Leadership to Cultivate Innovation

Leadership to Cultivate Innovation

Sherry Samuels has been fascinated with technology since she wrote her first computer program in elementary school. Having worked in technology since the dot-com boom, she joined CoreLogic nine years ago. She now leads the Irvine Labs and is also the Technology Solutions Group (TSG) leader for the company’s Smart Data Platform (SDP). Here she discusses her background and role at CoreLogic and how the company maintains its innovative culture.

Q: Can you share some of your professional background?

It’s amazing to think I’ve been working in technology for over 20 years – time flies! Twenty years ago, the ‘world wide web’ was just taking off with only 10,000 websites and two million connected computers. Now, there are over 45 billion web pages and nearly 50 billion connected devices, powered by new trends in big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in this historic digital transformation.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems, I started off as an analyst in human resources information systems (HRIS), configuring benefits and payroll systems. After two years, I transitioned into technical project management – I love shaping, structuring, and driving solutions to market, and am inspired when technology can solve real business needs. So, I went to graduate school to earn an MBA with an emphasis in technology. As my experience deepened, I moved from managing projects, to managing large-scale programs, to managing the overall portfolio of projects across multiple business units to platform ownership, where I own and oversee all aspects of software engineering for platforms used by the entire enterprise. This is what I do today in Irvine Labs.

Q: Can you tell us about your current role at CoreLogic?
I wear two hats at CoreLogic. First, I lead Irvine Labs, one of our Innovation Development Centers (IDC) in TSG, overseeing the software development methodology. This includes managing the approach, process, tools and outcomes that allow CoreLogic to release software to the market quickly, safely and securely.

I’m also the TSG leader for the Smart Data Platform (SDP). SDP (formerly known as IDAP) is onboarding data sets across CoreLogic and defining a unique property identifier (CLIP) to easily connect data sources. SDP also introduced PanoramIQ, which leverages data science to deliver a more reliable and accurate result for property data across multiple data sources. The SDP TSG team is building data pipelines, API’s, applications and business intelligence dashboards/reports using a variety of open-source and licensed software. 

Q: Why do you like working at CoreLogic?
We are constantly evolving, whether it’s who we are as a company, our products and solutions or our technology strategy. We always try to promote from within and emphasize employee engagement and training, which means there are always opportunities to learn and grow.

Also, I appreciate our programs that celebrate diversity and inclusion. I was in the first cohort for Women in Leadership, a program aimed at professional development for high-performing women across CoreLogic. We also have an active Women’s Business Council (WBC), aimed at providing learning opportunities and network growth for all employees, and is fully managed by women. I was the president for the Orange County, California WBC chapter in 2017.

Q: Why should software engineers or Technical Product Managers (TPMs) want to work at CoreLogic?
CoreLogic has embraced an agile-XP methodology, which focuses on delivering production-ready code on a weekly basis. This enables us to pressure-test new features as they are delivered to market to ensure the customer needs are met.

In addition to this customer-focused process, Irvine Labs utilizes best-in-class software and tools like Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF), Spring, Kafka, Spark, Elastic and Angular. The level of automation these tools provide, both for processing and test coverage, allows us to move very quickly while maintaining quality, security and stability.

Q: What sets Irvine Labs apart from other software environments?
We are hyper-focused on solving customer problems, and we utilize industry-leading products to build proprietary, next generation solutions. Additionally, we leverage principles such as test-driven development and continuous integration and continuous deployment to drive heavy automation, effectively increasing speed and quality.

Irvine Labs also relies on paired programming – when two software developers collaborate on a user story to share coding best practices, design patterns and syntax. Because developer pairs rotate each day, the full team develops a deep understanding of the code base.

We also provide an environment of constant learning and encourage teams to keep abreast of technology trends. And, we host bi-weekly “Tech Talks” on a variety of topics, with speakers ranging from external thought leaders to internal subject-matter-experts.

Q: How is CoreLogic using next-gen technology to innovate? And what does that innovation mean for the housing market?

We are using technology to drive innovative solutions that will power the industries we serve for years to come. For instance, we are building microservices so that changes can be made simply and reliably, without system downtime. This helps us to continuously evolve the platform without massive amounts of refactoring needed in the future.

We’re also using event-driven architecture to build the SDP. This allows us to process data ingestion and enrichment incredibly fast, especially as data management continues to evolve from batch-based systems to more transactional, stream-based systems that enable real-time data processing.

Other focus areas for CoreLogic include:

  • Moving our infrastructure to the cloud for better resiliency, increased scalability and reduced costs
  • Deepening our focus in artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide more accurate data models and insights
  • Enhancing our data coverage through new data sets such as internet of things (IoT) device data and various types of imagery

All of this enhances our position as a market leader in property data through fast, accurate and reliable products and solutions.

Q: What challenges you as a leader? What do you love most about this role?
One of my most important responsibilities as a leader is to build and maintain highly-productive and skilled teams that can tackle projects with speed, agility and a best-practices mindset. Ironically it becomes a challenge to retain these team members since as they develop and hone new skills, their marketability increases. Some of our employees have gone on to work at Amazon, Google and Elastic – so we must be doing something right.

What I love most about my role is that I am fortunate to see an enterprise perspective since the platforms I run ultimately have to serve the entire company.  This gives me a view of the latest strategies, and I can see the connection points across many of our biggest solutions.

Q: What excites you about coming to work each day?
I love that I never really know how the day is going to unfold; each day is unique. It’s a challenging and fast-paced environment, but it’s also highly rewarding. I’ve developed meaningful relationships with people across the company, and I know there is a lot of great work happening every day because of the CoreLogic team.

Q: What gets you excited about the next five years?
When I think back to where we were five years ago, we were just establishing our relationship with Pivotal and initiating our first Labs office in Santa Monica, California (which has since relocated to Irvine, California). Since then, we’ve built over 200 applications, established four enterprise platform applications (SDP, Gateway, Store and Services), opened seven Labs offices across the world and served 42,000 users across all 11 business units. Reflecting on these accomplishments, I truly believe we have the potential to accomplish impossible things in the next five years.

Q: Other than technology, what skill would you like to master?
As a southern girl from Tennessee, I’ve always loved bluegrass music. I’d love to learn how to play the banjo!

Sherry Samuels , Executive, Software Engineering & Technology, currently overseeing all technical aspects of the Smart Data Platform. She also runs Irvine Labs, which develops the enterprise platform applications (Smart Data Platform, Digital Gateway, CoreLogic Store, and Common Services). She has been with CoreLogic for 9 years, and has worked across a variety of business units and office locations during that time.