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Peter Hamilton (Photos via Tune).
Peter Hamilton (Photos via Tune).

Between his degrees in film and music, aversion to a dedicated office, and tendency to practice “inbox zero,” Peter Hamilton isn’t your conventional CEO. But the head of Tune did put that music background to good use at the 2015 GeekWire Bash:

Hamilton leads 350 employees at Tune, a Seattle startup that provides mobile analytics tools for companies like Starbucks and Uber.

“Every day I’m learning what it really means to be a CEO,” he said. “I certainly have my hand in strategy, which is really fun, but I’m also very focused on making sure TUNE is an amazing place to work, where people are recognized and engaged with real opportunities to grow.”

The company has a history of unorthodox employee initiatives — from its gourmet downtown Tune Kitchen to the eight-bedroom Tune House that offers free rent to women studying computer science.

We caught up with Hamilton to chat about the startup and his leadership style for this installment of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

peter hamiltonCurrent Location: I live and work in Belltown, just a few blocks north of Pike Place Market. When I’m in Seattle, I’m usually on foot or in an Uber.

Computer types: I’m a mac.

Mobile devices: I’ve been an iPhone user for most of my smartphone life. Hoping to see a leap in innovation from Apple this year — that Samsung Galaxy 7 is looking pretty slick! Plus VR! I’m not a smartwatch person, and I don’t have much in the way of wearables in general, but I do use Trackr and Tile on almost all of my possessions because I have a habit losing things, head in the clouds and all.

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Clash Royale is consuming too much of my time right now, ha. They built incredible mechanics for a mobile game. If you look at my home screen you’ll find the usual social networks; I’m working hard to participate more on Snapchat these days. You’ll also find Uber and Lyft, Pedometer, authentication apps, and a folder full of music apps. Oh, and I travel quite a bit. The Delta app is my happy place.

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I never thought I would need an office. In fact, I fought it for many years wanting an open desk. The issue is that with this job, I need to either be on the phone or in private meetings with people pretty much all day. I get most of my actual work done in the evenings or early morning and during the day, my office is a bazaar of team syncs, 1:1s, outside meetings, and more. The walls are glass and the door is always open. I always want to hear from anyone at TUNE. It is important that I meet with each new hire that we have and make sure they know they can email me anytime.

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Everything is about prioritization and focus. It is easy to become completely reactive throughout your day, only doing what is being asked of you. I definitely subscribe to wiping the slate clean as often as possible, starting over with priorities and making sure you’re really on the right track. I have to schedule time to crank through tasks. My best days are also days when I keep the right perspective on the problems and challenges that come along. This is not a life or death business, but every problem we solve is interesting. Every day we should remind ourselves that the things we’re working on at TUNE are fascinating and fun, and not something you’d find in a textbook. We get to tackle big data, learn from real marketers, and improve an industry by building more technologies for more transparent measurement. Everyday work life has to have a vision, or else what’s the point?

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I’m definitely into Twitter for catching onto trending topics in mobile marketing and it’s great for connecting to people. I’m honestly not active on LinkedIn. It has become incredibly noisy for me. As for video consumption, it’s a toss up between Facebook and Snapchat. I can get lost in those things. Certainly if you follow me on social you’ll be hearing quite a bit about TUNE, but outside of that, you’ll see me weigh in on topics like the future of technology and film/entertainment. My first degree was actually in film, followed by music. Both degrees are definitely making good use now!

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 80 right now, but it is 11 a.m. I get several hundred emails a day, but I still practice inbox zero. It doesn’t happen every day, but most days I get pretty darn close. However, it’s really important for me that I don’t let email dictate my priorities.

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? During a normal week it is around 30, but when I’m on the road or speaking at a conference it may be far more than that. Just depends on the nature of the meetings and my objectives for the week.

