Q&A with Bill Salokar, Vice President, Client Solutions, SKIM

Editor’s note: Nancy Cox is the founder of Research Story Consulting and former CPG corporate researcher. Her work and play include words, sketchpads, cooking (not baking) and the occasional sock puppet.

Passions, hobbies, healthy distractions and even guilty pleasures – discover how the research community plays and how that plays out in their work life. In the Venn diagram of work and play, what happens when work and play overlap? Research colleagues share their work and play stories in this interview series by Nancy Cox. 

Hello to Bill Salokar, vice-president, client solutions, SKIM

What is the “play” in your life?

I purposively put play into my work. In my job, I’ve worked to create awareness of SKIM. On my LinkedIn posts, I noticed that posts that looked like they came from the company had relatively few views. But if I posted something more playful and fun, it would get a lot of views.

One Saturday, I decided to try my hand at writing a haiku. When I was in college, like a lot of people, I was really into poetry. I was a fan of Ezra Pound, the poet, and he liked haikus. I was never a poet myself, being a math and statistics major, but I always had that interest. I still don’t think of myself as a poet, but haikus would be an easy and succinct way to communicate a truth about the research and marketing industry. And, do it in a way that is both fun and thought-provoking.

After I posted a few haikus about the industry, I found I was getting lots of comments and lots of views. I even created my own hashtag #insightshaiku. Again, a little bit tongue-in-cheek.

People were saying this is cool, keep doing it. With that encouragement, I made a commitment to post one research industry haiku each week for a year – then let it go. I didn’t want to do it forever. I’ve stopped writing the haikus for now but occasionally I get inspired and post one.

A lot of my inspiration came from observing my clients and colleagues. If I saw or heard something interesting, I would jot it down. One of my favorite haikus is about conference rooms being in short supply, back when we were regularly in the office. A common experience is that you would be in a room for 30 minutes and then someone would peek in the door. So, I wrote that observation down then refined it into this haiku:

Ah, conference rooms
In short supply everywhere
Oops, our time is up

When I tapped into our shared experiences, I generated the most comments and likes. An example of another shared experience haiku is about focus groups.

Focus groups are gone
Or so I have been hearing
And yet, some next week

How has your play influenced your research work?

I wanted to be creative and have fun doing it. When I can think about work being fun, and I usually do, that’s a big motivation.

I also wanted to get a reaction from people in a positive way. Maybe have people say “mmm, that’s a different way of thinking about it.” I never wanted to be critical of the industry. I wanted to observe things about it but stay away from negativity. Like the haiku about the focus groups, it’s not being critical. It’s just kind of funny we’ve been saying this for years but focus groups endure.

One interesting story is that when I was at a market research conference, I got into the elevator wearing my name tag. Another researcher, whom I did not know, recognized me as “that guy who writes those haikus.” Made my day.

What would you tell readers who want to know more about your area of play?

First, I was just having fun with it so I kind of bent the rules of haiku. The first two lines are supposed to set something up and then the third line is supposed to have a twist. Nobody every called me out on it. I never took myself that seriously about being a poet.

If you want to try work haikus, keep your eyes and ears open – there is always inspiration to jot down a thought and refine it later. For example, in the course of this interview, Nancy challenged me to write a haiku about the missing e-mail attachment experience.

E-mail attachment
Too easy to forget it
"Can you resend, please"

But the true idea is not so much haiku but how do you have fun in market research? There are a lot of things that are fun about this industry but sometimes it’s hard to be artistic. The haiku was one way I tapped into that. Then for a while, I played with pie chart posts. One of our simplest forms of data visualization. I tried to say something pithy and fun using pie charts.

Another type of play is one people don’t see – I listen to music while I work. Obviously, I don’t play music when I’m working with someone. But, when I’m alone, I have music on most of the time. I can pick the right genre: to concentrate I can listen to jazz or classical without lyrics or to go into chill mode I can listen to rock or country.

I think it’s particularly important to bring your interests – haiku, music, dad jokes – into your work especially now that most of us are still working from home. Free yourself to be creative. Free yourself not to be afraid to put yourself out there. Yes, there is always the risk that someone might say “what an idiot.” But the more fun you have at work; the less work seems like work.