From Russia with Sample: Interview with Maryana Stepanova, qSample Business Development Executive

Maryana Stepanova is the Business Development Executive of qSample. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and has been working in market research for the past three years.

In this qSample Q&A, Maryana discusses the challenges and trends for market research in 2015 and beyond, as well as some of the most unusual and rewarding aspects of being an online sample provider.

Q1: How did you come to this country and end up as the Business Development Executive for qSample?

Sometimes I joke by saying I am straight off the boat from Russia with Love. It’s a great ice breaker. But in a way it’s the truth. We might need a separate article just to cover my life novel. My journey started with me deciding to study abroad and learn English. Long story short, I ended up living in 3 different countries and was very fortunate to travel to 15 more countries along the way.

I joined qSample almost two years ago and slowly worked my way up. Thanks to upper management’s grooming, I am now to the point I can wear different hats, from Business Development to Operations. Dr. Dewey once said that the deepest urge in a human nature is “the desire to be important.” For the first time in my life, I felt like qSample was more than just a job. My team became my work-family. Sometimes you just need someone to believe in you. I am forever thankful that my boss and mentor, Rudly Raphael, saw my untapped potential.

Q2: What are some of the greatest challenges you see in your role, as well as rewards?

Every day is different and things move really fast. You constantly have to adapt. I had to learn how to keep eyes on the prize, embrace the chaos, have an immeasurable amount of drive, and have thick skin to take the rough days. I’ve learned how to have balance and stop sweating the small stuff. The reward is seeing this company prosper and grow, knowing you have an impact. Data is power. I truly belive that we help our clients to shape their products, services and organization goals.

Q3: What is the most unusual/difficult project you ever had to tackle, and since you’re answering this, how did you manage?

It would have to be a research we did for a pharmaceutical company that was developing an improved drug formulation. The focus of the study was to hear the views of various oncologist leaders on the factors contributing to or inhibiting clinical use for lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. We were able to successfully conduct a study that covered only 1% of the population. That speaks volumes. I am very passionate about medical research because it is fascinating and challenging at the same time. It felt like we were making a difference, and there is no better feeling.

Q4: In your view, what are some the mistakes companies make when conducting surveys or market research in general?

Having unrealistic expectations. Some believe we have a magic wand to control people during the research process. A girl can only dream [laughs]. Then you have your typical mistakes. For example, creating long and complex surveys that create respondent fatigue or cause a high drop out rate along with poor quality of data. And my personal favorite: “open-ends.” People just don’t like them. My advice is have no more than one.

Q5: What advice/guidelines do you have for companies seeking to conduct online surveys when it comes to gathering the best data possible?

Keep it short and to the point. Just think about it this way: a goldfish has longer attention span than humans, which is 9 seconds, I believe. It’s insane. We live in the world with so many distractions; therefore, you have to find a way to to collect the most valuable input in the shortest amount of time. One more thing, time is money and you get what you pay for.

Q6: Using your crystal ball, what are some of the trends you see happening in 2016 for market research or online surveys?

Honestly, I believe online research is here to stay for a long time. I have also noticed a trend towards online focus groups and qualitative research for hard to reach audiences (C-Level executives, Physicians and so on).

Q7: What sets you or qSample (or both) apart from other online providers/executives?

I would be the first to say that we are not trying to be everything to everybody and have a unique focus. We focus on developing and managing specialty panels within niche audiences. With that being said, we have developed and nurtured more than 10 specialty panels, giving us access to millions of respondents that are pre-qualified, heavily vetted, and continuously engaged. We are also a boutique company whose entire staff  primarily serve as consultants, from the first contact to the execution of surveys. We focus on developing long lasting relationships and nurturing our clients.

Q8: Do you have a motto or philosophy that as aided you in your career?

As my boss told me very early on: “If you don’t have the little things covered, you are not ready for the big leagues. Work hard, close deals and play later. Most of all don’t take anything for granted.” I also believe that working hard will take us places we never dreamed of going. I don’t believe in luck and thankful I don’t have to live my life hoping for good luck.

Connect with Maryana on LinkedIn.

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