The dads of Silicon Beach: how these fathers balance dad jokes, parenting and careers in tech

John Siegel

It’s easy to think of dads as embarrassing older dudes who yell on occasion and struggle to work their smartphones, but let’s face it: dads rule. In celebration of Father’s Day this Sunday, we thought we would talk to dads who work in tech right now.

 

El Segundo-based Prodege has established itself as one of LA’s premier media companies, operating multiple customer engagement brands that deliver content and rewards to more than 28 million members. Among the “dads in residence” are content editor Raz Rauf, father to a three-month-old son, and director of growth marketing Rex Roberts, dad to twins. We promise you will find their combined experience and inexperience in the world of parenting inspirational and hilarious.

Favorite “Dad Rock” jam

Raz Rauf, content editor (dad to 3-month-old son): “Walk This Way,” by Aerosmith, because he doesn't like heavy metal yet. He also can't walk yet. He can't do anything, yet, but that will change.

Rex Roberts, director, growth marketing: "Jump," by Van Halen

How has your own father inspired you?

Rauf: My dad slept a lot. It's something I never really appreciated when I was growing up, but now I realize that he was a true master. It's a perspective that I never would've achieved had I stayed childless and lonely. 

Roberts: My father worked a hard job and long hours, but rarely ever let on at how tired he probably was. He also showed me that there's really never a wrong time to do something silly, especially if it will make someone you care about smile.

How do you balance life at work with being a father?

Rauf: The main balance has been sleeping and exercising. I have actually been trying to do as much of these two activities as possible while at work.

Roberts: I've learned to be as efficient as possible during the work day so I can devote 100 percent of my attention to the kids in the couple hours we have between when we get home and when the kids go to bed on weekdays. Weekends are (almost) always a "no email zone" until after the kids are asleep as well.

BONUS: Favorite dad joke

Roberts: 5/4 of people admit that they’re bad with fractions.

 

Tenlay Naliboff balances two roles at ReachLocal, serving as the general counsel and senior vice president of Human Resources. This split has made him good at dividing his time, including the need to separate work and family time.

Favorite “Dad Rock” jam

I don’t really listen to any rock, but do have a soft spot for Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” 

How has your own father inspired you?

My dad is thoughtful and rigorous in whatever he does and I try to be the same way. 

How do you balance life at work with being a father?

I try to segment my time between work and family, regardless of whether I am at work, traveling or home — so that I can be 100 percent present when I am with my family. My family understands that sometimes I have to work weekends or on vacation, but I try to separate work time so I am not distracted by it when I am spending time with them.

 

Everyone looks up to their dad for something. Matt Reid, VP of marketing at El Segundo-based Velocify, admires his father’s bootstrapped life and parenting style.

Favorite “Dad Rock” jam

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Queen

How has your own father inspired you?

My father didn’t grow up with any handouts and he was in a less-than-ideal environment. He was able to build his career and his family through determination and hard work. He never dictated his children’s path, but rather set guidelines and instilled the principles needed to be a great father and contributor to society.  

How do you balance life at work with being a father?

Focused listening when your kids are talking to you about their day or have a story to tell. Eliminate other distractions because kids will remember how present you are with them. With all the technology at kids’ fingertips today it’s more important than ever to celebrate when they include you! When traveling for work, make a point to video chat as it’s so much more engaging than a phone call.

BONUS: Favorite dad joke

Dad, did you get a haircut? No, I got them all cut.

 

ZestFinance, the Hollywood startup that helps people make smarter financial decisions, is a pretty dad-esque startup, if you think about it. It’s like the father that spends hours helping you with your science project so that you’ll blow away everyone in the class. Founded by Google data scientists, the team uses machine learning algorithms to analyze how credit decisions are made, helping users make smarter credit decisions. There are a number of dads on staff.

Favorite “Dad Rock” jam

Mike Armstrong, President: “Temptation,” by New Order and “I'm Free,” by The Soup Dragons

How has your own father inspired you?

Sam Spratt, director of operations and collections: I was raised by a single mother, who, from a very early age, showed me what it’s like to be a responsible grownup. I hope that my kids will learn that from me, too.

Chris Baker, director of engineering: My dad always made time to be there for me and my sister. That's how I think about fatherhood. When attending school events, your children may not notice if you're there, but they'll notice if you're not there.

