If your career is focused on transportation and traffic analysis, how are you going to spend your free time? On a boat, of course!
When he’s off the clock, Bryan Mistele, founder and CEO of INRIX, heads to the water, which between Puget Sound and numerous Western Washington lakes can be readily accessed near his home and work. While Mistele “grew up on sailboats,” his current vessel is a Sunseeker powerboat for cruising the Sound.
“I’m a firm believer that there is no problem that can’t be solved with salt water — either sweat, tears or time at sea!” Mistele said.
Launched in 2004, Kirkland-based INRIX provides transportation analytics, including an annual Global Traffic Scorecard that recently put Seattle in ninth place among U.S. cities for time spent stuck in traffic. The company also offers consumer apps for navigating traffic and finding parking. INRIX does research related to smarter cities and autonomous vehicles, a subject of personal interest for Mistele. Along with Tom Alberg of Madrona Venture Group, Mistele is a co-founder of ACES Northwest — an industry group focused on Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared (ACES) vehicles.
Prior to INRIX, Mistele was a general manager for nearly nine years of various groups at Microsoft including the Automotive Business Unit, Mobile Services group and HomeAdvisor, a real estate and mortgage service.
We caught up with Mistele for this installment of Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature that looks at how tech professionals do their jobs. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: “I live in Redmond and work in Kirkland. My commute is 15 minutes without traffic, about 45 minutes with traffic, which is why at INRIX we’re trying to reduce traffic congestion!”
Computer types: “Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. I’ve been using IBM/Lenovo computers almost religiously since 1993, although I do have an iPad and a Surface that I occasionally use as well.”
Mobile devices: “Every two years or so, I switch between an iPhone and a Samsung/Android device to stay current on both OS’s. I currently have an iPhone 7s, but I’m overdue for a Galaxy 8.”
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: “INRIX Traffic and INRIX ParkMe of course! Beyond that, I love Find My Friends to keep up with my family, OneNote for managing all my to-do lists, Venmo to transfer money to/from my kids, and Kasa for controlling home automation. On the desktop, I’m a huge fan of StreetSmart Edge for tracking the stock market. Since I’m still a total geek, I have Visual Studio on my machine for occasional programming projects and working with my kids who both are studying computer science.”
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “My current workspace is a rather traditional office in Kirkland with a lot of windows. One side is an incredible view of Lake Washington and the other is a wall of glass overlooking our floor, which allows me to stay connected with what’s going on while having the quiet/privacy for meetings. I have an L-shaped desk with a single large Samsung monitor. In my office, I have seven pictures and paintings of boats, which is my outside-of-work passion since I find being on the water very relaxing.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Starting/running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. You must draw some lines fairly early on travel, working weekends, email at home, etc. if you want to do justice to your business, family and mental health. That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, but I’ve found the advice of ‘wherever you’re at, be all there’ to be very effective.
About once a month or so, I also do a ‘Think Day’ in homage to Bill Gate’s ‘Think Weeks.’ I take a stack of reading and go offsite away from phones, meetings and distractions to think about the business or a key issue we’re dealing with, and to read articles I wouldn’t ordinarily have time to digest.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “I use Facebook exclusively for personal and family relationships, and Twitter and LinkedIn for business relationships. I find this model works well for me. I also use Twitter and my WordPress blog (BryanMistele.com) primarily for sharing thoughts related to ACES vehicles and all that is happening in the transportation space.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “About 50 right now, but it typically bounces between 50 and 100. About once a month or so I can get down to about a dozen if I have a day with few meetings.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “Since I’m not traveling this week, I have about 20-25 meetings plus 8-10 half-hour one-on-ones.”
How do you run meetings? “For our weekly leadership team meetings, I will usually come in with a list of issues (typically 5-6) that I think we need to discuss based on things that have come up since our last meeting. Before we start, others add to this list, so we typically have about a dozen topics to talk through each week. For one-on-ones, I generally look to my directs to come in with the list of issues they want to discuss. A couple of times a year, we will then do off-site meetings to discuss more detailed strategic topics as a group.”
Everyday work uniform? “When I don’t have a customer meeting, I prefer blue jeans and a casual shirt or pullover. When we have customers in town (usually several times a week), I default to khaki pants and an oxford with a pullover sweater depending on the weather. My mother used to work in a Polo store, so pretty much every dress shirt and pullover I have is Polo!”
How do you make time for family? “I believe it’s important to have meals with my family, so I will seldom agree to breakfast or dinner meetings when I’m in town. I usually eat breakfast with my family and then I’m home by dinner time. Of course, regular date nights with my wife are a must! This year my oldest son left home to attend college in California, so twice a week we gather as a family over Skype to help bridge the distance.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Boating is by far the best stress reliever I’ve found. I also read a lot. As an introvert (who has learned to be an extrovert at work), I find there is nothing quite like time alone with a good book to recharge.”
What are you listening to? “I’m a big fan of Ben Shapiro — I listen to his podcasts daily on my drive home. I’ve found him to be the most intelligent voice out there on politics and culture.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “My morning routine consists of scanning the headlines from the Wall Street Journal, the Drudge Report, Business Insider, MarketWatch, the Seattle Times, Daily Wire and GeekWire (of course)!”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “I have a big stack of both physical books and ones loaded on my Kindle Oasis. I alternate between business books (‘Driverless’ by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight, ‘The Innovators’ by Walter Isaacson and ‘Everybody Lies’ by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz are recent reads), Christian/science/culture books (I love Discovery Institute books where I serve on the board, as well as anything by Josh or Sean McDowell) and novels — what I call my ‘fun books’ (anything by Christopher Reich, Stephen Frey, Joel Rosenberg, David Baldacci or historical narratives like Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing’ series).”
Night owl or early riser? “Early riser! I like getting up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. and having an hour or so of quiet time to myself before the rest of my family wakes up. I’m at work by 8:15 a.m. and leave by 6:15 p.m. to make it home for dinner. I typically go to bed at 10 or 10:30 p.m.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “Usually on my Think Days, but also in my morning quiet times.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “I’m a big fan of Alan Mulally — he did a great job turning around Ford, but more importantly, everyone I know loves him as a person. He has an open, friendly and trusting personality and accomplished what he did by rallying his team together and doing it with a smile on his face. He cares deeply about everyone he works with, not just people at the top of the organization. I really wish more people in business were like him.
A professor of mine at the Harvard Business School once said, ‘In business, your network and your reputation are your two most valuable assets. Begin early to build the former and protect the later.’ Alan Mulally is a man who has a tremendous reputation, which is how he accomplished all that he did both at Boeing and at Ford.”