Paula Nyfield, Executive Vice President strategically guiding clients from data to action, has long been a pillar at MAi Research. Paula works hard and plays hard, has high expectations but provides motivation. She spends time everyday bettering herself and the company.
This month we’d like to share a brief interview with Paula that demonstrates why she is such an important piece of our team.
How did you start your career with MAi?
“I started out as a project director, and I ended up developing relationships with clients that eventually led me into sales. I don’t feel like a salesperson, and I still don’t consider myself a salesperson. I’m a researcher and I grew into a sales role. I still oversee all my projects, I design my projects – which is one of my favorite parts – and I don’t give my clients away to other people, but I do delegate specific tasks to our team. I’m involved from the proposal stage/designing the study through the questionnaire and finally analysis and reporting. I like bringing the findings of the research to actionable insights. I am always challenging my team with the question, “so what?” when we pull the conclusions together.”
You mentioned earlier that you were on the forefront of telecommuting, what did you mean by that?
“When the company was making its move down to Charleston, I wasn’t in a place where I wanted to move with them. Originally, they said if I don’t make the move, I can’t work for the company. Well, I told them I wasn’t moving and they didn’t follow through on “if you don’t move you can’t work for us.” They set me up an office in my house, and I believe I’m one of the first people who was telecommuting back then. I’ve been working from home for over 20 years. Since the pandemic, people have been talking to me about all the benefits of working from home, and I tell them they are preaching to the choir. Telecommuting has allowed me to be present in my job, my family, and myself.”
So, does your current role have a name?
“I am an Executive Vice President, Client Advisor. We went with this title because I advise from both ends. I advise my clients and my team at MAi.”
What drives you to learn and use new research tools?
“I love designing research. I find the new techniques that are already out there and the ones we are developing very interesting, and I like to be involved with it. It’s the way that I continue to grow and learn in this business. I’m not a statistician, I don’t necessarily create new research tools, but I know what I want them to do for me and what questions they should be answering. From this standpoint, I can help MAi use and develop our techniques.”
How do your skills complement the AI’s capabilities?
“I’m not here to invent AI, but I know what I want it to do for us and for our clients. I know what questions we should be asking the AI. Then our team can run with those questions and find answers. I like reading about new technology and techniques because I like to see the applications and how we can potentially use it to improve our client’s experience.”
Why does AI need to be partnered with the “Human element?”
“From what we’ve seen when we compare AI alone to AI with the “Human Element,” the human element brings insights to a deeper level. AI is great at organizing and seeing the patterns in data, but our experience allows us to develop insights.”
Do you prefer working with the clients or behind the scenes?
“I like both but I’m a people person. I’ve developed relationships with some of my clients over the course of 20 years. People who are clients, are friends now. I enjoy talking to people. My husband will come into my office and hear me talking to a client and think I’m talking to a friend on the phone, when I’m actually talking to a client. He says, “wow, you’re nicer to them than you are to me!”
What has changed for you since starting with the company?
“I’ve been on all sides of this business. I’ve been a client; I’ve been on the agency side and the supplier side. Being on all sides of the business has offered a better perspective of the business and helped me better understand what my clients need and how I can help make their job easier. I feel like I can see the bigger picture now, whereas when I first started, I didn’t know how to take the results from reporting the numbers to implications. Now, when I’m looking at the data, I can visualize a story.”
When you’re not researching, what do you like to do?
“I start every day I can with hot yoga. I’ve been doing that for over 15 years. I just went to a yoga retreat this past winter in Costa Rica and felt like I was in heaven even though it was two classes a day. I love the group aspect of yoga and the weight and cardio classes that I also attend. I like being around the people because we motivate each other, and it makes it feel like home when I’m there. I also love to ski. I was in Colorado skiing and then 2 weeks later was headed down to Costa Rica for the yoga retreat, so all around it was a great winter.”
Why have you stayed with MAi?
“I’m always learning here. But it’s also that I work with good people. We have an incredible team. Our coworkers tend to stay with the company for a long time. Our group is honest, hard-working, and we all have the same expectation of high-quality work.”
“One of my yoga teachers always says, “it will never get easier tomorrow.” That always pushes me to work hard today.”
To learn more about how MAi Research and Pathfinder Analytics work with clients to creatively address challenging business questions, check us out at www.mairesearch.com and you can talk to Paula directly.