A Q&A with our Senior Researcher, Lucia Loffreda

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Lucia Loffreda, Senior Researcher | Research Consulting

Lucia joined Research Consulting in 2018 as a social sciences graduate from the University of Nottingham and today, she has been promoted to Senior Researcher. Over the years, Lucia has worked on projects across the scholarly communication landscape with a particular focus on open science and international development.

In this post, we’ll get to know her a little better.

How did you start your career with Research Consulting?

I joined the Research Consulting team through the Nottingham Internship Scheme in 2018, initially through a ten-week internship. When this was extended, I took up my first permanent role as a Researcher in early 2019.

It all started in the summer after completing my degree in International Relations at the University of Nottingham. Like most graduates, I wasn’t entirely sure of what I wanted to do next. To help me narrow down my options, I thought about what I liked the most about my time at university so that I could find a way to put my skills and interests to good use.

For me, the best thing about my studies was that they were grounded in real-world issues: the opportunity to solve problems and make a difference – this was the highlight of my course. I also enjoyed learning how to recognise, understand and work with complex relationships between all kinds of individuals and organisations. From what I had heard, these things are also quite important in consulting – so looking for opportunities in this space felt like the natural next step.

While I was studying in Nottingham, I also spent some time as a Marketing Placement Student with the University’s Business Engagement and Innovation Services team. This was where I first started to hear about things like the University’s role in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and how entrepreneurs are supported through the Ingenuity Lab. Little did I know that in a couple of years’ time, my new office would sit right underneath it!

Could you share some highlights from the last three years?

It’s really challenging to pick highlights from my time at Research Consulting, but it’s safe to say that the projects I enjoy the most are our multi-stakeholder consultations, and particularly those with an international element.

In my first year as a researcher, I had the opportunity to work on a project for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (formerly Department for International Development) to support innovation and development across the African continent. This project lasted for around a year and involved an extensive consultation with stakeholders across seven African countries – synthesising all of these findings was a significant intellectual challenge, but certainly well worth the while.

More recently, I’ve been working on a project for Knowledge Exchange, investigating research reproducibility in the broader context of open science. As part of the project, our Senior Consultant, Andrea and I engaged with a diverse group of over fifty stakeholders in a mix of interviews and focus groups. Again, this has been one of the more complicated research projects we’ve taken on at the company, but with the help of our associates Laura Fortunato and Noémie Aubert-Bonn, and the expert group at Knowledge Exchange, it’s all come together. Watch this space for our final report coming in later this month!

What are your top tips for becoming a successful researcher in the consultancy sector?

Working at Research Consulting can be quite a unique experience, because we’re a relatively small team compared to other consultancy firms. One of the most interesting and challenging parts of my job has been the ever-shifting boundaries of my responsibilities as I continued to grow in my role.

Over the past few years, I’ve picked up a few tricks that could be valuable to others in similar positions:

  1. Seize opportunities to learn. What’s great about working at Research Consulting is that you’re continuously learning. First of all, I couldn’t talk about learning without mentioning the team that I’m working with. There may only be a small group of us, but the sheer diversity of skills, knowledge and backgrounds means that everyone has something to teach you. Through some more formal channels, I’ve also had the opportunity to earn some qualifications through the company. In 2019, I achieved my PRINCE2 project management certification and earlier in the year I completed a six-month course in data analytics and presentation skills. It’s been great to put these skills to practical use on our projects.
  2. Be open to new approaches to working. We’re always looking for new ways to improve our work. Sometimes, this means taking new approaches or using different techniques. Over the past year, for example, we rapidly shifted to remote working and began to deliver more online events, webinars and training sessions to continue to support our clients. Internally, we also enjoy adding new tools to our toolkit. For example, I’ve taken on the role as our NVivo expert, helping the team to utilise a coding software that makes our qualitative analyses more efficient and insightful.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I’ve had a lot of new experiences at Research Consulting, from speaking at an international conference to managing a team of students through their own consultancy challenge as part of their Nottingham Advantage Award. I highlighted these moments specifically as, while they aren’t the everyday activities of a researcher, they were certainly rewarding in their own unique ways. Because we’re a relatively small team at Research Consulting, the fact that we’re all willing to get stuck into something new creates quite an exciting environment.

To sum things up, being keen to take on new and complex challenges with an open and positive attitude is a key part of what we do: in my role as Senior Researcher, I’ll continue to work with our great team to do just that. Over the coming years, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in many more projects and delivering work for our clients all over the world – all from our little (but growing) base in Nottingham!

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