It’s an exciting time for HRW! Christine Dalzell takes the helm in April as our new Global Managing Director… but what makes her tick, and what can you expect to see with Christine in charge?
We sat down for a chat to give you an insight into our new GMD’s passions, expertise, and unparalleled M&Ms delivery services…
Hi Christine! What’s your story? How did you get to HRW?
“I’d finished my PhD in social psychology at the University of Delaware, and while I knew I didn’t want to go down the academic route, I didn’t know what was next.
I was scoping out roles in New York and in California (considering returning home), but I’d heard some of my peers talking about market research, and when I looked at my skillset I started to think this might be a good fit.
I looked at a few places and had an interview at a Manhattan-based firm… and just knew it was the job for me. This firm must have felt the same, as I received a job offer before I even got home from the interview!
With this firm, I worked across a range of sectors (consumer, OTC, financial services…), but the changing economic climate and growing direct-to-consumer advertisements meant that we were seeing pharma spend more and more on MR and insights: and this became a larger portion of my role, with a growing specialism in healthcare.
I grew up with that company, and the company grew up around me: we went through a few mergers and acquisitions, and I suddenly realised I was in a large organisation working across many industries, at a point in my career when I wanted to be somewhere a little smaller, where I could have an influence and be impact- focussed in healthcare exclusively.
Around this time, I got a call from a recruiter describing HRW, and it seemed like the right time and the right role – so this started a very successful conversation!”
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
“I think we make a difference in the world by supporting the development of life-changing therapies – that’s really exciting.
But what gets me into the office on a day-to-day basis is the opportunity to work with bright, intellectually curious minds: I love thinking creatively with my colleagues and having stimulating conversations about the business questions we tackle each day.
HRW fosters this environment and gives everyone an opportunity to contribute – I’m really pleased to be able to continue to support this environment, and work in a company that affords that opportunity. We really encourage people to come here and express themselves – at all levels of seniority.”
What are you most proud of from your time so far with HRW?
“Possibly not (inadvertently) getting our entire UK-based team addicted to my regular imports of caramel M&Ms…. I think it’s being part of the growing US arm of our business, that has continued to function as an integrated Client Service Hub and a true extension of the rest of the business.
When I arrived, the London and Oxford Hubs were working so well to function as a truly global, integrated business – and I’m so pleased that our Manhattan Hub works the same way.”
What are your biggest hopes for the next year?
“We want to continue the great work we’ve been doing so far: not just in our core MR offering, but in our focus on oncology through OR:BIT; and on behaviour change through HRW Shift. I really want to continue to evolve and improve who we are and what we do, maintaining our focus on innovation.
I also want to commit to our promise of being an employer of choice – supporting our people in living to their full potential, with the right work life balance, in an environment where they can stretch themselves intellectually. I want to continue to foster this environment and attract and retain people who love us as much as we love them!”
And how about your hopes for the next five years?
“That we will continue to grow in a strategic way. Growth is health, and if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking! But it is key to achieve this in a measured, thoughtful way. We’ll be listening to our clients and hearing what it is they want and need: understanding how we can best support them as a company and as individuals.
This will likely include us taking advantage of our opportunity for expansion across our growing Manhattan and London Hubs; and continuing to support our global clients and their needs throughout the world, with further expansion where appropriate.
With any expansion, this will be tackled with the passion that we demonstrated when we started up in Manhattan: ensuring that new sites and teams are truly able to integrate into the business, so that we can offer a consistent, positive experience for clients and our employees regardless of geography.”
What developments or innovations excite you in the MR space today?
“Agile research is an exciting one… it might not manifest in the same way in health as we see in the consumer space, but our clients all seem to think of it differently.
When we think about it, if ‘agile’ means simplicity of thought, purpose and communication, that’s certainly exciting. I’ve always maintained the ethos that we need to have a focus: to ask a pointed question and get an insightful answer that is not complicated by competing objectives. With an agile approach to research, we can get down to business without being distracted by peripheral vague questions and give our clients the pertinent insights they need.
I also think there’ll be continued interest in behavioural science and behavioural change – HRW Shift is growing further, and the feeling that we are fulfilling the potential of this area is exciting.
It will be interesting to see how technology changes the way we conduct research, such as machine learning and AI. We are always interrogating new technologies and techniques – often in partnership with sister company MMR – and are ready to offer guidance and our opinion on the potential application of such advancements.”
What will the big changes be in how we work in our industry in the future?
“I think things will become a little polarised… some research questions around the patient experience will be answered through the wisdom of the crowds, such as scanning social media and the digital space. There’s something to be said for everyone being a potential patient: and asking the crowd for their thoughts on certain issues can help us inform our understanding of people in general – we don’t always need a precise patient type or narrow window.
But there are pronounced challenges with this, though, for the healthcare sphere – it’s fairly dirty data! Sometimes, we do need to be very specific; and as such overcome the challenge of unwillingness to share patient experiences. In such cases, we are still required to go thoughtfully into the patient experience through other (more traditional) channels.
As for physicians: well, being honest, we researchers make their participation super boring for them! Like all humans, doctors are hungry for connection and knowing how others think – as evidenced through their consumption of journals, and attendance at conferences. We need to make MR more of a collective experience – for example, by sharing the results of our work (while appreciating sensitivity and confidentiality).
Creating physician communities can also be key to this. Whether this is locally or globally, we can look to create connections and demonstrate that MR participants are part of something larger. Physician research may become an exercise involving a smaller number or highly engaged physicians – which also ties in nicely with agile research – where we strive to be more focussed and efficient.”
HRW has several Client Service Hubs around the world. What are the tricks to running a truly global business successfully?
“I’d say that it’s not so much tricks as trust and communication. You simply cannot communicate enough. We also have to have a team that supports the shared vision that we’re all working towards with the same intention, values, and aspirations. If this is the case, we can leave people to get on with their jobs and trust they’ll all make good choices based on these uniting goals and values.”
What should our clients expect from you as our new Global MD?
“They should be confident that all the things they love about HRW will continue to be there. Any change will be good change: Caroline had a vision for the company that has been realised, and we’re just extending that now. We’ll be delivering more of the same while carrying on, improving, and expanding the legacy.”
What do you do when you’re not in the office?
“I have a family, dogs, a kid, and a husband… I have a love of theatre and cooking – try to engage with all of these things as much as I can.
I love hosting and enjoy inviting as many people as I can to my home for various parties and events throughout the year – Thanksgiving, Easter Brunch, and my summer shellfish garden party “Crabfest”, where many a crustacean has been sacrificed…
I also love spending time and having adventures with my colleagues in all of our global Hubs – for example, this weekend I was in London – and managed to squeeze in three shows, a gin blending experience day, dim sum, and dinner at an amazing seafood place – clearly indulging my love of theatre, delicious food and great company!”