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Jeremy Korst, president of GBH Insights, fishing with his 11-year-old son Will. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Korst)

Jeremy Korst has serious Ivy League, Fortune-500, city-slicker bona fides.

He earned an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His resume includes leadership roles at Microsoft, T-Mobile, AT&T and others. Korst is currently president of GBH Insights, a leading marketing strategy consultancy based in New York. And he serves on the boards of the Wharton School and the University of Puget Sound, where he earned his undergraduate degree.

But in his off hours, Korst is eager to hit the road for the tiny town of Republic in northeastern Washington. There he can unwind at his best friend’s dude ranch, the K-Diamond-K, driving tractors and hanging out with family. He’s a fan of NASCAR, which he caught the bug for as executive sponsor of the car racing company while in marketing at Microsoft. Even his wide-ranging musical tastes span the urban-rural divide, with room for country singers and rap artists alike.

Jeremy Korst, president of GBH Insights. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Korst)

In and out of work, Korst likes to mix it up. In addition to his role as president of GBH, he’s on the boards of directors and advisory boards for four tech companies and startups, owns a cabinet-making business and is a mentor with a University of Washington startup accelerator program.

“I thrive on that variety,” Korst said. “I’m learning all the time.”

At GBH, Korst leads the firm’s growth and development, and works with colleagues and their clients on marketing strategies. Past and current GBH customers include Microsoft, Adidas, Disney, ESPN, Google, Nike, NBCUniversal, P&G and T-Mobile.

Korst has worked in marketing for years, including chief marketing officer at Avalara, a cloud-driven tax automation startup in Seattle. What excites him about GBH is the chance to bring academic research on branding and apply it to real-world marketing challenges.

There are lots of great strategies for reaching and winning customers that academia have explored, but they don’t make their way into marketing practice, he said. “We can bring some the new thinking to a hard problem.”

We caught up with Korst for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Current location: Bellevue, Wash.

Computer types: Two Surface Pro 4s and Dell XPS 13

Mobile devices: iPhone Xs and iPad mini

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Expensify (so easy and helpful and love the AI!), OneDrive (files across PCs and devices), MileIQ, Slack (for the many startups I am involved in), Twitter, Runtastic. And my life runs on Outlook!

The home office of Jeremy Korst, president of GBH Insights. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Korst)

Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? Most days my workplace is mobile. We’re currently getting ready to open a Seattle office for GBH Insights. My wife and I also own a cabinet manufacturing company in Everett and have an office there, as well as an office in my home.

Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Work life balance” is a misnomer. In my life, the two blend together and give me the  flexibility to prioritize the most important personal and professional things. You need to enjoy and have fun with the people you work with. And, overall: Prioritize. Delegate. Support your team.

Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I use my social networks different based on context and audience. Facebook is for keeping in touch with my broader family and old friends, especially sharing updates about my kids. Twitter is more for a broad audience with a mix of personal and professional thoughts and opinions. I love pictures, so Instagram is my primary place to post my various adventures. Then there’s Snap… My 13-year-old daughter TRIED to get me to use it, but I just never could get excited about it (I guess I’m too old!).

Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? I have four primary email inboxes across personal, my startup businesses and GBH. Total current unread is 2,217.

Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 17 scheduled (way fewer than I used to have in corporate jobs)

Korst family vacation in Montana. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Korst)

How do you run meetings? It’s important to start with overall context and purpose of the meeting: decision making, brainstorm, working session or team update. Then, make sure that participants are engaged and that all views are being brought to the table. It’s also important to capture next steps, owners and timing, so everyone is on the same page. I am a collaborative leader so I don’t expect to be “presented to” — rather I like to be a participant in the thinking and decision.

Everyday work uniform? Varies heavily based on the day’s schedule! But my standard is tennis shoes, jeans, t-shirt or button up, and a pull-over.

How do you make time for family? It needs to be intentional. My wife and I both use Outlook to keep track of work and personal life, and we try to make sure to schedule frequent date nights, family weekends and vacations, realizing that work will likely intrude at some points along the way. We just got back from our 18th anniversary trip, which was to the Bahamas.

Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? I love the outdoors: hiking, mountain biking, fishing, etc. My best friend owns a large wheat farm and a cattle and guest ranch in northeastern Washington. I love heading over, driving the tractor and hanging out on the farm or ranch with all of my good friends — and now with my 11-year-old son who also loves it.

Also, I was the executive sponsor of NASCAR while at Microsoft, and I ended up becoming a big fan and meeting a lot of people who are part of the sport. I’m still very involved as a friend and advisor and attend several races a year. I’ve even had the chance to drive with racing legends Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon!

What are you listening to? I have an eclectic taste. I like country (Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley), Macklemore, Eminem, and even NWA (my buddy Arabian Prince was a founding member). My son is into 1970s and ’80s rock and metal and I love listening to his Spotify playlists. When not listening to music, I often listen to podcasts (e.g. Lewis Howes, Jocko, Freakonomics Radio, Tim Ferriss, HBR IdeaCast, TED) or CNBC.

Jeremy Korst and record-setting former NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon at the Sonoma Raceway. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Korst)

Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, Techmeme, GeekWire.

Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? I have a large pile of partly-read pleasure and business books. I read a few chapters at a time depending on my mood. My current “for fun” book is one of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series books. For business, I’m reading “The Customer Centricity Playbook” by Professor Peter Fader and Sarah Toms, as well as reviewing and editing a manuscript on brand strategy by local brand strategist Lindsay Pederson.

Night owl or early riser? I’m an early bird. My best energy and thinking are in the morning.

Where do you get your best ideas? Earlier in the day, often while working out, in the shower or driving to work. Also while hiking or running. The challenge is writing them down!

Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Satya Nadella was one of the most amazing leaders I’ve had the chance to observe and engage with. His ability to turn around Microsoft’s culture so quickly, along with his customer empathy and “servant leadership” was inspiring. Given my role in leading the launch of Windows 10, which was the first big product launch of Satya’s tenure, I got to witness the cultural transformation of the company from a very close vantage point. It really was amazing to see how quickly he was able to lead positive change. Satya is a genuine leader and is the same person whether in a small group meeting or speaking to thousands of people.

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