Square Holes Profile: Daria Tikhonova

The Square Holes team are made up of a cohort of researchers and inquisitive minds, poised to sink their teeth into the complex problems of our clients, to deliver insights and a roadmap forward for brands and organisations alike.

For our interdisciplinary researcher, Dr Daria Tikhonova, her fascination and passion for human psychology coupled with her vast experience allow her to provide rich insights about how human values, needs and perceptions drive customer decision making.

Mahalia: What drew you to this sort of work?

Daria: Fascination with finding answers to interesting questions and ideating about possible (hopefully better!) futures? I’d say I’ve been doing human-centred research since I was 15 at high school, when I conducted my first major research project. It was about analysing British cultural markers in Sting’s song ‘Englishman in New York’ (still a fan!) But that’s when I decided I wanted to study psychology, being fascinated not only with linguistics, but also culture and behaviour: why people feel, think and do what they do, and how that varies across cultures, societies, markets, organisations, teams. So, after completing my Bachelor’s in Linguistics, I settled on a path that led me to deep diving for my PhD into several streams of psychology studies (acculturation, cognitive appraisal, stress & coping, and positive psychology), as well research on immersive, memorable, and transformative experiences. After a decade in academia, teaching management, marketing and tourism, and then running my own consultancy, joining Square Holes was a very organic progression. Their insatiable curiosity about deep understanding of real people is what attracted me to them in the first place.

M: What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

D: Collecting, unpacking and translating into business implications a multitude of stories, told by real people about themselves and others: who they are, what they do, what gets them out of bed, what drives their decision making. This applies to both working with clients and listening to the voices of their customers. It’s the reading between the lines, the deep dive, and connecting those insights to the wider context of people’s lives and the environments they inhabit for work and pleasure, to ultimately arrive at a more nuanced, accurate and up to date understanding of what they want and how to get there.

Daria’s ‘catdog’ Busker.

M: What’s a current obsession you have?

D: Living the life to its fullest? Constantly pushing the boundaries of what I know and can? My cat? I spam my IG followers with photos of my cat, as I find him incredibly inquisitive, human-like, and affectionate. I’ve never had a cat before, and up until early this year I would’ve described myself as a dog-only person. I found cats too aloof, and they also triggered my allergies. That was until I met Busker. Well, until we found each other. It wasn’t love at first sight, but when we connected, it was magic. He is my catdog that greets me by my car and sits behind or in front of me when I’m working from home. He also responds to his name!

M: What would you like to learn more about?

D: I regularly read books and articles on behavioural science, plenty to learn there! I’m particularly curious about the processes of arriving at unconventional, non-sensical ideas. I’m also constantly doing a fair bit of thinking about the best approaches to formulating better problems and helping clients action our research insights. And I’m always on the lookout for better data visualisation techniques and software and wouldn’t mind doing a foundational graphic design course. What else? How much time do you have?

M: What’s something you have discovered about yourself since working at Square Holes?

K: That I can write LinkedIn articles in a relatively short space of time! I used to procrastinate around them a fair bit. So, discovering that I’m a faster writer than I used to think has been a very pleasant surprise!

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