How do you run meetings? Something I’m working hard to do is ask good questions in meetings. It is my job to help teams think through problems and own them. Great questions can open that up. I try not to “run” as many meetings as I once did, and if I do, it should be strategic. I have two amazing general managers and so many leaders across the organization that I trust to collaborate, establish action items, move the needle, and measure results. When I am running a meeting I ask what we’re planning to get done in the meeting, drive toward that goal, and do everything I can to finish the meeting early. If you meet with me, you’ll also notice that I use Google’s calendar feature to keep meetings brief and have some time between by making 30-minute meetings only 25 minutes. We can probably accomplish the same tasks and make sure we get to the next thing in time and ready to be productive.

peter hamiltonEveryday work uniform? It varies pretty dramatically actually. Joggers and a t-shirt some days, sweater and jeans others. Every once and awhile I put on a blazer, but it’s not common in the office. If I’m visiting our New York, London, or Tokyo offices you’ll see me break out a collar and coat. I’m most comfortable in a hoodie and sneakers, so I probably default to that at least once or twice a week.

How do you make time for family? If I’m honest, I’m not making too much time for family right now. We are in the fastest phase of the craziest growth, and I’ve been given a little bit of a pass to make sure my TUNE family is crushing it. I have an amazing girlfriend and an incredibly supportive family back in Texas. I now have three nieces that I see a few times a year, and catch up with on the phone on weekends and when I’m in airports. I can’t wait to get back home to see them!

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Working out is the best stress reliever for me, no questions. I don’t always resort to it because I can be pretty beat sometimes, but I always feel my best after I’ve put in a five or six-mile run or some quick interval training. I AM NOT a morning workout person (unless I have jet lag).

I definitely need some alone time to recharge as well. I keep up to date on TV and movies during flights. At home, there’s nothing better than relaxing with a glass of wine and House of Cards.

What are you listening to? If I’m in a productive mood I’m into beats that range from Daft Punk to LCD Soundsystem to Pretty Lights to ODESZA. I’m a little strange when I work out. I like more mellow stuff like Nothing But Thieves, Blue Hawaii, The Lumineers, or throwing back to Postal Service. I absolutely do not listen to music when I’m working. I can’t concentrate when there is music on. My mind wants to think about the music, the progressions and harmonies, and in order to focus I much prefer the quiet.

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? I forgot to mention that New York Times is on my home screen for my well-rounded news. Obviously, I read a ton of the trade publication like AdWeek, AdExchanger, TechCrunch, The Drum, Venturebeat etc., but I also consume quite a bit from Reuters, The Information, and Re/code. Of course, GeekWire is my pulse on the Seattle beat. Other than that I’m picking up whatever is trending on social channels.

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? A friend of mine from just gave me “Submission” which is a future look at Paris as a fictional Islamic state. Wild right?! I’m also reading the biography of Putin that just came out called The New Tsar. Unrelated, but my absolute favorite short novel of all time is “A River Runs Through It.” My brother and I have a bit of a connection with the characters, and it is one I’ve read a dozen times.

Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? I’m definitely a night owl. I’m more productive in the evenings and it takes me a while to really wake up. If I’m on my game, having a few extra minutes just to sit and drink a cup of coffee in the morning, letting my mind really wander is my most healthy state. As an aside, I’ve also been given the gift of sleep. I can sleep just about anywhere, anytime. That comes in really handy on airplanes :)

Where do you get your best ideas? Usually, they are pivots from the ideas of others. They usually happen when I’m walking or even going for a run. I constantly fill up the notepad on my phone. It is the record of all my genius thoughts, ha. Something about activating my body a little bit really gets me thinking. For that reason, I also love to do walking meetings. It can often help you take leaps of thought you might not do otherwise. The body fuels the mind, or so they say.

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Elon would be high up there on my list. His ability to cast vision and focus is remarkable. I still have a lot of seemingly urgent tasks asking for my attention. I assume he has an order of magnitude more ‘urgent’ tasks, yet he is able to be decisive, focused, and disruptive. We’ve grown to nearly 350 people now, and the challenges can be different at this stage. I’d like to see how he divides up his priorities from what is urgent and important to the things that are not urgent but are also long-term, important things.

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