity this industry has for deeply honouring ‘diversity and inclusion’. As I reflect on my journey, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities and experiences that have enriched my career, and I am excited to continue contributing to this ever-evolving field until my professional journey ends.

Alina Serbanica
Senior Vice-President at Ipsos