Skip to content

Staff Q&A: A brief encounter with… Felicity Heathcote-Marcz

Clock icon 3 minutes reading time

Here at CDS, we’re incredibly proud of our 170-strong team – after all, they’re the ones who make all the comms magic happen.

That’s why, every month, we’re giving our blog readers the chance to get to know each member of the CDS family in our employee Q&A series.

Next up in the hot seat it’s the Head of Behavioural Research, Felicity Heathcote-Marcz. With just 10 minutes on the clock, let’s go…

1. Sum up your role at CDS in one sentence:

I’m the Head of Behavioural Research. This means I’m responsible for leading the strategy and team growth for research – including user and accessibility research and the supporting function of participant recruitment.

2. What’s your favourite thing about your job?

We are seeing the fruits of new ways of working and departmental expansion. I came on board in February 2022, and our division is growing – we’re streamlining and optimising our processes in tandem, too.

3. How did you become the Head of Behavioural Research?

I started my journey in academia. I did an undergraduate degree in management and economics – going on to work for several start-up digital and PR agencies before returning to university to study for a masters in research (MRes) and a PhD in applying immersive research methodologies to a business context. As part of this, I did two years of immersive work experience at major banks – using ethnography to study people and culture.

Felicity Heathcote-Marcz

After working as a freelancer, I joined Atkins – the engineering giant – as part of their UK transportation business, leading its Intelligent Mobility research practice. I introduced new methodologies to the firm’s customer-facing research teams.“ I worked on transport, infrastructure and defence projects while at Atkins – also looking at mobility as a service and user-centred technology.

Then, through an informal conversation with a headhunter and some great discussions with CDS’ director of insight, Susie Spencer, and head of service design, Fiona Harwood, I joined the team here in Leeds.

4. What drew you towards choosing CDS as an employer?

‘Making a positive difference’ was the tagline that spoke to me.

I enjoyed the social value work I’d done in previous roles, and I was looking for a new opportunity where I could continue creating a social impact from the projects I worked on.

Additionally, the focus on ensuring customer-centric digital services, with user research included as standard, was highly appealing and made CDS stand out as an agency. It’s a business which takes making technology work for real users seriously – and this deeply resonates with me.

5. Describe the CDS ethos in just three words:

Bespoke, flexible, and quality.

6. What’s been your favourite project so far and why?

Our user research team recently delivered an ethnographic project for one of the northern rail companies to discover insights to drive improvements to their ticket vending machines – helping the firm to provide an improved service to customers.

I was excited to introduce an ethnographic methodology to the business, and the user research team was fantastic in being so open to a new way of discovering insights.

Two colleagues and I spent time positioned at several uncrewed stations close to Leeds to help us understand passengers’ interactions with the machines.

We discovered a lot about the behaviour at these stations, travellers’ pain points, and how they liked to use their tickets. This helped to drive immediate improvements that benefitted user interactions, as a result.

Ethnography can provide a richness of data no other methodology can.

7. And, which brand would you love to work on a comms project with?

A brand with a solid social value ethos, such as Co-op, Patagonia, or Lush.

8. Complete this sentence: For businesses, employing an effective communications strategy means…

Truly understand the problem you want to solve, from the perspective of your target audience. This means knowing your customers and stakeholders and, in as much depth as possible, being aware of their concerns and requirements.

From there, you can work with insight specialists to help you create your research questions – choosing the suitable methodologies and timeframes to obtain the most valuable insights for your budget.

However, it’s also crucial to have an action plan to act upon the insight you obtain – outlining what you will do with the findings to improve the end-user experience.

9. For a bit of fun, if CDS were a variety of biscuit, which would it be and why?

A Nice biscuit. That sums up the people, the culture, the offices, and the client work!

10. Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to your 10-year-old self, what would it be?

Nothing is perfect, and that’s ok. And trust your instincts. And finally, buy shares in Apple.