In fact, one could argue that his career path has been guided by the scientific method, testing and rejecting what didn’t work and pursuing what did.
English, economics and an MBA were worthwhile degrees, but not career material. Seattle’s Amazon — where Carr worked for more than 15 years, leaving the role of vice president of Digital Music and Video four years ago — was a great fit.
“I remember when I first got there, 20 years ago now,” Carr said. The company hovered between a startup and a full-fledged corporation.
“There was this awesome responsibility. I’m in charge of this thing and it’s up to me to figure out how to build and grow” the product, said Carr, who was a senior product manager of DVD and video. “I was wondering when the adult supervision was going to start showing up and telling me what I could and couldn’t do.”
That never happened, and Carr clicked with the “energy and chaos” of those earlier days. He loved the customer focus and chance to work with motivated, talented people, but eventually he decided that a new challenge was in order.
After all, said Carr, “a life well lived is formed from a variety of experiences.”
More experimentation followed. He was an entrepreneur in residence at Maveron, a Seattle venture capital firm. He built a self-funded prototype of a product. He did some angel investing. None of it was quite right.
Carr said he’s an operator, not an investor. He can create something from scratch, but feels like his greatest contribution is at a company that’s figured out its product and market fit and needs help taking it to the next level.
In October last year, OfferUp hit that Goldilocks spot that was just right for Carr. In his role as COO for the heavily-funded Bellevue, Wash.-based digital shopping marketplace, Carr is working to improve operations and the user experience.
“How do I take something that has enormous opportunity and help it realize its potential,” Carr said. Rather than working in the startup space, “I think I can make an even bigger impact here at OfferUp.”
We caught up with Carr for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: OfferUp is headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., but I live in Seattle’s Madison Park. It’s a short 20-minute drive or 40-minute bike ride to get to the office.
Computer types: MacBook Pro
Mobile devices: iPhone X
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Not to mention the obvious (OfferUp), Strava and Zwift for cycling, TripAdvisor for travel, Prime Video and Music for entertainment, and Slack and LinkedIn for work/professional.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I’m a huge proponent of open concept offices because I appreciate feeling connected to the team around me. And since I’m 6’5” I also prefer the combo standing/sitting desk to give my legs some space.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Try your best to make sure one never gets in the way of the other, and make time for what you find important. Family is incredibly important to me and having two growing boys makes being home for breakfast and dinner every day a priority. I try to organize my time and schedule so that I can be present for my family when I am home, but if a colleague needs help, I’ll make myself available. This is typical of how others at OfferUp manage work/life.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? Social networks are designed to take as much time out of your daily life as possible, so I try not to overindulge. I do enjoy checking out great photography on Instagram and keep in touch with family and friends on Facebook. For work I use LinkedIn.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Right now, less than 10. Because most of my day is spent in meetings with teams, emails tend to stack up in my inbox into the afternoon. I’ll respond by the evening and get the number to zero every night.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? Anywhere between eight to 10 meetings a day, so that makes 40-50 a week? It’s a lot.
How do you run meetings? It depends on the type of meeting. Recurring meetings, like weekly business reviews, have well defined metrics and roles for each person in the meeting. Many meetings begin with a document where the group reads for 10 minutes to get a deep and common understanding of the problem before having a discussion and making decisions. In nearly all cases, the goal of the meeting is to have a collaborative discussion on how we’re moving forward on metrics and goals we’ve set for ourselves. I like to build in flexibility to huddle and brainstorm when there’s a good idea and our office has 52 uniquely decorated conference rooms (including my favorite, the one outfitted in purple that’s dedicated to Prince), so it’s always easy to find creative spaces to meet.
Everyday work uniform? Comfortably athletic. I’m tall with lanky arms, so finding clothes that fit and breathe well is important to me. My team tells me that I look ready for a workout or hike at any time, but it’s my work uniform so I don’t have to worry about being uncomfortable. My favorite: Lululemon ABC pants.
How do you make time for family? Between my kids’ sports and extracurricular activities, my wife Lynn and I I love bringing them into the wilderness for hiking or skiing. As a family, we like vacationing locally at places like Leavenworth, Winthrop, Whistler or Bainbridge Island.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? I love getting active and doing things outdoors like a lot of people like in the Northwest. Cycling, skiing and golf are top of my list.
What are you listening to? During the football season, my radio stays on 710 ESPN with Brock and Salk (go Hawks). I like NPR podcasts like “How I Built This” and have some great Amazon Music playlists like ’80s British Synth Pop.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? I like Stratechery by Ben Thompson and the Wall Street Journal.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? I just finished “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson, a great science fiction novel that I read on my Kindle.
Night owl or early riser? I do my best thinking in the morning, but I keep agreeable hours. I’m normally in bed by 11 p.m. and up by 6:30 a.m.
Where do you get your best ideas? I’m a strong believer in cross team communication as my best ideas are normally spurred from meetings and discussions. But on my own, epiphanies can come during a long bike ride.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I was lucky enough during my career at Amazon to learn from many really talented leaders, who all have different work styles that reflect their personality. The common denominator is success, but I’d thank people like Steve Kessel, Diego Piacentini, Jennifer Cast, Jason Kilar, Jeff Blackburn, Jeff Wilke, and of course Jeff Bezos. All have distinctive elements of success that I try to grow from. And I’m still learning — so much more to do.