Faye Gracey is Research Analyst / Research and Evaluation Key Account Manager for Products and Materials, Resource Efficiency in Products, Wales and Northern Ireland Programmes at WRAP (Waste and Resource Action Programme)

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to work for Warwickshire Council. That’s where I grew up and I remember really liking the idea of helping shape the area where I lived.

When did you first turn towards a social research career?
I set my sights on a career in research while studying for my A-levels and thinking about university courses.  So I read Sociology at Cardiff University which included modules on research methods and statistics. Later I did an MSc on social science research methods at the OU.

What was your first professional research job?  And first project there?
After graduating it took me a couple of years (mostly working in training) and very many application forms to get my first social research job as a Research Consultant at CRG Research Ltd, at that time the largest social research organisation in Wales covering a wide range of topics for high profile clients. (Sadly it later went into administration.)  My first assignment there was in a project for Merthyr Tydfil council, drafting survey questions and designing  a topic guide for interviews with young people about community based education and learning.

What has been your best professional moment?
While at CRG I gave evidence to the National Assembly for Wales Health, Well-being and Local Government Committee following the publication of a report I had drafted – the “Review of the Role and Functions of Elected Members”. It was great to know that my research was being used to shape change. Similarly in my current role at WRAP I love the fact that the work I do can lead to real business and environmental benefits.

...and worst?
As a freelance contractor I hated occasions when there was a piece of work I really wanted to undertake but for whatever reason didn’t win the contract.

Do you have a social research hero/heroine?
The best piece of research is wasted unless you can get the right people to read or listen to your findings. Peter Wilkinson, the Managing Director of Policy, Research and Studies when I was at the Audit Commission, had great influencing skills and for this reason stands out to me.  People talk of social research and think of data and analysis, but people skills are equally important – particularly when the research we undertake has the potential to change lives.

Do you have a favourite quote?
If you don’t like something, change it.

What would you say to encourage a young person today considering a social research career?
We spend so much time in work it’s worth putting the effort in to get a job you enjoy. Yes, the job market’s tough but if you’re passionate about social research keep trying until you’re given the right chance. The thing I love is the fact that there’s so much choice and so much opportunity to gain insights into the way we live – I’ve interviewed everyone from women in refuges and young people at risk of becoming involved with crime to local authority Chief Executives, supervised analysts separating food waste, managed multi-disciplinary and cross-organisational  teams and delivered training for the Welsh Government and the Home Office. I’d certainly recommend it as a career.
Interview by William Solesbury

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