Upwords is a collective of top research talent anchored by our global award winning Founder and Chief Insights Officer, Layla Shea. To stay agile and lean, we engage partners from our trusted global network of multilingual moderators, strategists and project managers to suit the requirements of any project.
Who we are
Meet Layla Shea, Founder and Chief Insights Officer
Layla started Upwords in 2008. In her quest to uncover valuable insights, Layla’s background has set her up well. Formerly, a marketer at Coca-Cola and S.C. Johnson, a research consultant and facilitator at Sklar Wilton & Associates, and a RIVA trained focus group moderator, Layla’s finely tuned skills help her connect with people’s true feelings and she relishes the role of connector between clients, brands and people. She has engaged in discussions with C-level executives, web entrepreneurs, senior citizens hard-to-reach teens and just about everyone in between. Layla is an expert at making the complex simple.
A leader in the North American online qualitative research community, Layla has won international awards for the impact she’s had on her clients’ business. Layla is co-chair of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) international chapter, and is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences.
Deborah Klotz, Vice President, Insights
Deborah is an experienced and accomplished qualitative research consultant, who is deeply curious. This curiosity drives her to explore people’s motivations and behaviours, to understand client businesses and to dig for deep insights. Ultimately, Deborah provides her clients with human insights and strategic direction to answer their tough business decisions.
Since 2004, she has built a solid reputation in the research community by delivering outstanding client service, teaching moderating skills, speaking and chairing conferences and being highly involved in industry associations. Deborah brings to Upwords her experience managing a qualitative practice for two full-service research firms and working with a broad range of client in industries including (but not limited to) FMCG, Financial Services, Professional Services, Technology, Education, Media and Crown Corporations/Government Agencies.
Deborah has won multiple awards for her work.
Bronwen Ward, Director, Insights
Bronwen believes every person has a unique and interesting story to tell. She values human perspectives and is always seeking to understand underlying motivations that drive human decision making and behaviour. She is an expert at forging connections, allowing people to feel comfortable and relaxed while facilitating deep meaningful discussions.
Bronwen’s wealth of experience in qualitative research crosses many industries and categories including FMCG, Travel & Tourism, Financial Services, Retail, Higher Education, B2B, Alcoholic Beverages and Cannabis, QSR, Not for Profit and more. Her skillset provides unparalleled value with both excellence in project details and a keen understanding of the strategy.
With experience that includes exploratory work, brand positioning, user experience, product development, packaging design, communications optimization and more, for Bronwen, every project is an opportunity help her clients deeply understand the ‘why’ through strategic, actionable insights.
Here’s what our clients say about working with Bronwen:
I really appreciate Bronwen’s amazing ability to communicate even our most complicated research questions, [helping] our users share their experiences and opinions.
Clare Mitchell, Manager, Insights
Clare has a keen ability to manage complex projects with many moving parts (without breaking a sweat!). She has masterfully engaged with all aspects and stages of qualitative research to help us uncover meaningful and relevant human insights, using a variety of creative methods.
Originally from the UK, Clare relocated to Ontario in 2019 and brings with her a global perspective. Clare has always had a passion for understanding people and what makes them tick. Before narrowing in on qualitative methods, Clare worked as a policy researcher in both health and education. Highly-trained in varied research methodologies, Clare completed Georgian College’s Research Analyst Post Graduate program in 2020, where she won the Ipsos-sponsored John Fryer Research award for the best capstone project. She has since been invited back to the qualitative research course as a guest speaker, helping shape the next generation of young researchers.
Johanna Simpson – Insights Analyst
Since graduating from a Research Analyst program in 2020, Johanna has been part of the team at Upwords. In her role as Insights Analyst, she specializes in creatively analysing data to tell a clear story that helps our clients view their ‘customers’ as humans. Johanna is the ultimate team player, always collaborating and helping with various behind-the-scenes tasks that are critical to ensuring projects are completed to Upwords’ high standards.
Having a previous degree in International Communication and Translation, Johanna is passionate about communicating insights in meaningful ways. She enjoys distilling important insights from raw conversation data and translating them into a form that can be easily understood.
Johanna’s passion for people extends well beyond her work at Upwords. Her work and volunteer experience in various fields and contexts demonstrates Johanna’s passion for building relationships with people, whether it is teaching, translation or working with children and marginalized youth.