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Meet the Team – Shazia Ginai, chief growth officer at Catalyx

In November, Shazia Ginai joined our award-winning, tech-enabled marketing strategy and insights agency as chief growth officer. With a wealth of experience as chief executive of neuroanalytics and research firm, Neuro-Insight UK, plus prior roles at GHD and Proctor & Gamble, Shazia is now leading our newly established growth team. Here we learn a little more about what makes her tick…

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Shazia…

I’m a British born, south Asian, Muslim woman who loves understanding the inner workings of the human mind.

I started my career working client side, beginning at P&G working on luxury men’s skin care and perfume brands. P&G was an incredible training ground but I knew after seven years it was time to see what existed outside of that bubble so I moved on.

I went on to head up the Global insight function at ghd for the next four years. This role was incredibly turbulent and gave me a much deeper understanding of the more entrepreneurial spirit VC owned businesses have, and taught me a lot about leadership – the good, bad and ugly.

I then moved into the agency world to a small boutique agency, Neuro-Insight. This was an incredible moment in my career, Neuro-Insight is a fascinating business that uses a proprietary neuroscience technique to measure subconscious brain response mostly for advertising research. I went into the business as head of sales and marketing.

After two years in that role, I was promoted to CEO, and served in that role for three and a half years until this amazing opportunity at Catalyx came along. I’m now a month-and-a-half into my new role as chief growth officer of this exciting business.

What are your proudest career success stories to date?

This is a tough question; I feel grateful to have had quite a few “pinch me” moments. There are two in particular that come to mind, however.

The first is quite a big one – keeping a business alive through the pandemic! At the time I was nine months into my role as CEO of Neuro-Insight, a business that generated revenue from measuring the subconscious. When all the brains went into lockdown so did our ability to measure them. This pushed me to pivot our thinking to keep us top of mind during a time when clients couldn’t use us as they usually would, and also to up our game when restrictions were lifted to compensate for that quiet period. Not only did we survive, but we retained profitability, healthy cash flow and generated a good level of revenue in the latter half of 2020. All things considered, a success.

The second is more personal to me – I was asked to feature in the BBC’s digital CEO Secrets series. This gave me an opportunity to talk about being a woman in leadership living with Endometriosis, a menstrual health condition that results in extreme chronic pain. I spoke about how empathetic and open communication from leaders creates a culture of trust and mutual respect. The video was really well received, and many leaders reached out to share how empowering seeing that level of vulnerability was. It’s a scary space for so many to openly venture into, given the conditioned versions of leadership we have all been exposed to. That interview helped both leaders and their teams see that being human in business can be done!

Why did you decide to join Catalyx?

I knew if I was to leave my position as CEO of Neuro-Insight it would have to be an extremely exciting business with a big challenge for me to sink my teeth into. This was it.

I had previously always been in global roles prior to Neuro, so coming back to an international business was also really appealing.

The main reason though was that I am a great believer that research agencies should be strategic partners to their clients, not just a data delivery service – and that’s what Catalyx does.

We provide real partnership, insights that aren’t just interesting, but also actionable for the bigger picture for the business to really unlock growth.

The business is also scalable and utilises a mix of methodologies, which allows more holistic insights to be delivered.

And how have you settled in?

I’m still settling with regards to the role. It’s a brand-new role for the business, which means I have a lot of puzzle pieces to find and a lot to understand before fully mapping out how to put the wheels in motion. This has all been made easier by how lovely the Catalyx team is. I’ve been welcomed in with open arms, and am surrounded by hard working dedicated people.

Are there any aspects of Catalyx that you’re particularly looking forward to getting involved with?

I’m particularly excited about two areas, marketing and product innovation. The wonderful thing about this role is it’s new, so there’s room to innovate and create. The technology itself has so much scale. Being able to create without too many limitations is incredibly exciting.

What makes you so excited about working in the research sector generally?

I’ve worked in the research sector for almost two decades now and, honestly, I never get tired of it.

Research has and always will be pivotal to every business. It’s the gateway to understanding humans; their desires, behaviours and underlying motivations. The industry is vast in its range of disciplines and attracts great talent.

At Catalyx in particular, the use of behavioural science in generating insight is an example of just how forward thinking and in touch this industry is.

Gone are the days of just a survey and a focus group or two, market research continues to be the key to understanding human truth – and that’s what I love.

I am also involved in various D&I initiatives in the sector. The industry is really open and willing to drive societal change and being part of that journey continues to keep me energised.

You also work with a number of industry councils and programmes – tell us more…

I am currently Board Chair for CORe (Colour of Research), am on the Market Research Society’s ED&I Council and have most recently been appointed the WIRe (Women in research) Women of colour representative.

Market research has often been seen as a “female” heavy industry but looking at the facts, while many women tend to come into the sector there are nowhere near enough women in leadership positions. The stats on people of colour are even more shocking.

Given we are an industry that exists to understand and speak the truth of consumers, it is crucial that we are representative of those consumers. There are two reasons for my view on this.

If you have a brain, you have bias. No matter how many training courses we go on, our biases are deeply conditioned and when we interpret research data those biases can creep into the synthesis of the data. Having more diverse voices creating those research questions and analysing the results gives a much more realistic and well-rounded set of results. So, diversity of teams is integral to driving excellence and relevant outcomes for businesses.

Secondly, from a leadership standpoint, we all know that our lived experiences and life context provide the foundation for our creativity and idea generation. When you have a monochrome and mono-gendered board room table, you limit creativity and therefore innovation. So, it’s in everyone’s best interest to have a more inclusive and diverse organisation.

Away from work, how do you relax?

I live for work-life balance and therefore have a tonne of hobbies!

I have a book addiction. I’ve been an avid reader from an early age, so my house is full of books. I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction, more of the latter lately (lots of human behaviour, psychology and neuroscience).

I’m also currently three months into a two-year part time yoga teach training qualification. I’m a huge advocate for bringing yoga back to its roots, so am thoroughly enjoying in depth study of south Asian philosophy as part of this.

I recently qualified in conscious connected breathwork facilitation, a technique used for trauma integration, so when I have time, I run sessions for anyone who needs them.

I also love food. My best friend is a chef and I’m from a Pakistani family, so food has been at the centre of all gatherings for me since day dot. Thankfully, I also love going to the gym with a strict routine, which helps to counteract all the eating!

Finally, what are you hoping to achieve with Catalyx in 2023?

I’m excited to really get my feet under the table and for this year, in particular, I’m looking forward to being part of the shift in mindset around growth and putting a great plan in place that sets us up for the future. Growth is tough, because growth means change, which can take us into the realms of discomfort. So, for me, 2023 is about finding that sweet spot where people can feel excited about growth, which will ultimately bring out the best in us all.

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