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[PODCAST] Being the change you want to see

Data Stories: Leaders at Work is a weekly podcast brought to you by Audiense. Hosted by Rahul Jerome, founder of, the series captures personal anecdotes and career highlights from some of the most talented and brightest minds in the research and insights industry.

On the third episode of the Data Stories: Leaders at Work podcast, Rahul talks to Jackie Cuyvers, CEO and co-founder of Convosphere, a social intelligence company that helps businesses see the value of social intelligence.

With a background in art history and using the scientific method to analyze methods and materials, Jackie has long been interested in the intersection of art and science. She even spent some time while at university using forensic methods to discover fakes in the art world. She ended up staying in the US for a decade before returning to the UK in 2011. In the London office, she managed a social insights team.

She suggests that most people come to social intelligence in a variety of ways, but she cites her exposure to social insights as a necessity. She worked with marketing agencies to understand digital marketing before the days of social media. It suddenly became apparent that there was a ton of value in leveraging social media for marketing and communications purposes. In a lot of ways, Jackie had to intuit how to take these insights and deliver them into actionable items.

From a researcher’s perspective, the idea of ethics and accuracy weren’t immediately apparent. But as regulators continue to shape the way that we can interact with private information online, it is suddenly in the best interest of insights researchers to figure out what this will mean for businesses with a digital footprint moving forward. And these insights will likely change as the industry changes.

Moving to a discussion of Jackie’s business spirit, she shares that her parents were entrepreneurial. Back in 2002, she grew a monthly newsletter to 10,000 subscribers—even before she really even knew how to do it. She points to the grit and determination that her parents watered in her that allowed her to even pull something like that off. She taught herself to use Photoshop, PHP and CSS. Now, she’s taking Python classes and R classes to be able to analyze social research data sets.

The need for delivering deep social intelligence is so important. When talking about delivering results from a dataset on a project in Slovenia, she says “You can’t just run these things through Google translate and expect to learn the language.”

Her office is in London, but her workers are all over the world. The importance of understanding the cultural and regional platforms is paramount. She says, “I wouldn’t be a good researcher for an American project because I don’t have the cultural literacy to really deliver meaningful data insights.”

Jackie says that she likes to wake up “happy and nerdy” to provide solutions for her clients. That’s the bug that keeps her going. 

Moving on to the Q&A fun rapid round, she provides the following insights:

  • The one tool she couldn’t do her job without is her iPhone. It’s the catch all that allows her to perform so many tasks at once.
  • Her favorite resources are a Urban Dictionary and Know Your Meme — they help her keep up to date with the culture.
  • The one person who has had a great career is the psychologist Robert Plutchik and his extremely insightful “wheel of emotion.” It helps you to understand the emotional drivers and, thus, manage and impact it.
  • Don’t over stretch yourself! Make sure to schedule personal time as needed. 
  • If money was no object, she says she would just do more of her job. Attend more conferences, help her clients, etc.
  • She’d like to become known as the number one insights agency in the world.
  • Her advice to someone working in social insights:
    • Curiosity is key. You may not need professional experience, but you have to be able to learn. With the personal experience, you can have a better understanding of what’s possible.
    • The resources are available. Make use of them!
    • Don’t be afraid of starting your business. Market test your idea and join a network. Learn from the experiences of others and go at it.

Jackie has also owned female-led incubators, as well as sponsored events to grow female-owned businesses. The female entrepreneurship is what Jackie is most passionate about.

The full version of the podcast with Jackie Cuyvers can be listened here: