Dr. Litton is a graduate of Evolution’s highly successful Evolution Research Associate Program (or “ERAP”). ERAP is a year-long training program for current doctoral candidates and recent doctoral degree recipients. The goal of this program is to develop the next generation of Evolution research team members while providing participants with valuable marketing research, consulting, and pharmaceutical industry experience. During her tenure as a Research Associate, Dr. Litton was fundamental in working closely with project managers on global qualitative and quantitative projects. Now as a full-time Consultant, Dr. Litton manages projects and provides clients with high quality service and delivers exceptional results. We sat down with her to learn more about her background and what brought her to Evolution.
Q: Krystyna, what was your education background and professional experience before coming to Evolution?
Prior to joining Evolution my background was predominantly academic. I came to the firm straight from academia, shortly after I received my PhD degree in Political Science at Temple University. I received an M.A. degree in political science from Kansas State University.
Research – qualitative and quantitative – filled most of my time over the past 6-8 years. The latter was primarily in behavioral studies, particularly focusing on public opinion and development of preferences and interpersonal trust. All of my research involved comparative cross-country analysis, primarily in EU and CIS countries.
Of some relevance, my undergraduate degree was in business and economics, which I received from a national university in Ukraine. My initial focus was in marketing, but a growing interest in international business and international economic relations brought me to political science, which, as I found, had great skills and insights of its own to offer.
Q: How has this previous experience prepared you for a career in marketing research?
This is a very big and important question reflecting not only my personal experience but also a trend in the labor market today. There is a growing number of recent PhD’s floating outside of academia trying to move beyond their comfort zone and into the business world. It requires repurposing skills and this task requires turning the academic mind inside out and looking at one’s skills from a completely different angle.
Academia often focuses on the value of the contextual knowledge one has. The skills received in the process of getting to that knowledge is rarely talked about and barely recognized. Therefore, many PhDs are not aware of the pure value of their skills (net of contextual knowledge).
So, the good news – all necessary skills ARE there, one just needs to think outside of the box in search for their definition and application.
For instance, I learned that my teaching experience comes very handy when I brief our vendors on a project and the tasks at hand – they take place of my past students who need to understand deadlines, comprehend information, ask clarifying questions and get answers. Lecturing experience is also useful and has a direct application when presenting reports to our clients.
Research, writing, and delivering papers and meeting tight deadlines are the core part of every graduate student life – so they are in life of market researchers and consultants. Left alone the fact that dissertation research, especially if it involves fieldwork, makes one a manager of his/her own project, requiring performing all tasks from A to Z.
For someone who has been to grad school (and it doesn’t have to be a PhD) there are a lot of familiar tasks. We use deduction when writing discussion guides for the interviews or designing a survey, testing hypotheses and ideas about possible trends. We use induction by synthesizing information from either qualitative interviews or surveys, analyzing and summarizing them in reports. Moreover, analytic skills, understanding causation, correlation, and logic are the key vehicles turning raw intelligence into actionable conclusions and recommendations.
I also got lucky in grad school being exposed to various statistical methods and multivariate techniques – even though our company has team members who specifically specialize in those methods, and being superb at that, it helped me to understand their language. It makes our teamwork more harmonious.
And of course it is great when one can also make a use of their contextual knowledge. In my case, I found my background in studying voting behavior, preference formation, and interpersonal trust as part of my research in political science, helped me not only to understand preference formation for medical products but also to understand the doctor-patient relationship in greater depth.
Thus, graduate school is a very valuable step in one’s, even non-academic, career. It gives an array of skills applicable in marketing research and in business world in general.
Q: During your time with Evolution what area of marketing research has been most interesting to you?
I truly enjoy synthesizing information – amalgamating it and consequently ordering, coding, simplifying, and making it more schematic. I really enjoy making order out of complete chaos – chaos and overflow of information, that is.
In terms of a project type, any research supporting the conceptualization and the launch of a new product is exciting to conduct, but perhaps the most interesting are the exploratory studies (where we often use MEM and explore the unmet needs). It puts you at the edge of the latest research and on the horizons of yet to be researched possibilities. It gives you the rush of being in the uncharted territory.
Besides, your research may be setting/altering endpoints for clinical trials of some medicine that would change lives – the outcomes of our research may not only set goals for many people in medical industry from clinical researchers to brand team members to executives, but also give hopes to thousands if not millions of patients.
Q: What therapeutic areas are becoming your specialties?
I know it has been a norm for a market researcher to develop one or two therapeutic areas to specialize in; however, I’d argue that it is as equally important to have an ability to step back from the detailed picture in order to see a larger pattern. Often it requires a different type of personality. I believe I am more wired for that kind of role.
My ever-curious mind often takes me to the therapeutic areas I have not been exposed to. It keeps my mind sharp and attentive, it allows drawing parallels between developments in various therapeutic areas, bringing insights which are otherwise overlooked, and it maintains the ability to see patterns at the bird’s eye view, preventing from being lost in details.
Q: What trends, if any, have you observed in the industry?
One major industry trend that I foresee in the future is an even greater focus on compliance, brought about by ACA emphasis on preventive care. Compliance concerns are not new to the industry, but Pharma efforts thus far have been largely ineffective in this field (mostly due to the PT distrust in what comes across as a Pharma-biased nature of the compliance campaigns). Pharmaceutical companies will be pushed to search for a more creative and not as transparent ways to increase compliance if they want to get on with the preventive care framework of ACA.
For market researchers it will mean a greater number of projects directed at increasing compliance – be it research on smart technology (connecting patients with their medicines and disorders on a more informed and up personal level) or research on new medicine formulations dealing with compliance issue in a more direct way (long acting injectables or recently developed ‘Onion’ vesicles for drug delivery developed by UPenn researchers, to name a few).