As Vice President of Product for Allrecipes.com, Justin Law saw the Seattle online cooking giant through a bit of a renaissance.
“The majority of families today lead busy, hectic lives where everyone seemingly needs be in different places at different times,” he said. “Often times, the dinner table or a family celebration is the only part of our day when everyone is gathered together in one place. My team’s job is to design and build experiences that make the planning, shopping, cooking and sharing of food during these occasions as rewarding and successful as possible.”
Law leads the product, project management, and user experience teams at Allrecipes. Before joining the company in 2014, he held roles at InfoSpace, Amdocs Interactive, Bright Hub, Inc., and AOL.
Law shared advice for email etiquette, leveraging LinkedIn, and balancing work and life with GeekWire for this installment of Working Geek. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current Location: “413 Pine Street. We’re located at Westlake Park.”
Computer types: “I have a 13” MacBook Air.”
Mobile devices: “iPad and iPhone 6.”
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “My single favorite app is the fabulous Allrecipes Dinner Spinner. Aside from that, apps I use at work every day include Dropbox, Evernote, Slack, Smartsheet, TripIt, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In my personal life, I use the Kindle app, OpenTable, Pandora, and Mint. For fun, I spend what free time I can find on Yahoo’s Fantasy Football, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, and Yousician (I’m learning to play the guitar).”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “Allrecipes’ offering and culture is highly collaborative. The vast majority of team members sit in open areas with low dividing walls to foster information sharing and real-time problem solving. Most of our best creativity and problem solving happens on the fly as teams are working through projects. To ensure I’m staying connected and accessible, my office has an open desk where team members can stop by to walk through projects – and also unobstructed views of the broader activity happening on my floor. I have a flexible standing desk behind me where I can plug in if I need access to larger, multiple screens. I prefer to stand when possible.
In my office, you’ll also find an assortment of various keepsakes from my past teams and experiences. My two favorite pieces are probably my ‘Man in the Arena’ quote canvas print and a papier-mâché rhinoceros head. The quote reminds me that the rigor is worth it, and the rhinoceros head reminds me not to take myself too seriously. Both are valuable at different times.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Finding the proper balance between the two has been as ongoing struggle I have been battling most of my career. We recently moved to Bainbridge Island, and the ferry in and out has created an opportunity for me to create a better separation. I am able to transition into the work mindset on the way to work on the morning ferry, and then decompress and shift back to a family first mindset on the way home. However, it is still a challenge.
My best advice is something my father told me as a child – ‘wherever you are, be there.’ I remind myself of this when I am with my family and I find my thoughts drifting away towards whatever is occupying my mind at work. When I am with my family, my obligation, attention and real value lies in being with them, mind and body.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “LinkedIn is my favorite niche social network. I really enjoy the influencers functionality. I appreciate the expertise of others, and find real value in the tech influencers and thought leaders I follow. I further utilize LinkedIn for competitive analysis, as I can keep track of the type of roles my competition is hiring. Finally, I enjoy staying up-to-date on my former co-workers to see what types of products they are creating in their new roles.
Facebook is still my personal social network of choice. I have found no simpler, smoother way of keeping my extended family that’s located on the east coast up to date with the goings on of the Seattle Law clan.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “More than I would like. As a goal, I try to respond to all direct questions in email by the end of every day. There are days when that is not possible, but that’s the goal.
My biggest struggle with email is that I am cc’d or added on to so many threads that it can be difficult to determine whether or not I am required to respond. My recommendation: If you need a direct answer, it is okay to include the rest of the thread, but please note at the top (in bold) that a response is expected.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “I have 59 meetings that I am invited to this week. Obviously, I get double or triple booked quite a bit.”
How do you run meetings? “The reality for most people in the workforce is they are incredibly busy. I prefer not to call a meeting unless it’s completely necessary. If a quick drive by can accomplish the same thing, I would much rather do that. I don’t want to waste your time, and I don’t want my time wasted either. I also don’t want to hold up work because we can’t find a time that works for everyone in the immediate future.
When meetings are necessary; the format is pretty standard. An invite with an agenda and/or problem statement and background. The meeting flow is: Here is the context/background, here is the decision that we need to make right now or very soon. Let’s discuss. Let’s decide or set a date for decision. End of meeting.”
Everyday work uniform? “Wrinkled jeans and an untucked button down shirt. In my mind, it makes me look young and hip…dual purpose – it also (almost) hides my growing waistline.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Lately, I have been learning to play the guitar. The rigor of practice allows me to get out of my headspace around work, and really focus on something else. It is a great escape. The glass of wine accompaniment also helps.”
What are you listening to? “Sports radio on the way to and from the ferry. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan first, but the Seahawks have found a way into my heart. And I love the Sounders.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “I open my browser to LinkedIn for influencer articles, as well as VentureBeat and Quora. I also read the AP top news every day.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “I’ve got three types of books that I am always reading. Business/Leadership, historical fiction, and science fiction. In that order, I am currently reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, The Glorious Cause, by Jeff Shaara, and The Traveler: An Event Group Thriller, by David Golemon. I love my kindle app.”
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “I go to bed every night at 10 p.m., and wake up at 5 a.m”
Where do you get your best ideas? “I am an avid reader. I find the beginnings of new ideas in reading. Whether it be an article on new technology or startups, or a political article discussing the presidential situation in Zimbabwe or some other diverse material, I find that reading often stimulates thought processes that break me away from the mundane.
I then take these initial thoughts and begin to discuss them with those people whose opinion I truly value. Openly discussing new ideas and taking them to their conclusion really helps hone a concept.
Typically, they are thrown out. Once in a while, they become an executable strategy. And sometimes, they get built out. Seeing a product through from earliest ideation through launch is the greatest joy of my role.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “I’m partial to incredibly smart people who lead through actions and not words. I am allergic to bluster; much preferring substance and integrity. Leaders who seek to know their people, who inspire loyalty through human connection, and drive success through a ‘let’s do this’ approach vs. a ‘go do this’ style.”