Angus Tindle is a Director at IFF Research. Within a varied role, he works with benefit claimants to understand the impact of welfare and employment policies and pilots; and regularly leads on studies to understand the customer experience of using public services, from making a complaint via the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, to using the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Emergency Travel Document service to deal with being stranded in Brazil without a passport! Legal and financial services are other areas of interest.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think my first serious career inclination was to be an architect or - linked to this - a set designer for the theatre. I was fascinated by the illusion of reality created by a few stage-flats.
When did you first turn towards a social research career?
In 1997, after a degree in English Language and Literature and after eventually deciding not to pursue an MA in Museum Studies (another interest was being a curator!) I revisited my university careers service and spent a couple of days researching potential careers. This was the outcome.
What was your first professional job? And first project there?
It was market research - a placement at a chemicals company that involved using a combination of analysis of sales data, desk research and short depth interviews to create a vivid picture of the state of play in the animal feeds and oils markets. It was a useful lesson in having to be tenacious in the face of incomplete data and uncooperative respondents; and to think creatively to build up a picture from disparate sources.
Where did your career go next? What motivated that/those moves?
That helped get me a job at a research agency called Swift Research - motivated by their offer of the (then) novelty of a salary. They straddled both social research and its commercial counterpart, and so I was simultaneously introduced to how to structure a questionnaire to establish taste preferences between Chinese sauces, and qualitative research into perceptions of the Police.
What has been your best professional moment?
That’s a bit dramatic - I’m not sure life really consists of such great peaks and troughs - though there are enough lower-key successes! Recently I really enjoyed presenting a piece on employer attitudes to apprenticeships to a conference hosted by the Skills Funding Agency, the National Apprenticeship Service, BEIS and so on. It was one of those projects where you had to use a wide range of techniques and data sources, and practically reinvent the project on a weekly basis in response to the emerging findings. We distilled all this down to half a dozen slides painting a picture of who these groups of employers were and what might persuade them to take on more apprentices. Afterwards quite a few people came up and said that it was (a) genuinely useful and (b) that our employer ‘types’ rang true.
Anything involving qualitative research where the journey goes disastrously wrong is pretty mortifying: being stuck on a motorway in Lancashire knowing there was a classroom of schoolkids waiting to talk to me; or being stuck on a broken-down train on the way to run a workshop. I now try to leave extremely early as you never know what’s going to happen.
Do you have a social research hero/heroine?
More a qualitative research hero, actually. I have found Roy Langmaid (of the Langmaid Practice; he co-authored ‘Qualitative Market Research: A Practitioner's and Buyer's Guide’ with qual guru Wendy Gordon) very inspiring in his quest to challenge what we take qualitative research to be – in essence, we ask too many questions, allow too little time and need to get more adventurous. It’s a useful corrective to the widespread tendency to treat the focus group as a sort of 90-minute open-ended questionnaire.
Do you have a favourite quote?
No. Matthew Taylor of the RSA was in mind as he did a brilliant presentation at the latest event in IFF’s Evidence Matters events series this year covering the role of evidence in a time of uncertainty. Amongst a fascinating torrent of ideas delivered at breakneck speed he discussed the 4 perspectives on evidence; Fatalism, Hierarchy, Individualism & Solidarity.
What would you say to encourage a young person today considering a social research career?
It is intellectually stimulating; you have some fascinating topics thrown your way and you have the privilege of going out and dipping into other people’s lives. You need to be able to write well; think hard (and be prepared to keep thinking, beyond the easier answers), and continually solve problems. And whatever your political leanings, you should also probably read The Economist as an example of great accessible writing on the sorts of topics that social research engages with.