Oumar Wone, principal engineer: My dad has, for the most part, inspired me through the examples he set. He worked hard his entire career serving his country in the Senegalese government. And as busy as he was, he never missed a meal with his family.

How do you balance life at work with being a father?

Wone: We move at startup speed, but at the same time, ZestFinance places a lot of value on family time. That's apparent in its generous paternity and maternity leave program. Additionally, the work hours are very family friendly. Finally, ZestFinance has a culture of being accommodating to parents whenever kids have events. Often, I leave early to attend to my family’s needs, then catch up later by working from home. 

Spratt: My family lives in San Diego and I commute to Los Angeles during the week, so we schedule a lot of video chats while I’m away. On the weekends, my family and I make an effort to spend every minute together. 

Armstrong: I'll always be able to find more time to get work done if it really needs to get done. I'll never be able to recapture an important life moment with my children if I wasn't there for it.

Kuba Tyszko, senior DevOps engineer: There's a very thin line between my work and personal life. At home, I try to encourage my son to do "experiments" with me, such as letting him help me hold something or tinkering with my bike with his "toy" tools.

Baker: ZestFinance's gym lets me work on the "dad bod" at the office so I can spend more time with my family at home.

BONUS: Favorite dad joke

Armstrong: Two guys walk into a bar, the third one ducks.

 

Youqi Li, CTO of West Hollywood-based engage:BDR, saw how hard his father worked when he was growing up. Despite this, his dad took one day a week off work to do something with Youqi, something he tries to do with his daughter.

Favorite “Dad Rock” jam

“Hotel California,” by the Eagles

How has your own father inspired you?

My father was always busy with his work, but he usually took one day off every week just to spend time with me. That was something simple but so important when I was growing up.

How do you balance life at work with being a father?

I try to do something special and memorable with my daughter every week. In the summer, we might go for a hike. In the winter, we'll ski.

BONUS: Favorite dad joke

One day a guy asks his dad what his favorite dad joke is. His dad says: "you."

 

It’s hard to create work/life balance. Kids make it harder. Erick Brownstein, chief strategy officer at Shareability, knows this first hand, but he has a simple trick to make things a little easier.

Favorite “Dad Rock” jam

“Highway to Hell,” by AC/DC

How has your own father inspired you?

I remember my father showing up for games and anything else that was important. He scheduled these events as priorities and I do the same.

How do you balance life at work with being a father?

Although the amount of time being away from home is important, quality time at home is even more important. If I can be present for an hour when I'm with my kids, that's more important than five hours distracted. Balance is an active state — it's never achieved, but always strived for. I have to remind myself that I'm doing my best.

BONUS: Favorite dad joke

A journalist goes to meet the oldest living man in the world, deep in the woods in Siberia. After long travel, he finally arrives and asks the old man the secret to his longevity. The old man takes a moment and says, "I don't argue." The journalist, confused, says, "What?! That can't be all there is to it." The old man says, "Ok."

 

Vertical Mass helps entertainment brands use data to understand their audiences. Ultimately, the startup believes that the vast quantities of data can help well-established brands boost attendance, drive traffic and entice new fans. The startup’s West Hollywood roots have it situated in one of the most musically significant places on the planet, and because of that, the dads of VM take a different approach to traditional dad rock, introducing some contemporary music to the fold.

Favorite “Dad Rock” jam

Jason Leman, VP of business development: Anything by the Grateful Dead; “I Need My Girl,” by The National; “Here Comes the Meter Man,” by the Meters and “Cats in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin (just kidding).

How has your own father inspired you?

Leman: My grandfather and father worked tremendously hard throughout their lives. I was able to learn the value of a good work ethic through that, but I also learned not to be cynical.

How do you balance life at work with being a father?

Mark Shedletsky, founder and CEO: My wife and I are both CEOs and founders of our own companies, so we often lean on each other for support since we have a unique insight into each other's lives as we juggle family and work. We both make sure we have quality time with our kids every day. Whenever I can, I tuck them in and ask them to tell me one nice thing they did for someone else that day.

Leman: I try to be present whenever I’m with my family. I put my phone down and turn my full attention to them. It’s hard, but it’s the most important thing.

BONUS: Favorite dad joke

Leman: A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “why the long face? 

 

Presenting: Built In LA's Dad Rock Playlist

Have a happy Father's Day!

Images via participating companies, Jeff Siegel, John X. McCarthy and Frank Miranda.

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