Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
Networked Insights CTO Brad Burke knows a thing or two about that — it’s his guidepost in the evolving world of marketing analytics.
Burke’s team sorts through billions of social media posts every day and turns them into consumer insights for companies. It’s a lofty task that comes with a lot of responsibility. While recent news has shown how easily that kind of information can be misused, Burke has adopted a simple guiding philosophy to ensure he can be proud of the work his team does.
EMPLOYEES: 73 (61 local)
WHAT THEY DO: Networked Insights provides social media analytics to help marketers better understand their customers, inform their media spending, invent new products and drive creative campaigns.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago
NEW PARTNERS: American Family Insurance acquired Networked Insights in 2017.
STAY CURIOUS: To Burke, the keys to being a great leader are intellectual curiosity, good communication skills, an open mind and the ability to develop great teams.
MEET THE TEAM: These engineers see the patterns driving social media trends
Brad Burke, CTO
Brad Burke oversees Networked Insights’ software engineering, DevOps, QA, architecture and data science teams. He also works with product teams to develop marketing analytics solutions. His goal is to develop technology that helps companies make sense of a large swath of marketing data quickly and intuitively.
BEYOND WORK: Brad is a short-distance triathlete, so he can often be found swimming, biking and jogging. In the winter, he enjoys snowboarding. Outside of sports, he’s busy tinkering with new technology, decking his house out with smart solutions.
What is your philosophy for leading a team in the marketing analytics industry?
Events like the Cambridge Analytica data scandal have had a chilling effect on our industry. My personal guidepost for marketing and data is pretty simple: If you were to write a press release about us and publish it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, what would it say? Would I be proud of what we are doing, or would I be running to the nearest lawyer? If you take that perspective, it’s easy to provide value to brands and agencies and delight consumers.
How have your past experiences shaped your leadership style?
I started my career as a software developer for a larger IT consulting firm. I worked on teams that were a mix of clients and consultants from a variety of companies. What I learned early on was the power of team. If you have a good team, you can accomplish many things. My happiest moments are when I can look around and feel lucky to be a member of an amazing team.
But I’ve also had my share of successes and epic failures as a software developer. Those early experiences have given me perspective on how to approach a challenge and find a solution. If a project doesn’t produce the desired result, you should celebrate the failure and know you have at least eliminated that option.
Trying to be someone you are not in order to fit in saps you of your intellectual power and happiness.”
You mentioned having a strong team is valuable. In your opinion, what role does diversity play in creating that team?
Diversity is a key ingredient in creating great teams, and it comes in many forms. There are the traditional measures, such as race, gender or sexual orientation, but diversity of thought is becoming another important item we need to consider.
As a gay man who started his career in the closet, I truly understand the value of living as your authentic self. Trying to be someone you are not in order to fit in saps you of your intellectual power and happiness.
Last year, American Family Insurance acquired Networked Insights. What opportunities have come from that?
We have access to more data and talent as well as new opportunities. American Family Insurance has a very active venture portfolio, and it is constantly looking for new companies to invest in or partner with that drive innovation in IoT and insurance tech. The company also has partnerships with universities around the country, which enables us to joint-develop data science solutions with top academic talent.
Any acquisition is going to create a sense of unknown for a period. What we have found is that we now have 10,000 new colleagues who are great to work with. We’ve already integrated our data science efforts and are able to trade ideas across a vast enterprise. It’ll take time to get used to the much larger universe of possibilities, but we just need to stay focused on our core priorities and let the integration happen in due time.
We’ve already integrated our data science efforts and are able to trade ideas across a vast enterprise.”
What’s the biggest change you’ve helped lead at Networked Insights?
Five years ago, we decided we needed to transition to a hybrid cloud environment. At the time, we were running completely on premise. As a SaaS analytics company, we needed to have massive processing power on demand, but as a startup, we couldn’t invest capital in fixed assets. So we partnered with Google, and in 90 days, we migrated our entire Hadoop environment and our applications into the cloud.
It was a great day when the forklifts showed up to ship our hardware off to the recycler. These days, our scientists run training models and democratize data across the organization on the cloud. It’s a great feeling to write code on a single machine and see it scale by the hundreds.
How do you define success as a leader?
When I look at past and present colleagues, it makes me proud to see how much they have grown and achieved. As a leader, I ask for hard work from the teams, but, in return, I want to give them an experience that can help propel their careers.