'How I made it' featuring Bob Douglas, Owner, BD Insights

How I made it featuring Bob Douglas, Owner of BD Insights

For our latest inspiring stories series, 'How I made it', we're interviewing the cream of the crop across all facets of communications and marketing. This is where you'll learn about how the best in the industry got to where they are today and hopefully pick up some tips along the way to help your own career progress. 

We sat down with Bob Douglas, Owner of BD Insights, to find out how he made it in the pharma and market research industries.

Bob is a high-profile healthcare market research leader with over 30 years experience within the healthcare sector.  He has held several senior management roles in leading global market research agencies.  These include: Chief Strategy Officer, P/S/L Group, Global Head Custom Health, Ipsos, and Global Head Healthcare, Synovate. He has twice won the EPhMRA, President’s Award, given for an outstanding contribution to healthcare market research. He was also one of the first agency members to serve on the EPhMRA Executive Board and was instrumental in setting up the industry’s Code of Conduct. 

Read on to find out all about Bob’s journey into market research, what keeps him sane on the crazy days, and that one piece of technology he cannot live without.

How did you get into market research?  

My degree was in history, and when I finished university, I had a place secured to study for a post graduate course in international marketing. However, I really wanted to start working, so I applied for a Market Research Trainee position with Boehringer Ingelheim and was asked to an interview where I was tasked with analysing and presenting data. I was successful, took on the role and never looked back. It seemed like an unlikely fit with my degree subject, but in hindsight, my training in analysing data, making sense of it, story lining it and presenting it in a compelling way served me well. So, despite the competition from graduates with business and life sciences degrees, Boehringer took a chance on a history graduate! 

What keeps you sane on those crazy days?  

On those crazy days, it helps to have a sense of perspective. I’m a great believer in stepping back, taking a breath and reviewing an issue from different angles. Problems tend to unravel, and solutions become much clearer if viewed from different perspectives. On crazy days, often, you have to act and reflect later, but sometimes taking even just a few minutes quiet time to think, can prove beneficial in the longer term.  

Do you, or did you, have a mentor? 

We are very fortunate in the pharma and market research industries in that there are countless inspirational figures. They are highly qualified, motivated and self-starting professions. I’ve taken inspiration from a wide range of people over the years, with different backgrounds, experience and skills.  

What three words would you use to describe yourself?  

Inclusive. Analytical. Curious.  

What advice would you give those starting out in the industry?

In those first few years, it’s important to have people that inspires you, both in your organisation and outside. Look for people who will fire your enthusiasm, stimulate your ideas, nurture and stretch you beyond your comfort zone and help you to learn. If young people aren’t inspired by whom they’re reporting to, or the Company they are in, it will be difficult to achieve their potential. They should seek out people and organisations that do inspire.

If you’re going to spend 40-plus years at work, you do need to enjoy it.  Experiment in different roles. Read and learn from the experts. Within market research itself, there are so many different specialisms you can focus on.  Find one you enjoy, you’ll feel much more satisfied and it will be much more rewarding. 

What do you think the industry needs to do to improve diversity? 

The spotlight in the workplace is very much on inclusion and diversity, and the stats show we’ve got a long way to go. Diversity confers so many advantages to a business its important that business leaders promote and encourage a culture of inclusion and diversity and provide support and training to help staff from all backgrounds realise their potential.

What piece of technology can you not live without? 

Of course, we all rely heavily on our mobile phones. They have become sophisticated small computers way beyond just being a phone. You only have to consider how we use them every day: weather forecasts, maps and directions, train times, emails, social media, GPS recorders and cameras etc etc. However, as a cyclist, my favorite technological guilty pleasure is my Garmin, without which I wouldn’t be able to monitor my progress on those all-important cycling KPIs!

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