James Tennant

Senior Research Analyst (BA, Psychology)

James Tennant, Senior Research Analyst

By: Connor MacGrath, Outreach & Support Peer

Upon graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology: Research Specialist program with an Applied Social Research Option, James Tennant knew he wanted to further pursue his interests in the field of human behaviour research. This led him to Georgian College’s Research Analyst program, where students apply their undergraduate educations and technical skills to real-life projects where they formulate solutions for assigned companies based on comprehensive data analysis. This program revealed many opportunities in various industries, but he was particularly interested in market research, the study of consumer behaviour and what makes us purchase certain products over others.

While at Laurier, James was always interested in why humans act the way they do, and why decisions are made, but was never fully certain as to what specific area of psychology he wanted to pursue. It wasn’t until his senior university year, after reading several books on behavioural psychology and speaking with several professors about psychology careers, that James focused his studies and interests on market research, the psychology of consumer decision making. Upon graduating from Georgian College, James began working for Explorer Research, a market research firm, at their Mississauga office.

In a very client-driven job, James says one of the most appealing things is that no two days at the office are similar. On one day, he could be performing data analysis for specific projects, and on another day, he could be writing reports for clients. He even occasionally travels to Explorer’s Chicago office to take part in client meetings and present his project analysis to colleagues. James works in a small, tight-knit team comprised of just three analysts, a manager and a director. He stresses the importance of team work and communication in such a client-first industry, especially since Explorer’s client base consists of many marketing and brand management firms who rely heavily on data analysis when it comes to their advertising and packaging decisions.

“Deadlines can be tough,” James says. “Especially when you’re balancing several projects and travelling for work. Sometimes you have to work long hours to meet the client’s needs.” James stresses that even though extra work hours can be needed to meet deadlines, he feels that if you’re passionate enough about your work, the long hours are worth it. He also says the unique projects that Explorer undertakes are one of the best parts of the job. For example, a current project James is working on involves eye tracking and virtual reality to gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of product packaging.

Apart from being willing to work long hours, James feels that very analytical and statistically-proficient people would thrive in this line of work. “It’s not just about collecting and reading the numbers, it’s about interpreting that data and seeing the bigger picture.” Seeing the bigger picture is indeed important, especially in such a data-driven age where social media and online presences have opened new ways for companies to reach out to customers and market their products. This is why James sees such an upward trend in the need for research analysts, as many companies now turn to real-time data to influence their marketing strategies. Companies and agencies in healthcare, education, government and marketing are utilizing research analyst teams to enhance their day-to-day operations and make key organizational decisions. He also says that he’s noticed that some professionals in the market research field eventually move to the marketing and branding departments of large companies.

James credits the Georgian College Research Analyst program as one of the biggest ways he set himself apart from other job candidates and wholeheartedly recommends it to anyone pursuing a research-related career. The real-life projects that you undertake as a student at Georgian are a way to immerse yourself in the daily life of a research professional and develop those essential skills necessary for success. James encourages students interested in a research career to begin honing in early on what topics intrigue them during their undergraduate studies, as that can be particularly helpful for identifying employment routes that will enable you to engage in that subject area.