When she joined Zillow.com in 2014 to build the organization’s first consumer-insights department, Mary Kaye O’Brien rolled up her sleeves and picked up the tools at hand.

Her modest resources for her new role at the online real-estate database enterprise: a company Wiki and noontime “lunch and learns”.

“Every month, we'd be down in our lunchroom, just wanting to talk to any and everybody,” said O’Brien, who had previously served as an external consultant to the growing digital real-estate marketplace. “What are the insights you have? Or the insights you want?”

The response: Crickets.

107191f01

Mary Kaye O’Brien, Director, Zillow

New office hours were quiet, too. “Sometimes we just sat in the lunchroom alone and had coffee.”