Productivity Spotlight: Rob Pinkteron, Vori

Written by
Macgill Davis

In this week’s episode of Productivity Spotlight, we'll be speaking with Rob Pinkerton, cofounder and CTO of Vori as well as alumnus of SpaceX, Twitter, and Lyft.

Mind providing a short summary of your background, current job, and experience?

I'm Rob. I'm currently the CTO and cofounder of Vori, a B2B marketplace that helps grocers procure products more easily from their hundreds of different vendors. My background is actually in aerospace. I spent the majority of my career working at Lockheed Martin and SpaceX. I also spent some time at Twitter as a PM in data sciences and at Lyft Level 5 helping build out their self driving car fleet.



What’s one unique aspect of your daily routine that keeps you productive?

Every morning having clarity as to what I would like to achieve that day. Having a daily todo list is something that really helps me measure my own personal productivity. As you know, fires popup throughout the day and you aren’t always able to check off all the boxes on your todo list. But it’s still helpful for me to return to.

Every morning having clarity as to what I would like to achieve that day. Having a daily todo list is something that really helps me measure my own personal productivity.


How has your daily routine changed since working from home this past year?

I have two kids in the house, note Zoom kindergarten really sucks. So that’s been very different than being in an office. For the most part it’s been really beneficial for me to take quick breaks, hop out the office, and hang with the kids before jumping back. It was something I was never able to do when working from an office and is very different in regards to mental health and family.

For the most part it’s been really beneficial for me to take quick breaks, hop out the office, and hang with the kids before jumping back. It was something I was never able to do when working from an office and is very different in regards to mental health and family.


Another thing I’ve done is set up a little mini skate ramp in my yard. When some code is compiling or I’m stuck on a problem and frustrated, I’ll jump out and skate for ten or fifteen minutes. After I get back to work I feel really energized. I also have a little gym with a squat rack. Working out helps keep the body and mind in shape 


Do you have any tips on how to stay productive while parenting at the same time?

It’s never easy but for me it is really all about the todo list. I try to document everything in my todo list or in Linear, the task tracker we use. If I get pulled away, I can return and pick up where I left off. I capture everything in Linear tickets. If it’s a one off script that I need to write to resolve a customer bug, I’ll create a Linear ticket so I can track what I’ve done.


In the past year and a half, Vori has grown from three people to more than 10. How has your role changed and how has that impacted your productivity? 

In the early stages, I had a lot of heads down time, a lot of time writing code and building the thing. Now, it’s much more about planning ahead and dividing work amongst roles and responsibilities. We set specific owners on a task and give them the space to focus on getting it done. That allows me to focus on other initiatives like planning, managing, and hiring.


What does your planning process look like?

We have a planning week and we plan out the next six weeks of the company lifecycle. Then we break that work into individual pods or groups with a single DRI (directly responsible individual) and KPI (key performance indicator) for how to measure success. Those KPIs roll up to the overall Northstar KPI of the company.

Having that Northstar KPI and going through this six week cycle of work pods has been hugely beneficial. It provides clarity on how to divide roles and organize the work but also as to where we need to hire. It highlights gaps when you see one person is working in many different pods. Then we can say, “Okay maybe it’s time we add headcount for that role.”

Having that Northstar KPI and going through this six week cycle of work pods has been hugely beneficial. It provides clarity on how to divide roles and organize the work but also as to where we need to hire.

How do you think about productivity differently at a hyper growth startup like Vori as compared with your experience at a bigger company like SpaceX, Lyft, or Twitter.

Decision metrics and data can get lost in the sauce a bit at larger companies. It’s not always clear how the work you’re doing each day is moving a metric. 

At a hyper growth startup, you need to keep the metrics in your face at all times. At a small stage startup, time is money. You need to have extreme clarity as to how the work you’re doing everyday is moving a metric forward. Providing that clarity for you and your entire team to understand how they’re driving impact is extremely important for companies at this stage. Defining Northstar KPIs and providing easy access to metric dashboards to everyone on the team is so, so important.

At a hyper growth startup, you need to keep the metrics in your face at all times. At a small stage startup, time is money. You need to have extreme clarity as to how the work you’re doing everyday is moving a metric forward.


Do you subscribe to any productivity methodologies (e.g. Pomodoro technique)? Why or why not?

The only one I subscribe to is “get shit done” [laughs]. I always come back to measuring impact versus effort. Then using that calculation to figure out what is the top thing I need to get done right now. Then I just get it done. Sometimes I might need to cut a few corners or adjust the scope but I always try to finish it as soon as possible.

I always come back to measuring impact versus effort. Then using that calculation to figure out what is the top thing I need to get done right now.


What is the one productivity tool you wouldn't be able to do without? Why?

The three most valuable tools I use are Slack, Notion, and Linear. We use Slack as our central hub of communication. It’s been great, especially since being a remote company. We have Slack integrated with a bunch of third party tools like Intercom, etc. We use Notion to document anything that’s happening in the company. We use Linear as our task tracker. It’s a faster, slicker version of JIRA with keyboard shortcuts and better integrations. I really love using Linear.

The three most valuable tools I use are Slack, Notion, and Linear.


What’s a small change that’s boosted your productivity over the past year?

When we first started the company we were overcome with demand. There were just three of us and we had to cut a lot of corners, particularly around personal health. I wasn’t eating properly. I wasn’t working out. Some days I’d crash so hard and realize that I hadn’t eaten all day or barely slept that week.

This year, I’ve been focused on my health. I make sure I’m eating three meals a day, sleeping at least four hours a night, and working out at least three times a week. By doing those things, I’m able to run this marathon a lot better and more sustainably.

This year, I’ve been focused on my health. I make sure I’m eating three meals a day, sleeping at least four hours a night, and working out at least three times a week. By doing those things, I’m able to run this marathon a lot better and more sustainably.


What are your productivity killers? How do you avoid them?

Multitasking and context switching. Sometimes I’m unable to maintain focus long enough to complete a task. I switch gears so many times and then I realize I’ve done 20 percent of a bunch of different things rather than 100 percent of one thing. I’ve been trying to be diligent about not derailing my focus. When something comes up, I ask “Is this something that really deserves me to refocus at this time? Or can I wait another hour and finish my current task at hand before addressing that specific concern or request?” Being more mindful of that has really helped my productivity.

Sometimes I’m unable to maintain focus long enough to complete a task. I switch gears so many times and then I realize I’ve done 20 percent of a bunch of different things rather than 100 percent of one thing.


Is there anything in particular you’ve done to be more mindful about context switching?

I try to organize everything in Linear by priority. It’s helpful for me to see the amount of tickets in a cycle and their priority in the project.


What’s top of mind for improving your productivity now and moving forward?

Just continuing to improve our ability to plan and maintain focus across the board. There’s always opportunities to improve there, especially as we add new teammates and roles and responsibilities changes. As a company, we need to keep adjusting, keep planning and communicating effectively. 


Macgill Davis is the cofounder of Rize - a simple, intelligent time tracker that improves focus and helps build better work habits.

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