For the CEO of a cybersecurity firm, Tim Chen has some surprisingly luddite tendencies.
“I’m old school,” he says, explaining why he avoids all of the popular online social networks.
At DomainTools, Chen does keep a close eye on the product but mostly he focuses his energy on in-person communication with his employees and customers.
“If you can bring in good people, align the team, and make sure there is enough cash in the bank, the rest of the job is really about making your leadership team successful,” he said. “I try to support them in any way I can and get them the resources they need to achieve their goals.”
DomainTools, which helps businesses fight cybercrime and cyber espionage, is growing quickly. The company added eight new employees in January, bringing the total to 56.
“I also try to be a good leader for our team, by defining a vision of why we’re here and what we’re trying to accomplish, by communication openly and often, and by working alongside our employees with the same diligence and dedication that we need from them in order to be successful,” he said.
When Chen isn’t working, he likes to escape to California for surfing trips with his wife. He also tries to stay as active as possible and has one dedicated work-from-home day a week to focus on his family.
We caught up with Chen for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current Location: “You can find me sitting or standing in the middle of the room in our awesome new office space in Belltown. We have these cool motorized standing desks that we inherited from a startup that was acquired by Microsoft and left everything behind when they moved to Redmond. I should thank their venture investors who paid for all this furniture!”
Computer types: “MacBook Pro with a lot of horsepower to feed my poor browser tab management habits.”
Mobile devices: “iPhone 6 that has been completely bricked by Apple’s horrendous iOS force-upgrade mechanics. I may go Android next as a result. Plus, that will help get my geek cred score above zero.”
Favorite apps, cloud services, and software tools: “Surfline for the swell reports in San Diego where I escape to for surf weekends with my wife, and I also routinely and painfully check the app for my beloved Buffalo Bills. From a software tool perspective, I split my loyalties between Gmail/Drive and Excel/PowerPoint. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “My must-haves are a 30-inch monitor and a desk big enough where I can have a workspace aside from my workstation. I spend enough time staring at a screen all day so if it is a long form effort like reviewing a contract or reading a collateral piece I always pull it offline onto paper. We also issue all employees good headphones as well since we operate in an open office environment. I find music makes me more focused and productive.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “It doesn’t work for everyone but I try very hard not to co-mingle the two. I put in long hours during the week, but always at the office. I don’t work at home at night or on the weekends unless critical. The most I’ll do is scan email from my laptop for anything burning. I don’t work on my phone. People know how to reach me in an emergency.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “The best social network is and always has been in-person. I’m old school. I don’t prefer any of the social networks and only use LinkedIn for anything productive. If you haven’t seen the SNL bit about the David Ortiz social network called go outside,’ I highly recommend it.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “(Counting…) about 25 of 75 total. I manage my life in email and Google Calendar.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “Twenty-one over four days, since Monday was a holiday. A mix of internal and external. I do one-on-ones with most of my direct reports on a weekly basis and try to make all product meetings. I’m also on the interview path for every candidate for every role in our company, and have been for seven years.”
How do you run meetings? “I try to have meeting discipline and remove regular meetings that prove unnecessary. I encourage my team to only schedule the least time necessary to actually achieve the meeting goal. I also try to be prepared for all my tomorrow meetings before I leave the office today, but I probably only bat about .500 on that effort.”
Everyday work uniform? “Jeans and a button-down shirt. And a vest because the HVAC is a little unpredictable in the office. I’m like Mr. Vest in the office as I usually have two on hand at any time.”
How do you make time for family? “I work from home on Mondays and spend as much of that day as I can doing the things with my wife and son that I can’t do on Tuesday through Friday, when I am at the office on average more than 12 hours each day.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Spending time with my wife and infant son. And surfing as much as possible. I’m also a regular at the 6:00 a.m. CrossFit class at Felix in Belltown.”
What are you listening to? “Kenny Chesney radio on Spotify. I went through a country phase in my 20s.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “During the week, I really only have time for industry reading, which is mostly cybersecurity news fed to me by my RSS reader. Longform journalism is a guilty pleasure these days, but I usually bookmark a few interesting ones for the weekend. ”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “I wish. The average time between getting a book and reading the book is about one to two years these days. There is a book about Owls (I have a thing for them) on my coffee table that my Mom gave me as a Christmas present in 2015, and I haven’t even cracked it yet. It shames me every day as I walk past it.”
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “I love owls, but ironically I am an early riser. I try to get six hours a night. I’m normally up at 5:30 a.m. and headed to the gym.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “The most creative time is right when you wake up, before you get out of bed and get on with your day. So, that’s about a total of six minutes every week for me, but that is hands down the best time for distraction-free thinking from an uncluttered mind. You can’t do abs in six minutes, but you can get some aha moments.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “Elon Musk. I’m fascinated by him.”