The Working Geek: Fast-moving Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff on how he works

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff at his work station in the Russell Investment Center.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff at his work station in the Russell Investments Center.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff is always moving, even cruising along at two miles per hour on a treadmill desk as he responds to emails or takes phone calls during the day. We’ve even been known to get late-night emails and Tweets from the 38-year-old father of three, responding to requests for comment or offering feedback on stories.

It got us wondering: Does he ever sleep? And, what tools does he use to manage the largest online real estate company in the U.S.?

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff speaking at Seattle University

We asked those questions of the Hotwire co-founder and former investment banker for a new feature on GeekWire that we’re calling “The Working Geek.”

The concept? Get insights and tips on how fast-moving technology professionals do their jobs. The idea was inspired by Matt Heinz at Heinz Marketing who asked me a similar set of questions last month for his “How I Work” feature. (Yes, you can read about me blogging in my boxers and Tweeting from the toilet here).

Rascoff, who took Zillow public in July 2011 and has guided the profitable company to record revenues, is also learning to tune out. An email auto-response he switches on each weekend notes that as part of a New Year’s resolution, he no longer checks email until late Saturday night. Here are a few of Rascoff’s other secrets to success.

Location: Downtown Seattle, 31st floor, with a great view of Puget Sound and the Olympics.

First Job: Research department at Fox Broadcasting, analyzing TV ratings.

The Fitbit

The Fitbit

Computers: Dell Ultrabook, plus two vertical monitors and one horizontal. I like to pretend I’m a software developer, so I have more tech cred. And it’s easier to read webpages vertically than horizontally.

Mobile devices: iPhone5 is my core phone, but I am usually testing one or two Android phones also.

Favorite apps and software tools: Microsoft Outlook, Google Docs, Google Drive, Spotify, Fitbit.

Describe your workspace:  I don’t have a desk chair or an office. I have a treadmill desk so I can hit my daily Fitbit goal. At Zillow, no one has offices. I am in the corner of an open floorplan and because I’m usually standing on the treadmill I’m tall enough to shout to anyone on the floor. Zillow has five floors in Seattle, but I sit next to the Marketing, PR, Legal and Investor Relations people. I also spend a lot of time pacing on the sales floor, which has a really fun energy (and great music).

inboxzero

Flickr photo via hyperdashery

What’s your best way to save time in your job? I get to inbox zero (no remaining emails in my inbox) every two to three weeks, and I never go to sleep if I have unread mail.

What are you better at than anybody else? Making Swedish chocolate chip pancakes.

How do you keep track of your busy life? I manage my to-do list on my calendar rather than on a separate list.

How do you run meetings: They start on time, they end early.

Are you more tortoise or hare: Hare.

What are you listening to? Sometimes Spotify (usually electronic dance music) but usually I just listen to the open floorplan. I like to hear what other people are up to.

everythingstoreBook on your nightstand: “The Everything Store” (aka the Amazon book) by Brad Stone.

Describe your sleep patterns: I try not to check email or look at my phone between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (kid-time). Then I work and spend time with my wife, before going to sleep around midnight. I wake up around 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. I travel frequently for business, and I pack my days with meetings from 7 a.m. until midnight, and rarely sleep more than a few hours when I’m on the road.

Best advice: Always hire better than you.

What would you being doing if you weren’t running Zillow? I’d be a cowboy.

Stress reliever: Playing with my kids.

Everyday work uniform: Black pants, button down shirt, slip-on dress shoes (laces are a time-waster).

Daily reads: Twitter, Zillow Blog, NYT, WSJ, TechCrunch and GeekWire.

Night owl or early riser? Both.

Whose work style would you want to learn more about: Rand Fishkin of Moz. 

The Working Geek is an occasional feature on GeekWire offering tips, tricks and insights into how busy tech professionals get work done. 

  • http://twitter.com/chrisamccoy Chris McCoy

    Boom! Same here. Can’t imagine any other way.

    Q: How do you keep track of your busy life?
    A: I manage my to-do list on my calendar rather than on a separate list.

  • http://adrianadunn.com adrianadunn

    Love this! Suggestions for future geeks to interview for this feature:
    Jeremy Jaech
    Kate Matsudiara
    Julie Sandler
    Christian Chabot