FEATURE8 November 2021

Sharon Willis – Research Hero

Features People

This year, the Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Sharon Willis has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2021.

Sharon Willis, Director, Ipsos MORI Data Capture Operations


Sharon Willis has been at Ipsos for almost 24 years and is currently director of Ipsos Mori data capture operations.

Willis was nominated as a Research Hero for converting 22,000 sq ft of research office space in Harrow, London, to a Covid-19 despatch house, using redeployed staff as an alternative to furlough.

The Harrow office was used to support the React (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) study – a community testing and surveillance programme in partnership with Imperial College London for the Department of Health and Social Care.

At the height of the work, 100,000 personalised kits were distributed to the public via Royal Mail on a single day.

Willis was nominated for being “relentlessly positive”, her “superhuman emotional intelligence” and her “extraordinary care and commitment to those around her”.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?

Covid-19. I consider myself first and foremost a ‘people person’. As a consequence, I found the prolonged lack of face-to-face contact with many colleagues due to Covid-19 a huge challenge. Like everyone else, I have had to radically adapt my stye of connecting with others both personally and professionally, and as a trained mental health first aider I have been heavily exposed to some of the less visible consequences of the pandemic.

Who inspires you as a researcher?

I am inspired by meeting new and interesting people with divergent perspectives that challenge my thinking. One of the many great things about working at Ipsos Mori is the fact I get to work on a diverse range of projects with talented professionals from all walks of life – some of the best in the business. I learn something new every day and that is hugely motivating.

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2021

In Spring 2022, MRS will be requesting nominations for Research Heroes 2022.