Arts / Career development / Workplace culture

How I Work: Rent the Runway Engineering Director James Tate

Manhattan's Rent the Runway gets its technical guidance from the County of Kings.

James Tate. (Photo courtesy of Rent the Runway)

James Tate is the engineering director for Rent the Runway, the service that allows women to briefly rent dresses from unaffordable designers.

Tate’s responsibilities include all technical aspects of the company.

He recently worked with the warehouse team to execute its “Cheap Date” project, where the company found ways to reduce expenses by sending packages at optimal dates, depending on both where it was headed and work flow dynamics in the warehouse.

He lives in Brooklyn Heights. Here’s how he works.


What’s the first thing you do every day before doing any tech related work?

The first thing I do is a quick workout: 60 push-ups and 60 sit-ups. I check my email and my schedule for the day. Then on nice days I ride my bike to work. This gives me time to reflect on the previous day, enjoy the views of Brooklyn Heights, the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan.

How often do you check your e-mail, and do you use any program to get to ‘Inbox Zero’?

I tend to check my email too often, even on weekends. I currently use filters on my inbox to keep my inbox relatively light. I tend to read all my email within a timely manner to at least skim the content. I then flag emails that I want to return to when I have more time to focus or if I need to respond.

How do you keep track of your revenues and expenses?

I use my American Express for all my work-related expenses and it’s simple to categorize my purchases.

When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?

We have a communal acoustic guitar at Rent the Runway that I’ll strum from time to time. No ‘Stairway,’ though.

If I’m working from home then I like to walk along the waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s one of the nicest areas of Brooklyn and is very peaceful and relaxed — at least during the week. I also like to run up to Dumbo and on towards Vinegar Hill because it’s got such great views and history and always gets my creative juices flowing.

What’s your gear?

MacBook Air, Dell N-Series with Ubuntu.

What’s one time-saving tip you have?

Try to keep part of your day meeting-free and leave your desk to find a quiet place to work. I’m usually less productive in a cacophonous environment and need to find a quiet spot to think.

What’s one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that you didn’t do before (or did) that has made a big difference?

I’m better at managing my time now than I have been in the past. I used to run around and try to fix everything as fast as possible and this left me a nervous wreck. Now I make a conscious effort to leverage my team better and to trust that they can handle tasks and communicate effectively to me or whomever needs to know. This gives me the latitude to get my own tasks done.

Series: Brooklyn

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