You have stories to tell when your life path takes you from Colorado and UK to Belgium. Sabrina Norwood knows a thing or two about living in different countries (and continents:). Last year, she finished her PhD in the UK and moved to Ghent together with her Irish boyfriend. Sabrina started applying for jobs, shifting her career from academia to the business environment. After seeing a job opening at boobook, she applied, got an interview and passed the assignment that landed her the senior research position.
Born in Colorado, Sabrina completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Colorado State University and a Master’s degree in Applied Behaviour Analysis at Arizona State University. After finishing her Bachelor’s degree, she continued with a Master’s degree focused on working with kids with autism. “I enjoyed my (Bachelor) studies, so I decided to proceed with a graduate degree. When I was looking for a Master’s programme, I wanted to do more applied and data-driven behaviour analysis,” says Sabrina.
The joy of learning and digging deeper into behavioural psychology led Sabrina to the next step in her academic career. After Arizona, she took a leap of faith and decided to do her PhD in the UK. “I was looking at different options, and I knew exactly what I wanted: my research had to be very data-driven and analytical. I looked at labs worldwide, and I found one in England and a few in the US. At that point, I knew I would have to move from Arizona, one way or the other. So I thought if I’m already moving, I might as well move to a completely new country. That’s how I ended up in England,” explains Sabrina.
Considering her love for numbers and psychology, Sabrina realised early on she would end up in research. “When I first started my studies, I wanted to do Counselling Psychology. But the more classes I took, I learned that often we don’t know why clients stop with the therapy. There could be various scenarios, and often psychologists don’t find out. I wanted to know if we are helping people, and if not, what can we do to help them. To understand this, we need to do a deeper analysis based on actual data and information for this approach,” shares Sabrina.
As a topic for her PhD, Sabrina chose a very relevant and challenging topic: reducing stigma toward LGBTQIA people. “My PhD thesis involved designing and implementing behavioural interventions for stigma reduction, which included survey design and psychometric validation,” says Sabrina. However, due to COVID, her research was not always going smoothly. “My PhD ended up taking a bit longer than I expected because of COVID, as it happened right in the middle of my research while I was collecting data and talking to people face to face. Unfortunately, I feel there will always be a part of my PhD that was impacted by COVID.”
While doing her PhD at the University of Chester, destiny decided to intervene. Sabrina met her boyfriend from Ireland, who was living in Ghent for a couple of years. “My boyfriend was working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Ghent. Once I finished my commitment in the UK, I decided to move in with him, here in Belgium. I really like living in Ghent. For now, I’m slowly settling in and trying to learn Dutch so I can connect more with people,” she reveals.
Fresh out of university and now an expat in Belgium, Sabrina started searching for a job that would tick all the essential boxes: it had to be data-oriented, encourage an always-learning attitude, and have friendly colleagues. “I saw boobook’s job advertisement on LinkedIn, and what really attracted me was that boobook seemed very data-driven. While I was looking into market research and consulting, I realised many companies seemed so eager to please the client that they might just spin the story in whichever way the client wanted to hear. And I didn’t get that impression from boobook. It seemed like they let the data speak for itself,” explains Sabrina.
After years in academia, she felt it was time to take her knowledge and put it to practice.
“I like academia and doing research but I wanted to shift into a more dynamic environment with more influence where you do the research and then extract actionable deliverable items,” admits Sabrina.
As a senior research executive, Sabrina will be involved in projects from start to finish. “I like the fact that nobody does everything completely independently in boobook, but there’s always help from other team members. In the beginning, I’ll help out with various ongoing projects. Still, the goal is to learn all of the steps to ultimately deliver the project myself,” says Sabrina.
She is more than aware of her strength but also her weaknesses. “My biggest weakness is that I don’t have prior business experience. So my biggest expectation is that I’ll finally learn more about the business world. Working with clients is a whole different world than academia. But I also see the benefit of starting this journey here at boobook, with such a nice team. Everybody has different backgrounds, experiences, and skills, so I’m excited to learn from my new colleagues,” shares Sabrina.
Some differences she already sees between academia and business are communication, working atmosphere and hierarchy. “It’s a different kind of atmosphere. Academia has a very noticeable power structure, and it’s much more strict”. For Sabrina, being on the same level as other colleagues is a refreshing change and collaboration. “The flow of the projects is completely different. In academia, the projects were always rotating between my supervisor and me. Here at boobook, it’s more dynamic because the project goes back and forth between our stakeholders and us, so it’s very collaborative and more effective. In business, it’s crucial to listen to your client,” concludes Sabrina.
If you are looking for a new challenge, check out our vacancies! We’re always looking for passionate analysts, data scientists, marketers, and researchers to join our team, as collaborators or as a part of our core team!