Working Geek is a regular feature on GeekWire that profiles technology and business leaders, offering tips, tricks and insights into how busy professionals get work done.
Neal Myrick, director of Social Impact and head of the Tableau Foundation.
In the three years since Seattle-based Tableau launched its foundation, the philanthropic arm of the data visualization company has made some meaningful progress. Tableau Foundation has awarded $20.5 million in grants since December 2014, but even more significant are the group’s in-kind donations of software and expertise, valued at three-times the amount of its cash contributions.
“Donating money is not our ‘super power,’” Neal Myrick, director of social impact and head of the Tableau Foundation since its inception, said at a recent conference. “Our super power is authentically engaging with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to build their data literacy and capacity to be more effective.”
The foundation has worked in 69 countries and assisted 4,365 organizations since it was created. Its goals are to empower Tableau employees’ charitable acts, support good causes in the communities where Tableau has offices and to work on global issues, which includes an effort to eradicate malaria in Zambia.
The foundation also oversees the Tableau Service Corps, which pairs tech volunteers with nonprofits to help them use data in support of their cause.
“Our job is to match passion, products and partners with organizations ready to do great things for our global community,” Myrick writes in the foundation’s Living Annual Report. “Together, we have seen first-hand how data can drive innovation. We’re moving from alleviating the symptoms of the world’s problems to actually solving them.”
When Myrick isn’t helping lead the charge to make the planet a better place through the effective use of data, he’s unwinding at home with red wine and Minecraft and contemplating the inspiring audacity of Tesla’s Elon Musk.
We caught up with Myrick for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Seattle (actually, on a plane headed for The Hague)
Computer types: Apple MacBook Air for work, Apple MacBook Pro at home
Mobile devices: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Evernote for notes, Yelp for food, Google Maps for directions, Tableau for data and Tableau Mobile for data on the go.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “My space is awesome. I’m with my team, in the corner of the building with windows on two sides. We all have sit/stand desks with dual monitors. I have a sofa against one set of windows and it’s where my team and I have our meetings. I also love when our executives come plop down in the sofa to talk about Tableau Foundation.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Remember that no matter how hard you work there will always be more work to do, so work hard but keep family first. You can always answer an email tomorrow but you can never get that family time back.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work?“ I use LinkedIn. I like the mostly professional, business-oriented dialog. The tenor of discussions is also mostly professional and courteous (even if people disagree with each other). I’m on Facebook to keep up with the family but I don’t appreciate the language people use on it when debating issues.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? “I don’t like having unread emails in my inbox. There are more than 9,000 emails in there and am happy to say only a dozen languishing unanswered.”
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? “I’m flying to The Hague this week so my calendar is lighter than normal with only about a dozen meetings.”
How do you run meetings? “I am very laid back and like to have two to three topics to cover, but also leave time for free-flowing discussion. It frustrates me when people start a meeting with, ‘So what do you want to get out of this meeting?’ I get that it’s cool to be efficient but sometimes I think we’ve lost our humanity.” I get that it’s cool to be efficient but sometimes I think we’ve lost our humanity.
Everyday work uniform? Mott & Bow jeans with rolled cuffs, a Proper Cloth button down, and nice shoes.
How do you make time for family?“I choose to make time. I have learned how to say ‘no’ to requests for meetings and events at nights and on weekends.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “I play Minecraft on our Xbox One and drink red wine. I have a 10-year-old so I need to keep my gaming skills a little bit sharp.”
What are you listening to? “Pink Martini is my go-to feel-good music. My son and I listen to Power 93.3 in the car and especially like Carla Marie and Anthony in the morning on the way to school. He tried calling in for their Xbox One X give away last week but didn’t get through. He was bummed.”
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “Google News in the morning for the general update. I spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. so I read Politico and The Hill daily for political news.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “I love reading with my son when he goes to bed but I usually fall asleep. We last read, “A Long Pitch Home” by Natalie Dias Lorenzi.”
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “I usually fall asleep by 9:30 or 10 p.m. then am up by 6:30 a.m. like clockwork.”
Where do you get your best ideas?“The best ideas come from the people in communities we serve and the NGOs that work with them. I fly a lot and instead of working on the plane, I use that time to think about their feedback and how it might apply to how we do our work.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “I am nothing like Elon Musk personally but I admire his shameless pursuit of big ideas and ability to persist in that pursuit even when everyone else in the work thinks he’s crazy. I would love to do a few bigger bets and have the fortitude to pursue them without caring as much about what others think.”
GeekWire contributor Lisa Stiffler is a reporter, editor and Northwest native who nearly two decades ago swapped a lab coat for a reporter’s notebook. Covers local efforts to use technology to solve environmental, health, societal and other do-gooder challenges. Follow @lisa_stiffler and email firstname.lastname@example.org