Eric Ringer wears a lot of hats.
On any given day, his role could be R&D engineer, product manager, drone operations consultant, or flight operations specialist.
His official title is Co-founder and Strategic Projects Engineer of Skyward but, in the startup world, your official title rarely covers everything.
“As is common in startups, I’ve filled a lot of different roles since we started this journey several years ago,” Ringer said. “Since I came on full time about a year and a half ago I have been working with our CTO, whose name is X, driving innovation and drone operations knowledge deeper into our product.”
Skyward is a Portland-based startup that builds operations software for commercial drone operators. Ringer is an avid drone photographer but also knows how to maintain divisions between work and home life.
We caught up with him to hear his tips for keeping it all in balance for our regular Working Geek feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current Location: “Portland, Oregon ”
Computer types: “MacBook Air 13”
Mobile devices: “Nexus 5X running Android Nougat on Project Fi”
Favorite apps, cloud services, and software tools: ”I started to list them out by the function I use them for but most of my favorite apps are used in both personal and professional environments. Slack is essential for cross platform communication with teams at work, my family, and my community group at church. Inbox from Google helps me execute my “inbox as task list” strategy. Strava is a beautiful, feature-rich platform for tracking and analyzing workouts and connecting with other active folks. yEd helps me communicate what’s going on in my head to others. I really love maps so Google Earth, DroneDe ploy, and DataMapper Inflight are all great for different reasons: Google Earth for location scouting and flight path viewing, and DroneDeploy and DataMapper Inflight for collecting imagery with my DJI Phantom 3 and turning it into useful maps and 3D models. Finally, I use Adobe Lightroom and Instagram to edit and share my aerial photography.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? ”My primary workspace is a standing desk. It works for me because it forces me to be mindful of my posture and prevent a recurring hip injury I’ve dealt with from sitting too much. Our office hammock is nice when I’m tired of standing! It provides an easy change of environment that I sometimes need to stay productive.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life?
1. I start every work day with some alone time prior to diving into any meetings. During that time I review the tasks I want to get done for the day and read through my email.
2. I treat my inbox as a task list. If there is an email in there it is because I have action on it. I try to be real with myself about whether I will actually take that action soon. If I won’t, I’ll dismiss the email and have Google remind me about it at a time when it would be more relevant or a higher priority. Inbox zero is the goal.
3. I try to schedule as much as I can in advance and be forward with friends, family, and coworkers about when I’m available in that respective role.
4. My wife and I take a Sabbath one day every weekend where we do no work and ideally get outside to hike, camp, bike, or run. Respecting that day gives us dedicated time for each other and is pretty important for emotional and spiritual health.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “Instagram. I love the content there, the way you can curate your own feed, and the feature communities around so many different topics. Since I work in drones, live in the beautiful northwest, and love to fly, I get to share my own content there as well. It’s a fun creative outlet for me that has also helped me build my work network. I’m eric.t.ringer on Instagram. Check out my work and let me know what you think!”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “0 unread, 4 unactioned.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “17″
How do you run meetings? “It depends on the purpose of the meeting, but determining that purpose is step one. For any meeting I run, I facilitate the conversations necessary to reach the desired outcome. To get there it starts with creating an agenda and making sure folks have the information they need to come prepared. I hate doing work in a room full of people that one person could do on their own. Everyone gets meeting fatigue so I try to keep things focused on what we want to get out of the meeting and stick to the agenda.”
Everyday work uniform? “Dark raw denim jeans, bright Nikes, dark t-shirt.”
How do you make time for family? “My wife is in grad school for nutrition so I keep a copy of her class schedule in my Google calendar. She’s an excellent cook, and a joy to be around (hear that, Love?), so I make sure I’m home for dinner every evening and if I can’t be there I try to give her enough of a heads up. We have our own Slack team so she and I can easily talk in the same environment that I’m in coordinating with everyone else at Skyward. And as I said above, we take a Sabbath day every weekend.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “There are two major ways I unplug. First, Netflix. We’re in the golden age of television after all, right? Second, triathlon training. I have to have something to focus on in my personal life aside from work in order to relieve stress. Because startup life can be so up and down, a structured program of self-improvement helps me feel like I’m making progress in life, independent of how things are going at work (it’s kind of like diversifying my goals for success). Triathlon has been really good for that.”
What are you listening to? “Lately, I’ve really been enjoying Joseph’s new album, ‘I’m Alone, No You’re Not’.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Most of my daily reading is to keep up with what’s happening in the drone industry. In the mornings I skim Politico’s Morning Transportation report and my Twitter drone industry list. If I have some time around lunch I’ll see if Vox.com, FiveThirtyEight, or Kentucky Sports Radio (I’m a Kentucky boy) has anything that piques my interest.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “I’ve got three going right now. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and The Well-Built Triathlete by Matt Dixon are on my nightstand (well, really on the floor next to my bed) and I’ve got Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas on Audible for listening while running.”
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Early riser. I’m usually in bed by 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. and awake between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., even on weekends.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “My best ideas never come when I’m trying to have good ideas. They seem to always come when I’m doing something else so when I get a good idea I try to get to Slack or Wunderlist right away to jot it down. That way I can easily return to the idea when I’m able to do something with it.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and learn from some really great people who have influenced my work style. For example, I have a lot of admiration for people who are able to both focus intensely on one task and meet the needs of those around them. Our COO, Mariah Scott, does this quite gracefully and can quickly transition from silently working through a task to problem-solving with her team. I also admire people who successfully balance their professional, personal, and family goals. I was very fortunate to learn some valuable lessons in balance from former Patagonia CEO Michael Crooke while I was in the Oregon MBA program. Professional triathlete and Picky Bars co-founder and CEO Jesse Thomas is also quite good at this.