Brian Paulen has been advising clients on how they can use technology to improve their business operations for nearly 20 years. He spent eight of those years as CEO of Madrona Solutions Group, leading the technology consulting firm through its 2013 acquisition by West Monroe Partners, where he remains today.
As managing director of the Chicago firm’s Seattle office, Paulen is responsible for a team of consultants that help clients learn and about and implement technology tools, like CRM.
“We help them decide which technologies to use, help them implement the technologies, and most importantly change the business processes to ensure the technologies succeed,” he said.
We caught up with Paulen for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading to learn why he emulates Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, doesn’t subscribe to traditional wisdom on work-life balance, and gets to the office by 7 a.m. every morning.
Current Location: Seattle (Kirkland at home)
Computer types: “I have a MacBook Pro, but am running Windows 10 on it. I love the form factor of Apple but prefer Windows to MacOS.”
Mobile devices: iPhone and iPad mini
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “I’m on the ESPN app more than anything else, but for business it’s Salesforce. I recently stopped renewing my SQL7 certification as it is becoming less relevant in the market.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “Our Seattle office, like almost all West Monroe offices, is open concept. This works for us because we collaborate often. There is a ping pong table in the middle, as well as a classic West Monroe kegerator. We also have some pretty kickass views: of the Olympic mountains, the Space Needle, the Cascade mountains and the Sound. The office is reflective of our culture – we work collaboratively, but we also want to enjoy life and the ride.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Contrary to most advice that tells us to separate work and life and then balance the two, I like to find the gray area. More specifically, I ask: how often can I blend work and life? If you really enjoy the people you’re working with, even when you are working long hours or very hard, you can have fun. My work is a big part of my life, and I find the more I blur the line between work and home life the happier I am, and it makes the ‘balance’ easier.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “LinkedIn. I post content daily through a social sharing tool we use at West Monroe called Bambu. I see what content my clients and colleagues are curating, and use it to build relationships. I also use it to research job candidates – our office is growing significantly, adding more than 25 jobs per year, so I spend a lot of my time recruiting.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “0 – I think it is important to be responsive to my fellow employee owners and spend a lot of time above and beyond my normal work time making this happen.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “65 — I have a lot of meetings.”
How do you run meetings? “Collaboratively. While I don’t necessarily make every decision via consensus, I do want everyone to have the opportunity to contribute their point of view. I really value the input of my leadership team and individuals in our office. I’m also big on having an agenda and sending notes and follow up reminders. With 65 meetings a week, I have to be as efficient as possible.
Everyday work uniform? “Business casual with jeans sprinkled in — despite the fact that our Chicago headquarters probably wouldn’t approve.”
How do you make time for family? “I just do. We all make choices about how to prioritize our time before and after work, and even on the busiest days I choose to make time for my family. For me, that might mean that I put my phone down when I get home and I don’t pick it up again until the kids go to bed. I also put important events like swim meets and family dinners on my calendar to ensure they aren’t scheduled over – and I’m as protective of those times as I would be of my PTO.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Watching sports and drinking an old fashioned. My favorite Seattle team is the Sounders and I’ve been a season ticket holder since the inaugural season.”
What are you listening to? “I tend to change my music based on the seasons. Right now, I’m wrapping up listening to a lot of Zac Brown Band to close the summer and will soon be transitioning to John Mayer for the fall.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “ESPN, Harvard Business Review, LinkedIn, GeekWire and CNN.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “I’m currently working my way through the Jack Reacher series – at the moment, I’m on book nine. (That’s not that impressive, since there’s more than 20).”
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Early riser. That’s partly due to habit, partly to have a sane commute, and partly because I work with many people in Central and Eastern time zones. I sadly go to bed shortly after my kids do, and I’m in our office at 3rd and Pike by 7 a.m.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “Other than the usual spots (like the shower), I get them from working with my team and conducting innovation or brainstorm sessions that involve a combination of our business consultants and deep technologists.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I’m very intrigued about the strategies and tactics he’s used to transform Microsoft in a very short period of time. Blending the tremendous technical skill at Microsoft with the extreme need to be business and functionally facing is surely a huge challenge. I’d love to understand how he approaches it day to day.”