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The Team
Zoomed In


Jess Horkan

Co-Founder, Managing Partner

Jessica is a trusted partner who helps clients grow and create meaningful change.

She started empatiX to bring her brand of consulting – a holistic approach rooted in psychology, data, and customer experience – to an industry that needs it. A lifelong learner with her ear to the ground, Jess thinks expansively about her clients’ questions, and always looks to deliver original solutions that drive value (and allow for some fun along the way!).

She thinks about her clients’ needs from a different angle every day. That includes asking the tough questions that create real change. Her recipe for innovation involves being a leader and pace-setter, but also thoughtful and bold. Growth isn’t always a straight line; Jess understands these nuances, and how to steer the ship.

But Jess doesn’t hoard her insights. She eagerly shares them and brings clients along for the ride. She’s a people-person at heart, a connector who’s always trying to help herself and her clients grow. That means being a true partner to them – one who’s authentic, energized, motivated, and kind.

It’s this mindset, along with decades of experience, that allows her to deliver excellence and value to her clients. Jess has advanced degrees in both Psychology and Management, which translated into a Presidential Management Fellowship at the Dept. of Health and Human Services. In the business world, she’s led both financial services and healthcare verticals, and held executive positions focused on growth. Her knowledge of all things strategy, market research, customer, and innovation (from design thinking to iterative learning to agile) only supports her holistic view.


Out of the office, you can find her at the lake in New Hampshire, spending time with family, laughing too loud, on long runs, curled up with a book and my dog, Sam, or traveling the world.


Brian Cruikshank

Co-Founder, Managing Partner

An innovator, teacher, and client partner, Brian is committed to helping clients learn and grow.


He started empatiX out of the belief that modern consulting doesn’t meet the needs of the modern business. The days of disconnected research, CX, and tech teams are over; Brian knows that true growth (and results!) happen when everyone rows in the same direction.


So that’s where his focus lies. On being a partner that takes the big-picture approach to growth. In his day-to-day, that means collaborating constantly, innovating intentionally, and testing new tech. It also means active listening – truly hearing what your business leaders, customers, and employees are saying – to ensure we lead well and add value.


This mindset is fueled by years of research and leadership experience – one that’s given him a unique perspective on all things CX, data/tech, and activation. Brian has held executive leadership positions across media, digital marketing, and insights agencies. Some of his passion projects include: applying machine learning to capture unstructured insights, deploying organic tech platforms for consumer feedback, and pursuing tech partnerships to ensure we have the best tools in the biz. He’s passionate about translating his experience with clients and technology into successful partnerships and results.


On a personal note, Brian prides himself on being a servant leader, and both a willing teacher and student. Outside of work, Brian has mentored local youth and coached youth hockey teams in the Twin Cities over the years and you will often find him riding or running on the 100s of miles of Minnesota trails.


Amber McCullough

VP, Strategy & Insights

Amber is a seasoned strategist with a proven track record of advising business leaders and driving results by deploying an incredibly well-informed approach that combines industry expertise, market understanding, and both qualitative and quantitative human-centered approaches to solving complex business issues. Amber works with clients to assess the state of the market to identify white space opportunity and build optimal products and solutions.


With a focus on the big picture Amber knows that strategy does not exist in a silo and works to connect the dots for clients through digestible insights.  Her specialties include corporate marketing and branding initiatives, technological innovations, and B2B trends.


She holds an M.B.A. in Marketing from St. John’s University in New York, where she piloted outcome metrics for the Vincentian Institute for Social Action (VISA), the university’s philanthropic organization. A coffee-addicted loud laugher, Amber enjoys days at the beach near her home in Long Island, NY and all things Stephen King.


Melanie Shreffler

VP, Strategy & Cultural Insights

Melanie is a trusted advisor who leverages the power of culture to unlock opportunities for brands. In her roles at consumer intelligence firms including empatiX, Cassandra, Smarty Pants, and Ypulse, Melanie has worked with top brands leading strategic initiatives to help them reposition, innovate, and grow their businesses by capitalizing on emerging shifts ahead of their competition. 


A seasoned researcher, Melanie embraces a human-centric approach to provide companies with a unique POV on their markets and industries by blending the art of cultural intelligence with the science of data analysis. With an eye for identifying behavioral trends and a talent for designing innovative research programs, Melanie has predicted nascent cultural shifts including the rise of solo travel and “satisfying video” entertainment. Melanie is a frequent speaker in the industry, including recent appearances at SXSW, Advertising Week, and Social Media Week.

