Race car driver and Context Relevant vice president Jim Walsh

Startups are built to move fast. So, it’s no surprise that they sometimes attract speed freaks.

But that moniker takes on an entirely new meaning for Jim Walsh, the vice president of engineering at Context Relevant. During the weekdays, the former Microsoft engineer spends his hours crunching numbers, and trying to solve big data problems for one of Seattle’s hottest startups.

The Context Relevant car

But when the weekend arrives, it’s race time.

Walsh is one of the top racers in the Porsche Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA West sprint series, taking first place in the competition this year.

No prize money is at stake, just bragging rights. And Walsh has plenty to boast about, accumulating the most points across 12 championship races.

Walsh said he loves racing because it requires complete focus. After all, you can’t really let your mind wander when buzzing around a corner at 75 miles per hour

“It is a great escape because I have to ignore work,” he says.

But that’s not to say that Walsh’s expertise as a top data scientist doesn’t come into play when racing.

“I am pretty comfortable with the software and all of the data that is available in the car to be logged, and how to interpret and analyze it,” he said. Walsh said he does a fair bit of data analysis after his races, comparing any two laps to see where he did better or worse.

There are also a lot of lessons from racing that can be applied to the startup world, he says.

“One is taking a long-term approach, and keeping the finish line and the goal in mind,” he says. “There is a saying in racing: ‘To finish first, you must first finish.’ So preparation is key, and understanding what you are doing, and not taking someone out in the first corner because you are so intent on getting by someone … that you crash, and there goes your race. It is better to be patient and keep the long run in mind.”

With racing, Walsh also added that it is very much a team sport. You must rely on crew members and driver coaches to get to the finish line first.

Of course, running a race car team, while also managing a growing engineering team at a startup does take discipline and balance. Since most of the races take place on the West Coast on the weekends, Walsh said he’s been able to juggle both.

His motorcoach, which he uses to transport his car to various races in Oregon, California and Utah, is a “home-on-wheels” and is outfitted with wi-fi, fax machine and printer.

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Comments

  • http://www.bluebox.net Jesse Proudman

    I love it.

  • tedb

    Jim is also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. When he & I were both at MSFT, he stood out as one of the very few people at his level who actually listened to people with other points of view than his own.

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