Tristan Walker is a Silicon Valley superstar with a surprisingly level-headed approach to work-life balance for a guy trying to build "the Proctor And Gamble for people of color."
Routine Behavior is a new series where we talk to guys who successfully juggle businesses and careers with parenting about the routines that keep them on track. Up next is Tristan Walker, a Silicon Valley superstar who rose to prominence with Foursquare, was entrepreneur-in-residence at venture funding alpha dog Andreessen Horowitz, and then launched Bevel. A shaving company with products designed specifically for the beards of black men, Bevel is the first in the Walker And Company Brands portfolio, which Walker aims to build into a grooming products empire that reflects America today — think Johnson and Johnson, only with products people of all ethnicities can comfortably use. That’s no small goal for a guy with a 7-month-old baby at home, but Walker has a surprisingly level-headed approach to work/life balance that any guy can crib from — good luck trying to keep up with him in the style game, though.
What time do you start answering emails in the morning?
8am. By then, I’m done getting ready for the morning and [my wife] Amoy and [son] Avery are on their way to work and school.
How do you reconnect with your kid when you get home from work each day?
I get home around 6-6:30 each night. I start by saying, “Hey!” at the door so he hears my voice before he actually sees me. My wife tells me he stops doing whatever activity he is engaged in … then waits … then I burst in and he goes wild laughing. Our evening routine is: I play with him for a bit, then I gave him a bottle, read him a bedtime story, and put him to bed.
I’ve noticed a common trend amongst us working parents: we have bought into the premise that we should connect remotely after the kids go to bed. The expectation is that we should do this to maintain our competitive edge in a culture that values long work hours. I call this block of time — post-dinner, post-putting baby to bed, and so on — the “Third Shift.” This is a trend I would like to see promoted less. Parents are the core of families and for a family to function effectively, our having the time to reconnect with each other and recharge on a daily basis is very important. It could be as simple as laughing together while sharing a funny story from work. I certainly try my best to unplug for most of the evening so that I can focus on my relationships with both my wife and my child.
“We have bought into the premise that we should connect remotely after the kids go to bed. I call this block of time the ‘Third Shift.’ This is a trend I would like to see promoted less.”
What’s the one piece of kid-related gear that you can’t live without?
We love the B.O.B Revolution stroller. That thing rides like a tank! It handles very well on runs.
How many times a week do you get home for dinner and do you ever cook?
I get home for dinner every night. I rarely have enough time to prepare dinner because I am not that efficient in the kitchen — I use every pot, spoon, measuring cup, dish, spatula, etc. and it takes me forever to measure out the ingredients and get started. My inefficiency drives my wife crazy because she is in and out of the kitchen in 30 minutes or less on a weeknight. My contribution to dinner each night is to clean up after we’ve eaten. I usually wipe down the countertop, sweep the floor, take out the trash, pack and set the dishwasher. But when I do cook, my apple crisp is on point!
How much exercise do you get in a given week and what kind?
I work out 4 times a week. I started to pick up boxing again. I’m usually out of the house around 5:45 a.m. and then back to help get Avery ready for school by 7:15 a.m. I spend time with him while Amoy gets dressed and gets her lunch and stuff ready for work. Every day, I make sure I take him to the car and strap him in his carseat and say my goodbyes to him and Amoy.
What’s the longest you’ve ever played with your kid without looking at your phone?
Great question. I spend a lot of time with Avery. We hang out as a family for hours without our phones on most weekends.
How often do you travel for work and do you look forward to it or dread it?
I travel every other month. We have an office in NYC. While I absolutely love visiting our team in NYC, I’m always missing Amoy and the little guy.
What’s your go-to when you need to completely turn your brain off?
My wife and I watch lots of reality television. Hello, Bravo TV, and VH1.
“My inefficiency drives my wife crazy because she is in and out of the kitchen in 30 minutes or less on a weeknight.”
How’s your attendance record at your kid’s events/games/milestone moments?
100%. I’ve been to every doctor’s appointment before and after he was born, every daycare tour and observation day before he got accepted into his current program, and every parent meeting. I plan to continue being very present in Avery’s life. I think it is incredibly important for children to see that both parents are partners in their development.
What’s your kid’s favorite book at the moment?
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood. I love the smart thinking that the narrator uses to get the mouse to share the strawberry — it’s crafty but without ill intentions. I also like The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. The main character Ferdinand reminds me of myself; for the most part I am a pretty reserved in person. Avery seems to be the “life of the party.” He likes to engage with everyone. He makes eye contact with complete strangers at the grocery store and draws them in with his infectious smile and then my quick trip to the grocery store turns into an Avery meet and greet. As he gets older, I think the book will be a good starting place for us to have discussions because it would really help him to understand my reserved nature and remind him that it is important to be his true self at all times.
What’s your kid’s favorite toy at the moment?
Avery is going through the oral exploration stage of his development. So he chews on everything! Sophie The Giraffe is easily his favorite. I think he has 3 or 4 of them.
What about a new parenting app that’s recently proved useful?
Baby Connect is the most useful app, even though it could benefit from some improvements in design. We use the app to keep track of daily information about Avery: feedings, diapering, activities, etc. It has been most valuable recently with my wife’s return to work because she is able to use the app to keep a detailed record of her daily, weekly, and monthly milk production so she can analyze the data to come up with some good findings about her supply level and production cycles. This has been invaluable because it’s hard for most nursing moms to continue to maintain their supply with the less predictable schedule while in the workplace.
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