PEOPLE: How a $90K pay cut pushed Alice Almeida to start her own data business after returning to the workforce

After 20 years in the research industry, Alice found herself being valued $90,000 less in the market – needless to say, it was a major shock and she did her utmost to share her story with others to limit the chances of this happening again.

While it wasn’t her original plan, Alice knew her skills and experience were worth putting to use and she embarked on starting her own business.

In this interview, Alice shares her story, the challenges she faced along the way, why she’s passionate about data and how businesses can make the most of the data they have available.

  • What instigated you to start Almeida Insights?

The seed was first planted during my attempt to return to work after having a baby last year. The return didn’t quite go to plan, so I was told by many that I should just start my own business. The thing is, I didn’t want to start my business because I HAD to, I wanted it to be because I wanted to start a business. It didn’t feel right then, so I took a 6-month contract gig with a start-up, which ended in January. When that finished, it felt like the right time and so I finally launched Almeida Insights. The reaction was incredibly positive which makes me wish I’d done it sooner!

  • What were the most challenging aspects of starting your own business and how did you overcome them? 

Aside from launching my business two weeks prior to a global health pandemic (!!) my main challenge was working out my worth. It sounds strange but it’s a lot harder than you think. I had no idea what to charge for an hourly rate and was worried if I went too high, I would lose business (or be laughed at) and too low, I’d undersell myself significantly. Someone I have known for years, and who turned out to be one of my first clients, asked me to pitch for a project and provide rates. I took this opportunity to seek his guidance and it turned out I was severely underselling myself! I have been open and vulnerable with the right people which I think is needed. Find a person (or people) who you can bounce ideas off. Although you are starting the business, you don’t need to do it alone. 

  • Why are you passionate about data, research and insights? 

I’m not sure if this makes me cocky or a know-it-all, but I absolutely thrive off being on stage and sharing new findings or educating people on industry or product trends. I love seeing people’s reactions when they learn something new.

I am naturally a very inquisitive person and human behaviour is a huge interest of mine. I considered getting into psychology but rather than analyse a mind or brain, I chose to do all of that with numbers and research. Now I get to analyse segments of people – in some cases thousands of people.

Insights can prevent threats, open new business opportunities, strengthen current market position and most importantly, help you know your most important asset – your consumer base. Without them you wouldn’t have a business so it’s absolutely vital that you know their language, what they want and who they are.

Personalisation is key for brands to succeed and the only way they can provide that, is by getting to their customers/audience first.

  • While most business leaders are aware data is valuable, many still struggle to harness and action that value. Why do you think this is? 

About 10 years ago everyone started talking about the importance of big data and how everyone HAD to have it. It’s a bit like the shopping craze that we have seen with COVID-19; someone said we needed big data to survive and grow, and many brands just jumped in without too much thought. It’s the herd mentality. They started collecting every single bit of data they could, without giving much thought to how to use or manage it effectively. Value is created in how the data is used. Data on its own serves no purpose.

Fast forward 8 years or so and many brands are now faced with data overload – it’s a mess. I heard from one client that they are sitting on golden data, but no one knows how to sort or clean it into a readable and usable format, and so it just sits there.

The other issue is data privacy, given it’s been in the news a lot lately. Cambridge Analytica has made many brands nervous and GDPR has completely changed how data is collected and stored in the UK. For many brands, collecting data is deemed too risky and then on top of that, you’ve got the fact that housing data correctly and effectively is quite costly. It’s not a simple adjustment to make, it really needs to be made with a long-term vision in place.

  • How can they get past these challenges? 

First and foremost, stop and ask yourself these questions.

  • What do you want to achieve by collecting data? Really think about the objective of collecting data.
  • What data have you been collecting? Work out whether the data you already have, meets your above objectives.
  • What are you doing with the data now? Do a full review on how it’s being used (or not) and where its current ‘value’ is.
  • Where are your gaps? By doing a full review, it usually highlights gaps in your data set i.e. what data you need.
  • Can you do a data cleanse? These gaps will be your answer as to what data you need to collect and what data you can (and should) dispose of.
  • Are you housing it correctly? Invest in a DMP (data management platform). Not only do they make reading the data A LOT easier (you don’t need to be a ‘data scientist’) but it can also automate reports which save a truckload of time.

If this all seems too hard, my final bit of advice is to invest in someone who gets it, even short term to see the benefits yourself. Not doing anything is the wrong answer.


About the expert

  • Experienced Researcher – 20 years experience holding senior positions in research at Channel Nine, Seven Network, News Corp and Fairfax Media.
  • Held representative roles on the IAB Research and Measurement Councils, working on major industry projects.
  • Developed multiple market-first research pieces throughout my career; notably the Online Video Research and Mobile Internet Research, the first conducted in Australia, and research around Amazon entering the Australian market in 2017 which was picked up by major Australian publishers.
  • Presented my research and insight projects at over 60 conferences within APAC.
  • Strong knowledge of how research works; from understanding my client’s objectives, designing questionnaires to achieve complete results and interpreting those results into actionable insights.
  • A very strong profile with an excellent reputation within the industry as being passionate, knowledgeable and an industry expert.
  • Continuously invited to participate on panels, be interviewed on podcasts, write opinion and thought leadership pieces and to present at conferences. Highlight was being invited to participate in a panel discussion at SXSW in Austin, Texas and to provide evidence and insights at the senate inquiry into Public Interest Journalism in 2017.