In her free time, Melanie can be found exploring local culture on her scooter, checking out art studios, catching music performances and sporting events, and keeping an eye on street style.

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Okie Emuoyibo

SVP, Data Strategy

Okie Emuoyibo is an experienced market researcher and data scientist with a proven track record of advising business leaders and driving results by deploying programs to understand markets and brands through quantitative, human-centered approaches to solve complex business issues.

A constant innovator, Okie loves helping clients realize their strategic goals and achieve outcomes with data. His specialties include segmentation, customer experience measurement and innovation initiatives. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Computer Science from Boston University. Okie is passionate about helping clients connect and understand the relationships across various types of data. He has extensive experience in financial services, healthcare and technology.


Maggie Grove

Principal Consultant

Maggie is a seasoned researcher with endless curiosity about people and what makes them tick. People (and the brain!) are her passion, and working with clients a particular joy. She’s an empathetic, active listener who’s always questioning the status quo. It’s this Socratic-yet-solution-forward mindset – fostered by a background in neuro and sociology – that helps her bring valuable insight to clients. But she’s humble in what she doesn’t know, and eager to learn from anyone, as she believes everyone has something to teach you if you truly try to hear them.

Her professional experience in analytics and market research also helps her bring a keen eye to insights and strategy initiatives. Maggie previously worked with Jess and in research, and spent time at Wayfair and Digitas in advanced data analytics to better understand how we can play with data to answer complex business questions.

Maggie graduated from Colgate University with honors and a concentration in Neuroscience, and takes pride in being a National Merit Scholar. She’d describe herself as convicted, curious, and a hype man. In her free time, she’s a political junkie, philosophy novice, and lifelong student of the brain. When she’s not totally nerding out, you’ll catch her at a concert, hiking, or experimenting in the kitchen (with mixed results!).


Karen Pevenstein

Strategic Communications Consultant

Karen Pevenstein is a strategic communications consultant with more than 20 years of experience in public relations, brand marketing and broadcast journalism.  A master storyteller spanning multiple industries including retail, financial services and lifestyle, she has a proven track record at elevating brands and reputations in Fortune 100 and startup settings.  She specializes in building communications strategies and thought leadership platforms for B2C and B2B clients working across organizations supporting teams from marketing, sales to C-suite leadership.   

Previously she served as Director of Public Relations for Liberty Mutual Insurance where she led the external promotion of national and global initiatives related to product launches, innovation and brand marketing.  Prior to Liberty, Karen led PR for Staples’ back to school, holiday and celebrity cause marketing campaigns as well as launches with brands such as Amazon, Microsoft and Martha Stewart.  

Karen began her career in television news and sports as a producer at stations in Monterey, CA (NBC) and Boston, MA (CBS) before transitioning to communications.   

She graduated cum laude from Villanova University with a degree in Communication and a minor in French.  She is also an entrepreneur translating her love of France into an award-winning business as founder of Louis Sel (  Louis Sel imports specialty sea salts from Brittany and has been featured in Forbes, The Boston Globe and Cooking Light.


Kyle Meehan

Design Lead

Kyle is a Design Leader with over a decade of experience leading and building digital experiences. From start-up to enterprise, Kyle’s breadth and depth of knowledge spans across industries, business models, and technologies. His experience includes Managing Director at a digital agency, VP Design at a SaaS company, and Founder of a digital product and venture studio. Kyle’s unique approach to design is rooted in human-centered design principles and a balanced blend of product, brand, and business strategy.


He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management. He’s also obtained professional accreditation from IDEO U’s Design Leadership program and is an active member of the InVision Design Leadership Forum. Kyle has a passion for helping people and believes that the power of design is limitless. He currently resides in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two children. 


Chris Thomas

Research Strategy Consultant

Chris has over 17 years of market research experience from the vendor to the client side Chris has worked across the board to offer nuanced insights to complex problems. As a leader in quantitative research Chris has deep experience in approaches ranging from brand health to concept and message testing. Outside of quantitative research Chris also helped to support more strategic and market insights questions and has helped to advance the likes of Acorns, Petco, Amazon, and A&W. 

He graduated from Berklee College of Music and values creative perspectives and problem solving. He currently lives in Sonoma County, CA, with his wife, dog and record collection. Chris’ business background has provided him with a passion for creative approaches, story, and creating environments of deep listening and empathy.

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