Catherine Martell: A communications engineer connecting global teams and bridging the knowledge gap

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Catherine Martell is a successful global communicator who brings a dynamic spirit and profound experience in marketing and communications. Originally from Melbourne, her career has always revolved around understanding the needs of people and communities and channeling ideas through efficient and effective communications. 

Previously Catherine worked in Melbourne and Hong Kong before calling Paris her “second home” some 18 years ago. Catherine is now the International Communications & Knowledge Management Director of Ipsos – one of the world’s leading market research firm, with offices in 89 countries. 

With over 25 years of experience in corporate communication, she engineers the creation and sharing of knowledge, and drives the development of internal communications to enhance the employee climate and boost productivity, ultimately helping businesses to thrive. 

Catherine recently shared her journey with Advance.

Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications Officer, Advance

What prompted you to move to Paris to live and work? 

Before I came to France, I was working out of Hong Kong as the Regional Communications Director for another French-based, global market research company. I loved working and travelling in Asia but after a couple of years, I was ready for a new challenge. Having visited our Paris headquarters a few times, I had fallen for the charm of the city. So, I spoke to my boss about moving into a global position. A few months later an opportunity came up! 

Can you describe a typical day at work?

I love my job as it enables me to combine my passion in communications and knowledge management, while working daily with enthusiastic, innovative and dedicated colleagues, in a truly international company. 

“Information gatekeeper and collaboration engineer” sums up a large part of my job.  Every day I answer queries from colleagues around the world, helping them to connect, contribute and collaborate, so that our clients have access to the best of Ipsos expertise, no matter where they are located. Key to achieving this is my role managing the company’s global intranet, fostering online communities and organising information in a consistent, effective and easy to find way, ensuring access 24/7 to everything our researchers across 89 countries need to excel. 

Another one of my passions is organising great events around the world. I manage our largest annual management conference. This year our event was in Copenhagen and next year it will be held in Dubai.  

How important is market research for businesses? What kind of impact does it have?

The world is becoming increasingly complex and our clients are facing tough challenges. Companies come to us with business questions and we help them to tackle these challenges in an informed way. We have thousands of experienced researchers engaged in qualitative and quantitative research to understand everything from consumer preferences, to market forces, to identifying trends as they emerge and everything else between. Consumer insights are critical to enable companies to successfully adapt, innovate and grow. 

Could you share any surprising or interesting insights generated from one of your research projects?

One of my favorite global Ipsos studies is Perils of Perception, which has been running since 2012 and explores the gap between people’s perceptions and reality. This gap can be quite striking in relation to various issues. For instance, a large majority of people in Australia think the murder rate is higher now or the same as it was in 2000, when actually it is around 47% lower!  Four in ten (38%) think it’s higher, 34% think it’s about the same, and only 17% correctly guess that it is lower.  

How is technology changing market research? How has the industry changed over the years?

The global market continues to transform with the constant multiplication of information sources and technologies. This is exciting for us as researchers. We now have the possibility to integrate multiple data sources, including social media, and deliver it back to the client in real-time, so that clients can get a holistic view of their consumers, much faster and cheaper than ever before. 

Ipsos integrates the latest in technologies and methodologies, from advanced analytics and machine learning, to neuroscience, behavioral science, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, all assisting our researchers to generate insights with richness and depth. 

What’s the best and worst thing about working abroad?

The best thing about working in Europe is how close you are to so many different countries, so you can discover a new city and a different culture in the space of a weekend. Once a month I try to visit somewhere new or go back and rediscover a favourite place. 

The worst thing is that I am so far away from home that I can't just pop back on the spur of the moment to see loved ones. 

What are some of your personal and professional goals for the future?

Travelling is always on the agenda. I have just visited my 90th country so I still have another 100 or so to go! 

I enjoy doing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as MIT’s ‘U-Lab: Leading from the Emerging Future’, about co-pioneering new approaches to today’s most important social and environmental challenges. Then looking at how to translate these new ways of seeing to my job, my everyday life and my future.