Paul Barry, chief technology officer for Leafly, with his daughter, 11, and son, 7. (Paul Barry Photo)
Leafly is a leading source of information on cannabis products, explaining everything from the type of high experienced from Blue Dream versus Bruce Banner strains of marijuana, to testing the quality of oils and edibles, to the science behind medicating cats and dogs.
And as GeekWire recently reported, business is booming. Seattle-based Leafly gets 22 million visits per month on its site and maintains a database of more than 2,900 cannabis strains. After some bumps — the board replaced the CEO in the spring and a handful employees were laid off in 2017 — Leafly now expects to double its workforce to nearly 300 people by the end of this year.
Eleven U.S. states plus Washington D.C. allow for the recreational use of marijuana — Washington and Colorado were first in 2012 — and medical use is legal in 33 states.
When Paul Barry had the chance to join Leafly as chief technology officer in January 2018, he wasn’t sure how friends, family and colleagues would react. At the time, Barry was working in Baltimore as CTO of OrderUp, a digital food ordering and delivery company that was acquired by Groupon and later Grubhub. Maryland only started allowing medical marijuana use at the end of 2017.
But Barry was happy to discover that everyone was “positive and supportive” about his career move.
And the job was a good fit professionally as Leafly is increasingly moving into the e-commerce space. It’s connecting customers with businesses selling CBD products online and helping shoppers reserve THC-containing orders for pickup at independent dispensaries. (CBD is short for cannabidiol, a component of marijuana that has medicinal properties but doesn’t make a user “stoned” the way THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, can.)
“I’ve spent most of my career working in growth-stage startups, helping companies scale up,” Barry said. “This is a high-growth industry that’s moving fast.”
But while Leafly provides cannabis education from Pot 101 to graduate-level expertise, there’s a line of questioning that can still be challenging: what does a responsible marijuana-using adult tell kids about weed? Even where it’s legal, smoking a joint can still carry a stigma that swilling a glass of rose does not.
Barry has two kids, an 11-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son. How does he handle the explanation of what dad does for work?
“The easiest thing is to use alcohol as a comparison,” Barry said. The message is more or less the same, that both are drugs that only adults should use. “I don’t think there’s a difference there in the way that you talk about it.”
Paul Barry moved from Baltimore to Seattle to take his role as CTO of Leafly. He is loving the chance to get outdoors and enjoying the milder weather. (Paul Barry Photo)
We caught up with Barry for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: I live in the Seattle area, Bainbridge Island specifically. I commute to the office on a ferry, which is pretty cool.
Computer types: I’ve been using a Macbook Pro for years. It’s the best developer laptop, especially if you are doing mobile development.
Mobile devices: I have the iPhone XS Plus, Apple Watch and iPad Pro.
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: The cloud platform Heroku does an amazing job of simplifying the hosting and deployment process to the point where you don’t even have to think about it. My editor these days is VS Code. It gives me the speed and stability of Sublime Text with the IDE-like functionality of Atom, or close enough to a more heavyweight IDE, similar to what Intellij offers. (Editor’s note: IDE stands for integrated development environment, and is a tool for building software.)
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? I’m pretty minimal when it comes to workspace. If I have the luxury of connecting to an external monitor (I have an LG 5K, which I love), I like to use that, but I can work anywhere that has a place for me to set up my laptop, power and WiFi.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? I like to work in spurts and take breaks. When I’m working, I’ll come in early, work late or occasionally work weekends, but then I’ll take time off to make up for it. I think the key is to avoid working long hours endlessly with no vacations. That is what leads to burnout.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I use all the major social networks, each for different reasons. Facebook is primarily for keeping up with what friends and family are up to, same for Instagram. Twitter is a good reason for staying on top of new developments in technology. LinkedIn is a good tool for connecting to other people in the tech industry.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Zero! I’m perpetually at inbox zero and I’ve never understood why this is problem for other people. I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or if they are.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? More than 30! It’s a lot, but I view that in my role, it’s OK for me to spend a lot of time in meetings as long as individual contributors on the team are not.
How do you run meetings? I like to keep meetings casual, try not to be too formal. People do their best thinking and collaborating when they feel comfortable to say what is on their mind.
Everyday work uniform? Jeans, collared shirt
How do you make time for family? I get the most quality time on evenings and weekends, as well as vacations.
Leafly CTO Paul Barry. (Leafly Photo)
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Spending time out in nature, skiing, playing golf, going to the beach, hiking, etc. I’ve also found journaling to be a very effective stress reliever.
What are you listening to? I recently discovered an Ethiopian jazz playlist on Spotify that I really like. I love Spotify’s recommendation engine. It’s the best tool I’ve ever used to help me discover new music.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? I generally use things like Apple News, Google News, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get my news and info, rather than following specific sites. The good sites tend to rise to the top of my feeds.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? I can’t remember the last time I read a physical printed book. I have a Kindle for reading at home and I also read books in the Kindle app on my phone. I love being able to switch between books and get new books immediately at any time. Right now I’m reading “Inspired” by Marty Cagan.
Night owl or early riser? I’m kind of both. I like to stay up late sometimes, but I’m not afraid to go to bed early either.
Where do you get your best ideas? A few years ago I read “10% Happier” by Dan Harris (another great book!) and began meditating. An interesting side effect that started happening to me is that while meditating, which is basically the art of trying to thinking about nothing, ideas and solutions to problems I wasn’t consciously thinking about just come to me, seemingly out of nowhere. The subconscious mind is an amazing thing.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Any other CTOs in growth stage tech startups. I’m always interested to talk to other people and learn about what they are doing to make their organizations work well.