Research Board - Thinktank (Gartner Company) / Potential employee of Research Board, be aware!
I have never posted anything on the Internet, but my recent experience at an interview with Research Board (a self advertised "thinktank", a Gartner portfolio company) moved me to write and share my experience with those who are in a similar position.
I came across the advert on the career posting at MIT's alumni website. I managed to get a chance to talk to the alum who encouraged me to apply. I am a research scientist at MIT and was looking for other opportunities in NYC and this seemed interesting. I didn't really want to join Wall St but wanted to continue research. Research Board claimed to be a research thinktank for top CIOs in the world. I was led to believe that they research and act as a broker between CIOs and vendors. Having been trained in economic theory for the past 15 years I was cognizant of the reputation game that must be at play here.
My first round of the interview was over the phone with the HR. The lady interviewing me kept making mistakes and was a bit sharp. The call finished with her informing me that an interview will be next, set up with one of the senior researchers at RB within a week or so. After two weeks of silence I then sent an email to HR asking what had happened. A phone interview was eventually setup with the senior researcher at RB. The interview took almost 1.15 minutes, three quarters of which was devoted to the gentleman telling me about the company.
It seemed positive and I was ready to move to the next stage, which HR was going to organize. I next got an email on a friday from HR asking me to do a writing sample, by next wednesday. I wrote back immediately asking if I could have a little more time given that I was fighting fires at work at that time. I never heard back. Almost another two weeks lapsed before I again emailed HR and ccing the researcher who had interviewed me asking what was happening. I received a acidic response from HR telling me that I must send in my writing sample soon and it was a requirement (even though no such requirement was communicated to me on the actual phone interview with HR).
I submitted the sample, and after another 5 or so emails with at least 2 other HR personnel I managed to provision for the trip down to NYC from Boston (which itself was an ordeal involving so many emails and their refusal to even put me up the night before the interview).
I left Boston at 4 am to be in NYC in time on the day of the interview. The interviews last for about 5 hours in total. During the day it became clear to me that the RB's product for which I was being interviewed for (the research) is actually a secondary product. A research report is actually used as a coordination instrument by the RB to pull CIOs together into a room once every quarterly. What these CIOs most value is not some report written by researchers but rather what "joe from company X" had to say. If Joe left and others valued Joe then the domino effect would adversely affect RB. As expected RB has to spend a lot of effort in its reputation/brand protection in this club game. What transpired to me was that the information is not really a product. It is the intermediation of the club. From what I could evaluate the research is in fact easily substitutable by other consulting houses. RB had gained its advantage by being the first mover and growing from the network effects. That was the only differentiation.
I walked away after five hours with mixed feelings. On the one hand the opportunity to interact with the set of clients would provide an unparalleled insight into the workings of corporate america, something that I think I would have enjoyed and valued very much. But on the other hand, what would be the point of writing a report one after another if no-one ever really read it? The team seemed young. My intuition told me that Joe, CIO of multi billion dollar firm, would believe Tom, from an equal profile company, on his experience and insight into technology of business, than a young research team. I asked several times for the opportunity to see a sample report. I was willing to sign a NDA also. I never saw anything.
I was told that I would hear within 1 to 2 weeks. And the pattern repeated. Three weeks went by after which I sent an email to the researcher who had interviewed me over the phone and in person. I never heard back.
I am writing this to share with others my experience. The process took 4 months in total and I spent a lot of time, effort and patience to try to make at least the interview to happen. I am mature enough to take rejections, and in fact I was not sure I really want the position. I was interested to see what if the structure of a compensation for such an outfit would look like, after all the time I'd put into it. It is perfectly understandable if there is no match (it happens everyday). But what I do find objectionable, and what has given me the incentive to write my first posting, is how discourteous and strategic with information RB was in its recruitment efforts. I would not have spent four months of effort if I had known the research was not the product.
Potential employee of RB, be aware.