Momo Amjad is an expert in consumer and cultural research. Now TFL’s consumer insight lead, they have worked in collaboration with brands such as Adidas, Lego, Google, Diageo, Jägermeister and Panasonic.

Momo has an award-winning LLM in Legal Theory and Jurisprudence from Queen Mary University, where they became an expert in understanding why people behave the way they do, and what rules, frameworks and infrastructures drive them. After abandoning training for the Bar in London, they serendipitously went on to work at Flamingo and BAMM before joining TFL in 2018. Most recently, they’ve accepted an additional role at TFL as Diversity & Inclusion Coach and often speak on Diversity and Inclusion panels and industry roundtables with radical ideas of the future of workplaces, or trying not to get arrested while organising grassroots direct action to support communities in London.

Momo won Research Live’s Young Researcher of the Year Award in 2018 and spoke at the February 2020 MRSpride event.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career that I should be unafraid to be labelled as a “troublemaker”. A previous colleague of mine called me this as a way of dismissing my constant strive for demanding better from those around me. I asked the hard questions, I challenged problematic, narrow minded thinking. I caused a lot of ruckus wherever I went by enabling radical thinking – whispering “why yes, I’m pretty sure it was misogynistic of your white boss to ask you, the only woman in the room, to make the tea”. But when I heard someone call me that, I started to hold myself back (as much as that is possible!) for quite a while, because I was afraid to be the “troublemaker”.

As a disabled person of colour, my main fear is losing my job. For people like me, our jobs are often tenuous and fragile. We are expensive for workplaces to include, and the marginalisation we experience every day is uncomfortable for those less marginalised to deal with. To be in this fragile employment state and to be a “troublemaker” felt like the worst idea for the longest time.

But as I thrive and find security in a place that values provocative, troublemaking thought, I often wish I had remained a troublemaker throughout. Maybe I would have arrived here earlier!

I most admire all troublemakers. Every single one of you. From the tiny ripples of trouble you’re making, to the big changes you’re implementing. You’re doing the lord’s work!

A future-fit research world looks like one that has figured out and embraced what its role in the world is, not just for our clients. We are often a sector that is reactive, bound by what our clients want. We frequently ignore our own impact in the world, as we see ourselves as data gatherers, knowledge holders and facilitators, but not as change-makers in our own right. We bind ourselves to the idea that we help brands facilitate change, and we lag behind.

How many presentations have we given to brands, telling them to embrace transparency? Purpose? Activism? To build meaningful relationships with their consumers? To embrace innovation? To push boundaries? And how many times have we returned to the same offices and never once thought that those implications applied to us.

We have power to make change in our sector to make this future-fit research world happen. And this research world is one that takes accountability of its colonial roots, it dismantles its white supremacist view points and structures, and it pushes for true inclusion over assimilation.

My resilience tip for when times get tough is sleep. I never go without at least eight hours of sleep, no matter what. Our mind is our main tool at work, and it needs rest. I will sacrifice relationships, food, entertainment, anything and everything to ensure I get enough sleep.

If you can’t get to sleep - I’ve also embraced my role as Cliché Millennial Plant Dad, and now thoroughly enjoy pottering around talking to my plants, stroking their leaves, buying expensive plant pots, inputting plant related data into my plant app that helps me keep all of them alive because dear god, did you know they were this much work?

The most amazing or memorable experience when I was doing research was the moment when I found myself in a strip club with consumers and a client. I’d always heard the stories about these things happening, fieldwork is an exciting hellscape ripe with all sorts of misadventures. But having spent my career with fairly mundane fieldwork trips (raise your hand - how many of us have done a four hour ethnography slog in some family’s house in Slough?) and some quite interesting ones across the world – I’ve never had a salacious one… until this year!

On a study researching the future of nightlife with immersion ethnography, a group of lads showing us their favourite haunts of the town decided to take us to a stream of strip clubs. As an avid supporter of Decrim Now, and many friends in the sex work industry, I spent the night making many new friends and guilting these poor, unsuspecting men to part with all of their funds!

The one story I’ve always wanted to tell but never had a chance is the one I’ve just told! But there are definitely more saucy details that I think are far too inappropriate to have in this blog.

I have been beyond lucky over the last two years to be able to work on all the research projects I wish to work on. I’ve been able to tackle huge exploratory questions like, “what is the future of nightlife?”, “what is the future of parenting?”, “what is the future of socialising?”.

To me, great leadership looks like cheerleading. At Impact 2020, I spoke on a panel with the current and past winners of the Young Researcher of the Year award about what a good manager is like and the overarching consensus was one that genuinely supported you, lifted you up, advocated for you, and always continued to be your biggest cheerleader.

The main challenge in building a more inclusive world is instigating structural change. I think we can do it though right?

If I wasn’t doing this, I would be arrested for chaining myself to a building in protest of austerity or white supremacy or deportations or racism or homophobia or well, all of them!


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