Next week, Tom Ranken, president and CEO of the CleanTech Alliance, will help the Seattle-based organization celebrate its 10-year anniversary. The group supports clean-tech businesses across the Northwest, and has grown eight-fold over the past decade. The Alliance represents 300 companies, research institutions and other organizations in six U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.
“My role is to guide the organization to boost our region’s clean-tech economy,” Ranken said. “If you have to sum it up in one word, it’s jobs.”
When he isn’t promoting green energy and other sustainable endeavors, Ranken is rehearsing with his Ranken File band mates, tweeting, imbibing a little homebrew, running and spending quality time with his family.
Prior to joining the Alliance, he co-founded and was CEO of Seattle’s VizX Labs, a cloud-based bioinformatics company. Earlier, he led a team that doubled the size of Axio Research and directed public affairs at Immunex. He also served as president of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association (now Life Science Washington).
We caught up with Ranken for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current Location: Seattle
Computer types: Windows
Mobile devices: iOS
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “Too much clutter. Pictures that remind me that we are today’s discoverers. Music to keep me sane. Table and chairs to meet with people. French press and coffee beans. Lots of books and doodads from trips. A refrigerator filled with homebrew.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Be focused and understand your mission. Don’t waste time and resources on things that don’t matter. Stay balanced. Play lead guitar in a rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “My Twitter feed (@jthomasranken) is constantly humming. Odds are good that you’ll see me tweeting at most events and meetings. It provides the best audience engagement for me, personally, by far. Tweets tend to blur the line between professional and personal activities. You’ll find a lot of great information in my feed about the CleanTech Alliance, our industry and our members. You’ll also find where my band (The Ranken File) is playing next. Follow me and come check us out!”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 50, but I have been working on them for the past hour.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “16. I seem to spend most days bouncing from one meeting to another. It’s probably easier to count the unfiltered blocks in my calendar. Right now, the CleanTech Alliance is gearing up for our Annual Meeting and 10th Anniversary Celebration on Nov. 8, which keeps my calendar pretty full.”
How do you run meetings? “Make sure everyone has their say. Everyone on the team has a unique point of view and is smart. My job is to make sure that it all fits together to achieve our mission.”
Everyday work uniform? “Used to be a suit and tie, but I have been running a lot and my suits don’t fit anymore. In the market for some new ones, but I prefer jeans and a T-shirt.”
How do you make time for family? “By being efficient and focused on what is important, you can find time. I spent five years as a Scoutmaster — which took an enormous amount of time — but it was important for my son and for me to have that balance in our lives.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “By plugging in my guitar! The Ranken File band plays most weekends, so we rehearse at least once or twice each week. I typically practice and experiment on my own between those sessions. It’s rare that you’ll find me not thinking, talking or playing guitar.”
What are you listening to? The War on Drugs, right now.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Seattle Times, The Economist, Xconomy, Uncut, email, Facebook, Twitter.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “No Quarter: The Three Lives of Jimmy Page” by Martin Power. Really good. And about a dozen others — mostly about history’s leaders or musicians.
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? Up every morning at 5:30 to run three miles
Where do you get your best ideas? “At CleanTech Alliance events, of course. In all seriousness, our events tend to attract a very diverse set of industry thought leaders. It’s a great opportunity for me to listen and learn what’s new. It’s also a chance to test out new ideas to see what might generate interest across the industry.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “George Duff, former president of the Seattle Chamber. There isn’t anything that happened in Seattle between the late 1960s and the ‘90s that he wasn’t all over. He made things happen, but never demanded the spotlight.”