With this years’ Tour de France just a distant memory, and a Tour shaped void in my life, I thought I’d try and fill it with a blog post.
Believe it or not, I feel like there are actually a lot of similarities between being a researcher and being a Pro cyclist taking on the TdF (although I only have experience in one camp of course!)
Here are a few learnings I’ve taken from my career in research and particularly my time at Boxclever, and being an avid Tour watcher.
You need a good team alongside you
It goes without saying that a lone rider taking on the TdF wouldn’t get far. Riders need to be part of a strong team who work together, share the effort riding in front in the wind and taking turns dropping back to the team car to collect water bottles and snacks.
Here at Boxclever, we work in the same way. We create strong project teams to deliver research that really hits home, share ideas between us, answer each other’s questions, split the workload and make the most of the skills of those around us. Plus there’ll always be someone going for snacks.
Play to your strengths, you can’t be amazing at everything
The TdF isn’t just about winning the overall race. Yes, the overall winner gets to wear the coveted yellow jersey but there’s also the opportunity to win each day’s stage and other colour winning jerseys – green for the strongest sprinter, polka dot for the strongest climber and white for the strongest young rider. So the Tour offers opportunities for all types of riders to win stages and contribute to their team’s success. One rider generally isn’t able to sprint, power over mountains and ace a time trial so they specialise and balance out a team with riders who are good at various things. (It does happen occasionally though! In this last tour, Wout van Aert managed to win a mountain stage, a time trial and a sprint stage. Some people are just superheroes…)
Similarly, it’s very rare that an individual researcher is excellent at qual, quant and statistical analysis so at Boxclever we utilise the specialist skills of a strong team of researchers so every project gets the appropriate experts in each discipline delivering what they know best.
Every day brings a different challenge
The tour is made up of different types of stages – long, flat ones that end in a sprint finish, arduous mountain climbs that push rider’s stamina and strength to the limit and time trials where a rider must ride a course alone to get the quickest time. Different types of stages require different strategies and efforts, but they all contribute to a varied and fascinating tour where only the strongest riders make it to the end (ideally, but not often, with all their bones and skin intact).
In research, every day, even every hour is different too. You can go from tackling a mountain – say, a big international project that needs a lot of people to share the work, to a sprint – a quick turnaround, focused project needing quick insights, and then be doing a time trial – a solo project like delivering a webinar, or writing a blog post, or nailing a specific piece of analysis for a client. You’ve got to be versatile, determined, unflappable and focused to know how to tackle each. Fortunately, we don’t get a lot of broken bones in our line of work.
Focus on and celebrate every stage win
As I’ve said, the tour is made up of daily stages and a win on any is as hotly contested as winning the overall tour. It’s hugely important to each team to go after and celebrate every single win.
At Boxclever we celebrate every project we win and complete no matter what size or value it is. Every one is important to us and helps to build the trusted relationships that we strive for with our clients. We treat every project (stage) as the big one and stand proudly on the podium as winners at the end.
We treat every project (stage) as the big one and stand proudly on the podium as winners at the end.
Here at Boxclever we may not be a team of lycra clad warriors (having said that, Dan just completed an ironman triathlon, Sam is an ultimate frisbee champion and Tilly is currently training for the London marathon) but we are just as much a strong team of experts who support each other, use our strengths to their best and win stages every day in our own way. And we’re always snacking.