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Sahar Ali

Sahar Ali

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

Born in Kuwait and moved to India after high school, I have experienced different cultures firsthand and imbibed a lot of different values. Growing up I could not help wondering why people are so different and what makes people tick. Eventually, that led me to discover a career in market research, where professionals like myself spend our days studying consumer behavior and figuring out what drives people to make certain decisions. At the heart of this work lies the art of storytelling, where I transform consumer insights into meaningful narratives that resonate with both businesses and their target audiences. Beyond my work as a market researcher, I have the privilege of being part of the Toronto leadership team at Ellevate, a community that empowers women through networking, discussions, and education. As the leader of our monthly Coffee Connections, I have had the pleasure of facilitating virtual networking events that bring women together to discuss a wide range of topics. In my free time, I indulge in my passion for plants, nurturing and propagating a variety of species. I also find solace in the pages of self-help books, particularly those that combine spiritual and scientific knowledge to guide me toward a more fulfilling life.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

Ellevate has been an invaluable platform for me to enhance my public speaking skills. Specifically, hosting coffee connections helped me overcome my inhibitions associated with this craft. One story that makes me particularly proud, is about one of our event guests who chose to become a member. She told me that the Coffee Connection events helped her navigate some challenging workplace dynamics, and she subsequently earned a promotion. This resonated with me, since the fundamental objective of these Connection events is to furnish women with a platform for inquiring, acquiring knowledge, and ultimately advancing their professional careers.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

To be a successful market researcher, one must possess a keen attention to detail and an insatiable curiosity. These qualities are essential not only when working with intricate data sets but also when communicating with clients and research participants to ensure that their biases do not taint your findings. The ability to discern subtle cues and details is crucial to producing accurate research outcomes.

Perseverance and excellent communication skills are also vital for market researchers. In particular, the ability to communicate complex research findings to non-experts, such as senior executives or non-researchers, is essential. This requires repeated revisiting of presentations and report summaries to ensure that all the critical insights are conveyed accurately, and that no information is lost in translation.

It is essential to strike a balance between highlighting the potential of a product and being realistic about its risks and challenges. For instance, if a client is passionate about a new product, it is imperative to communicate potential risks and challenges that could impact its success without sounding overly pessimistic or discouraging.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

As I mentioned earlier, I have had the privilege of living in multiple countries and experiencing different cultures firsthand. Born and raised in Kuwait to Indian parents, I was immersed in both Middle-Eastern and Indian cultures, but while growing up with friends from various parts of the world, I was also exposed to Western culture.

My curiosity about how marketing messages differ across cultures led me to pursue a career in advertising. However, my deep interest in understanding what drives consumer behavior and decision-making prompted me to switch to market research. After spending a year in advertising in India, I moved to Canada to follow my passion for market research.

Before starting my professional journey, I invested time in studying public relations and corporate communications. Although I am well-versed in English, I wanted to understand the differences in communication styles across different countries. This decision has proven to be invaluable in my career, helping me connect better with clients and colleagues.

Now, I am a full-time market researcher, analyzing consumer behavior and decision-making processes. My diverse cultural background and experience have provided me with a unique perspective, allowing me to approach research with a more nuanced understanding of cultural influences on consumer behavior.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

My work as a market researcher fuels my innate curiosity about what drives people to make decisions. I relish the constant challenge of designing advanced research methodologies that can delve deep into the consumers' psyches and tap into their subconscious decision-making process. It's fascinating to me how we can uncover insights that help businesses make informed decisions based on what really matters to their consumers.

What is your morning ritual?

Wake up – pray - workout – Tend to my plants - breakfast – Work

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My personal superpower lies in my ability to read the room effortlessly. Growing up amidst diverse cultures and energies has taught me how to tune in to people's emotional states and connect with them on a deeper level. I possess a natural talent for putting people at ease and making them comfortable enough to open up and share their thoughts with me.

I find hosting coffee connections for Ellevate to be particularly fulfilling as each session brings together a diverse group of participants. It's been fascinating to moderate these discussions and tap into the different energies and perspectives of the attendees. With my skills in creating a comfortable environment, I am able to help people ease into the discussion and encourage them to speak up and share their opinions.

Hosting these events has been immensely rewarding for me. It's heartening to see nervous faces muster up the courage to speak their minds and share their questions and experiences. I feel fulfilled knowing that I have created a safe space where people feel empowered to express themselves without fear of judgment. By facilitating these connections, I'm able to foster meaningful conversations and forge valuable relationships that extend beyond the coffee connections themselves. I hope to see even more women at our future events and learn how these Connections have led to changes and paved the way for success in their life!

What is the best career advice you ever received?

No two career paths will ever be the same, and there is no set formula for success. Each of us has a unique set of skills, passions, and experiences that shape our career trajectory. Instead of fixating on a particular end goal, it's important to focus on where you are in your journey and how you can continue to grow and evolve.

Personally, I've come to realize the value of this mindset through my own experiences. As someone who has worked in different industries across different countries, my career path has been far from linear. Instead of feeling frustrated by the twists and turns, I've learned to embrace the journey and stay open to new opportunities.

Rather than setting rigid career goals, I focus on developing my skills and seeking out experiences that align with my passions and values. By staying present in the moment and focusing on continuous learning and growth, I've been able to find fulfillment in every stage of my career journey.

Ultimately, I believe that success is not just about reaching a particular destination, but about enjoying the process and learning from every experience along the way. By adopting this mindset, I've been able to apply it to my life and find meaning and purpose in my career journey.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.