FEATURE27 June 2023

Rebecca Cole – Research Hero

Features People

The Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Rebecca Cole has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2023.


Rebecca Cole, Cobalt Sky

Rebecca Cole joined Cobalt Sky as a graduate in 2006, and in the years since then has risen to be managing director, a position she has held since 2018. She is a highly experienced web scripter and quantum programmer, and her strong technical and operational skills have led her organisation to seven MRS Operations award wins.

Rebecca is currently serving her second term on the main board of MRS, where she also sits on the ED&I and Sustainability councils. She is chair of the MRS Representation in Research steering group, and co-chair of the ASC as well as being a mentor for CORe.

Rebecca was nominated for her “extensive involvement in multiple councils within the Market Research Society – a testament to her dedication to advancing the industry and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion”.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?
Pandemic lockdowns. As a manager I rely on face-to-face interaction, and running a company remotely meant I had to find another way to manage. Professional challenges were compounded by having children aged two and seven at the time. Like a lot of parents, we rely heavily on childcare to allow me to have a career. When this was taken away, I suddenly found myself effectively a “stay at home” mum, something I would never have chosen for myself, while also trying to run a company during extremely uncertain times.

It often felt like I was trying to do two full time jobs and doing neither of them well. I’m extremely proud of how Cobalt Sky, and the sector more widely, reacted and bounced back, how we embraced flexible working and technology, and are now potentially in a stronger place because of it all. 

What will be the next big trend or development in the research industry, and why?
I don’t think generative AI is going to go away; you only need to look at how much investment is being put into it. It will be interesting to see how our sector reacts and embraces it. I also would like to think that there will be a trend (or at least a movement) away from the traditional way of defining “nationally representative” research (age/gender/region/social grade) towards a more genuinely representative definition which also includes characteristics like ethnicity and disability. 

Who inspires you as a researcher?
Raz Khan, founder and chairman at Cobalt Sky. He started the company in 1989 and prioritised employing people who feel a personal sense of achievement at producing work of the highest quality, which has since become the Cobalt Sky ethos that we all strive for.

He encouraged me to become more involved in the sector, having given (and continuing to give) a lot to it himself over the years. I love the fact that even after over 40 years in the sector he still considers himself a lifelong learner who is endlessly curious about people and open to new ideas. 

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2023