Over the past decade, CB Insights has proven the importance of empirical, data-based logic, and more specifically, the value proposition it plays when identifying industry trends and changes. This data-forward model has helped them grow from 10 employees to 240 today and secure enterprise clients like Citi, GE and IBM.
With more data available than ever before, the team is regularly adding more features to solve complicated data challenges using technology. We caught up with two employees to learn more about their expanding teams and the role they’ll play in the future at CB Insights.
WHAT THEY DO: At CB Insights, the proof is in the data — not the pudding. Its machine learning algorithm and visualization tools help corporations address massive strategic questions on industry trends without all the guesswork.
WHERE THEY DO IT: New York City
PRAISED BY PEERS: Twice a year, CB Insights gives out “Peer Awards” to employees who have been endorsed by their teammates for exceptional work and commitment to helping others. Winners receive money toward their flights and hotels and two additional vacation days.
THROUGH THE RANKS: Rarely do we hear directly from the employees who have climbed the leadership ladder. That’s why we connected with J.J. Schneider of CB Insights.
Ja Lee, Senior Intelligence Analyst, Healthcare
Ja supports CB Insights intelligence unit with data-driven analyses and research reports specific to healthcare trends in biotech, pharmaceuticals and digital health innovations. Through her research, clients are able to gain a better understanding of what’s happening in healthcare.
BEYOND WORK: When not running reports in the office, Ja can be spotted running through Central Park.
Before this, you led clinical research for a large healthcare system. What inspired the move to CBI?
While it was a great learning opportunity in a research capacity, I wanted to pivot to where I could analyze healthcare from a different perspective. Specifically, I wanted to research how technology was attempting to solve some of the bigger bottlenecks seen in healthcare. CBI was the ideal fit for doing this in an environment that was both collaborative and fast-paced.
Walk us through a project or challenge you’re working on that excites you most.
At our most recent company hack day, another healthcare analyst and I worked with engineering and customer success to prototype a new tool for clients to use. This type of dataset would allow clients to visualize a new healthcare dataset and help us as analysts provide more in-depth research reports based on this data. The challenge is identifying how our clients will derive value from this data and, in particular, what level of detail will allow them to glean the most important details for their respective businesses.
I wanted to research how technology was attempting to solve some of the bigger bottlenecks seen in healthcare. CBI was the ideal fit.”
How does your team collaborate together on projects?
It depends on the projects and the analysts involved. Sometimes, an interesting cross-industry research topic may be conceived in an informal conversation. Or, clients will explicitly express an interest in how one industry is disrupting another. Recently, my coworker Deepa and I collaborated on a research brief and subsequent webinar. She brought her expertise on AI, and I shared with her my clinical research experiences. Through many meetings and reorganization, we were able to create a meaningful deliverable that created value for our audience.
What is the next big step for your team?
Our team will continue to expand our research efforts and hire more analysts to increase our topic coverage. There are so many opportunities for new research areas to branch into, and having more analysts will allow us to explore these areas.
Jeff Capobianco, Senior Software Engineer
A senior software engineer specializing in data engineering, Jeff focuses on designing and implementing systems that process outside data into CBI’s platform. In addition to building software that doesn’t require a lot of babysitting, Jeff said he prides himself on frequently presenting new findings at their biweekly engineering lunch and learns.
BEYOND WORK: This spring marks Jeff’s fourth season competing in triathlons. He said it helps his approach to leadership by keeping him disciplined, confident and humble.
Walk us through the problems you solve when you step into work. What technologies are you using or building to address these?
I am generally concerned with how data is moving around the different databases and processes working behind the scenes of CB Insights. Most data engineers know that tracking that path of data is not always easy, especially when some of the components in your pipeline have been around longer than you have been an employee.
To solve that problem, my team is building a platform that will track all those connections for us, as well as providing monitoring on the health of various processes. We are doing this by adding non-blocking hooks into our utility code libraries, which have wide adoption within the company; storing data in AWS Neptune graph database; and rendering all that information with a React/Redux dashboard.
What’s the biggest technical challenge that you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?
Cleaning up messy datasets. Some information is intuitive to humans but can be challenging to represent to a computer and store in a way that is still fast to access. For example, extracting business relationships from news articles was very tricky because of the bi-directional nature of a relationship and the many phases that we need to put a news article through in order to extract relationships reliably. In the end, it came down to dedication, teamwork and celebrating the victories along the way to keep us hungry for the next one.
Our CEO always says that while panic is contagious, so is calm, and our office is a testament to the latter.”
How does your work at CB Insights inspire you?
When I came to interview, I was immediately aware of the friendly, calm atmosphere. Our CEO always says that while panic is contagious, so is calm, and our office is a testament to the latter. Also, Chubby Brainers — what we call ourselves — generally have strong opinions that are weakly held. That leads to many lively conversations and debates held in a very respectful way, where we don’t care about who is right nearly as much as which idea is best for our users.
What qualities does the ideal candidate possess for your team?
I think the ideal engineering candidate should be able to clearly assess and explain tradeoffs. Sometimes interview candidates will choose an approach to a problem and then defend it stubbornly just because it was their initial choice. I’d much rather hear an explanation of a technique’s strengths and weaknesses as opposed to those of its alternatives. Lastly, confidence is key, and even if you are faking it, it eventually becomes the same thing.