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Interview with Senior Research Executive, Beth Ayerst

Interview with Senior Research Executive, Beth Ayerst

Recently, we sat down with Senior Research Executive Beth Ayerst to discuss worklife at Vox.Bio and how she views Healthcare Market Research…

Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and your background?

I joined CHR back in 2016 – unfortunately with a big boot on my leg from a stress fracture and a failed marathon attempt! There was only five or six of us on the team at the time, all based in a small office in Cambridge. For the first year or so, it was a steep learning curve, but also hugely rewarding and exciting!

As the company grew, I spent more and more time trying to defend the English cuisine during our lunch breaks (never mention the addition of cream to pasta, to an Italian). I loved the company culture but was eager to continue learning new skills/methodologies – so in 2019, when I was given the opportunity to join the newly developed market research division, Vox.Bio, I jumped at the chance.

Prior to joining the company, I completed a PhD in Cartilage Tissue Engineering, split between the University of Manchester and the A*STAR Institute in Singapore. I was never really sure of whether I wanted to do a PhD, or even what type of career I wanted, but the two years in Singapore swayed me … and it didn’t disappoint!

Outside of work, I really enjoy swimming/running/biking and travelling to new places … I’m also still building up the courage for marathon attempt number two … and to cook a beef wellington for some of my non-English colleagues!

How would you compare market research to the competitive intelligence work you did previously?

I think the biggest difference is that with market research, the emphasis is on the consumers (patients) and healthcare professionals. We help brand or R&D teams to identify and define gaps and opportunities in new, complex, or little understood markets. This could range from helping a client to assess market opportunity for a potential new asset, decide what drug delivery device to use for their new product, prioritize markets for launch, or understand what communication messages are most likely to drive patient uptake.

On the other hand, my work on the competitive intelligence side of the business was generally much more specific and largely focused on approaches and tactics employed by our client’s competitors. For example, rather than looking to understand the broader market, projects often involved understanding how the competitive landscape is evolving, or updating client’s on critical events such as rival supply shortages, late-stage clinical read-outs, or regulatory updates.

What is the day-to-day like for you?

It’s a tricky question because our day-to-day work is so varied, and highly dependent upon the types of projects we are working on at the time. For example, the stage a project is at, and whether it is quantitative or qualitative research, has quite a big impact on the types of activities involved.

But taking today as an example, I began my morning checking and responding to emails. I then had a few internal meetings to catch-up on project progress with the team and discuss potential methodologies for a new proposal we have received. To end my morning, I spent a few hours programming a simple survey, before switching to some report building for another quantitative project I am working on. In the afternoon, I was involved in a proposal meeting with some potential new clients, and then did some link-checking and updating of a questionnaire for a third quantitative project I am working on at the moment. To end the day, I had a meeting with two of my colleagues to discuss the implementation of a training plan for new starters in the company, and then answered the questions to this interview!

How do you see the future progression of your industry?

Spurred on by COVID-19, I think we are transitioning towards a much more patient-centric approach to healthcare. Smart watches, at-home monitoring devices, and telehealth, are all playing a role in helping to empower patients to take control of their health, not only to help self-manage existing conditions, but also to promote early diagnosis and prevention. More than ever, companies will need to invest in understanding their patients’ preferences and unmet needs, and switch from being brand focused to taking a more holistic approach towards diagnosis and treatment of a condition (especially if chronic).

The data explosion through wearables and AI will also increasingly be used for personalised insights and interventions. The challenge for companies here will be how to ensure data interchangeability and interoperability, with many healthcare systems still working on outdated IT infrastructure and ultimately looking for holistic, brand agnostic solutions.

What are you excited about this year at Vox.Bio?

I think this year is already turning out to be a really exciting year for Vox.Bio. Learning from the CHR side of the business, and with our foundations now solid, the team is starting to expand rapidly. I am really enjoying getting the chance to interact and coach/ learn from new members, and very excited to see how our team evolves over the next year!

I’m also really excited to hopefully get back in the office and be able to meet up with colleagues again. As result of expanding during lockdown, there are a number of people I have worked with very closely over the past 8-12 months, but still haven’t got to meet face-to-face – it’s going to be very exciting (and probably a little strange!), when the time finally comes!

How has the pandemic affected the way in which you work? Have you developed any new work habits which you will continue post-pandemic?

While I’m eager to get back in the office and interact face-to-face, there are also a few positive habits that I have picked up and would like to continue.

The first is more regular use of my webcam. Prior to the pandemic, use for internal and external meetings was extremely rare, and I could go for months and months working with clients or colleagues located in other offices, without actually seeing their faces. The pandemic has taught me that it’s nice to be able to put a face to a name, and that webcams can also make meetings much more productive and engaging.

The second is organised breaks. When I first started working remotely, I found it difficult to make sure I was taking regular breaks, as there were suddenly no distractions. I have learnt that scheduling in short walks or exercise, either alone, or with colleagues who live nearby, really helps me to de-stress and re-energize throughout the day. While it is often hard when you are busy, as it feels like you are taking more time away from the desk, I’m certain it makes me more productive!

What would you tell someone thinking about working at Vox.Bio?

I think compared to other market research companies, we are very differentiated, and this is something that is very important for potential new joiners to know.

Unlike more established companies, we are young and dynamic, so if you are looking for a role with defined tasks and responsibilities, and a 5pm finish every day, this probably isn’t the place for you. However, if you are up for a challenge and the opportunity to constantly learn and progress, then we could be the right fit.  

Having spun out of CHR, we are also differentiated in our approach. Secondary research is an integral component of many of our projects, helping us to elevate our internal understanding, add confidence/context to our market research findings, and critically analyse the data. Quality, curiosity, and passion should resonate with you, as they are all values that help us to go beyond delivering market research findings to become trusted thought partners for our clients.