Meet the team: Niklas Schulz
Experience has taught us that the most meaningful interviews are those conducted in the respondent’s native tongue, so at Opticom, we don’t do it any other way.
It does mean that when we win a project in Germany, for example, we need native German speakers. Niklas Schulz, Research Supervisor, is an Austrian living in Sweden and began his career with Opticom on just that premise.
He joined in May 2021 as a Research Consultant on a project in Germany. One German-speaking project led to another, and a permanent position followed. In addition to his native German and his experience in conducting in-depth interviews for academic purposes, Niklas has a degree in Environmental Engineering which has proved particularly useful when it comes to understanding complex interdisciplinary issues in industries very much concerned with, and in the spotlight for, environmental protection.
He joined with some knowledge of the pulp and paper sector which has grown steadily thanks to on-the-job training and development. “This is a really supportive atmosphere,” he says, “where everyone shares their expertise readily. It’s also a real melting pot of cultures where people can hold a conversation in several languages – one person may speak in English, another answer in Swedish, French, or German. I learn so much from those around me.
“Staff are always trained in house but the post-pandemic working environment has made remote learning much more viable, which is a plus. If someone we have trained wants to move, we can still retain them from a distance. Training is very important here because only by really listening and asking the right questions can you get the right answers. Coaching and leading my teams and developing training materials are among my main responsibilities and are tasks I really enjoy.
“We bring the qualitative aspect to research – there are plenty of AI-assisted tools if you run off automated surveys. We’re interested in reading between the lines, which is why as a Research Supervisor I listen back to interviews, catching intonation, hesitation, what is not said as well as what is. It’s a matter of understanding why people do things, not just what they do. If you can understand the reasoning behind the decisions people make, you can help change behaviour and that’s adding value for our clients.”