Ray Poynter is President-Elect of ESOMAR, which is a member’s organisation and the business community of insights and analytics, and Chief Research Officer at Platform One. With decades in the market research field, Ray says he has enjoyed both success and failure, which has taught him things he hopes to pass on. He’s also written books including The Handbook of Mobile Market Research and The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research. We caught up with Ray about his time at Salford when he studied Computer Science and Economics back in the 1970s.  

What are some of your favourite memories of studying at the University? 

My favourite memories include: Discovering the painter LS Lowry, whose paintings were in the Art Gallery on the campus in those days; discovering chicken biryani and hot sauce at Charlie’s Plaza; being Treasurer of the Student’s Union; and playing rugby for the University. But my favourite memory is meeting so many new people from so many different backgrounds. 

How did your studies at the University help you in your career? 

My first job out of university put my Computer Science degree to work as a programmer. From there, I went on to spend 45 years at the interface of technology and market research, finding ever better ways to understand people’s hopes, beliefs and attitudes – in a commercial context. (Despite the fact that everything I learned about computers in the years 1975 to 1978 has long since moved from current practice to the history books.) 

What advice would you give to students and alumni wanting to pursue a career in Business? 

I offer two pieces of advice to anybody looking for a career in business. The first: Don’t work in your strongest field, work in a field that interests you where you can leverage your strongest field. If I had stayed as a computer programmer there would always have been better programmers. But by specialising in the science of understanding consumers, I became a relative expert in the field of computer science. 

My second piece of advice is to understand how companies make their money, don’t become fixated on your role in isolation. In business, your role is there for a bigger reason, and that reason usually relates to how the organisation makes money.  

Ray even returned to the campus recently, to speak at the first international Netnography Conference at The University of Salford. Ray said: ‘The first international conference on Netnography was held on 26-28 July at the University of Salford in the UK. I was delighted to attend the conference, representing ESOMAR (who were a sponsor of the event). For anybody unfamiliar with it, netnography is the blending of ethnography, social media, and qualitative research’ 

Thanks to Ray for sharing his story with us… have you got an alumni story? Email alumni@salford.ac.uk to tell us yours!