by Courtney Ryan
September 3, 2019

When American Family Insurance purchased data and analytics software company Networked Insights and HomeGauge in late 2017, the insurance company made clear its plan to accelerate its digital transformation, including its use of data, advanced analytics and AI. 

Less than two years later, the transformation seems to have completely taken shape. “We’re contributing to the evolution of the insurance industry via data science and data awareness, with the intention of making insurance a better experience for the customer,” said Networked Insights’ VP of Engineering Stephen Tucker. 

We spoke with Stephen and CTO Brad Burke to learn more about how the company works within the American Family Insurance infrastructure and what’s next for data and analytics software. 

 

networked insights offices chicago
photography by Nikki Segarra
networked insights teams
photography by Nikki Segarra
Entrance of Networked Insights office
photography by Nikki Segarra

 

FOUNDED: 2006

EMPLOYEES: 70; 55 locally

WHAT THEY DO: Using audience research, Networked Insights provides analytics to enable companies to make data-driven marketing decisions and improve media efficiency.

WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago

NOTABLE PERKS: Every Thursday, new hires host a drink cart around the office to get to know their colleagues. In the summer, the entire company attends a Cubs vs. Brewers baseball game at Wrigley Field. 

NOTABLE CLIENTS: Disney, Hershey’s and FanDuel

 

Brad Burke chats with coworkers

Brad Burke portrait

 

Brad Burke, CTO at Networked Insights & Chief Data Officer at American Family

Brad works with the product, software engineering and data science teams at Networked Insights to provide strategic direction. At American Family Insurance, he leads efforts in data, data science and software engineering.

BEYOND WORK: Brad has a number of hobbies, including swimming, biking, running and doing all three while competing in triathlons. He is also developing his own software to build an authentic IoT-driven home.

 

What are the different ecosystems within Networked Insights? How do employees at Networked Insights work with American Family and HomeGauge?

Within American Family Insurance, an impressive team has evolved, grown and acquired commercially adjacent efforts such as Networked Insights and HomeGauge. Because of this, the sheer amount of opportunities and interesting challenges continues to keep someone like me engaged in the American Family enterprise. 

Like most modern organizations, we have challenges in a variety of areas, but we’re able to bring the right mix of skills and experience together, plus Agile product development methodologies, to get work done. We have efforts that take the latest techniques in data engineering, data science and software engineering and apply them to the entire enterprise. It’s also deeply fascinating to take the learnings of the past eight years at Networked Insights and scale them to an enterprise like American Family.

 

What have you learned in your role as CTO that has been especially helpful in your role as CDO?

As data science and the Networked Insights products have evolved during my time, I’ve learned that to reduce the cycle time between scientific discovery and production, you need to have early teamwork between the software engineering and data science teams. Also, working with data is evolving into a discipline called data engineering, which is closer to the software engineering field. So, data development needs to adopt many of the same principles as software engineering to develop mature data pipelines. This means having a strong set of guiding principles for science development that are rooted in good testing methodology and the ethical use of data. 
 

We have a larger enterprise of opportunities and career possibilities that really allows us to think about how we can grow people into careers that can last beyond the typical two or three years at a startup.”


How has your transition into the American Family Insurance umbrella affected your team? 

The changes at Networked Insights have allowed our teams to grow in experiences and responsibilities. Creating career tracks at startups can be tough since you are mostly focused on doing what you need to do in the present to grow and survive and put your earned capital to work. Now, we have a larger enterprise of opportunities and career possibilities that really allows us to think about how we can grow people into careers that can last beyond the typical two or three years at a startup.

 

Stephen Tucker enjoys a break coworkers

Stephen Tucker portrait
 

Stephen Tucker, VP, Product Engineering

Stephen leads all technical duties for adjacent holdings for American Family Insurance, including Networked Insights and HomeGauge software.

BEYOND WORK: Stephen has played in an adult hockey league for several years.

 

How has your role evolved since you joined Networked Insights?

In the beginning, the company was going through high growth and there was a need to put some structure in place in order to get organized and keep engineers grounded while still having fun. Today, the role is similar but has expanded with the acquisition by American Family Insurance. Now, we can provide exciting opportunities that lead to the success of the core, adjacent businesses while providing benefits to emerging ideas for insurance.

 

How does your team collaborate with American Family and work across different departments?

We have a great coworking relationship with American Family where we attempt to put Networked Insights’ execution style on top of the projects where they have domain knowledge. For example, we are working with American Family on ways to detect and decrease the incidents of fraud within the insurance claim process.
 

We’re contributing to the evolution of the insurance industry via data science and data awareness, with the intention of making insurance a better experience for the customer.”


What’s next for Networked Insights and your team?

We have a lot of data-focused projects in our future that will transform the core businesses at American Family. We’re contributing to the evolution of the insurance industry via data science and data awareness, with the intention of making insurance a better experience for the customer. Staying focused, while being very sharp in our path forward, is the key to our success. We’ll get there by maintaining a great culture with very focused employees who have the ability to disrupt industries with data.

 

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