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August Employee Spotlight: Tim Banks
I wasn’t nervous at all to interview RNL’s Sr. Software Engineer, Tim Banks. There’s something about Tim that makes you immediately feel comfortable talking to him. Maybe it’s his crazy curly hair, the way he talks lightning fast or how candid he is with everyone around him. More likely, it’s the fact that he is hands down one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet.
Along with being an excellent leader and a great source of knowledge for the software development team, Tim is just a fun and inspiring guy to work with. Plus, it’s pretty hard to complain about being tired around someone who runs ten miles a day. Just hearing about Tim’s daily routine is enough to motivate anyone to get off the couch. Software engineer Russell White summed him up pretty well, saying: “I’m pretty sure Tim is the only employee here to have taken time off for something athletic.” Director of Marketing, Megan Kannard, has worked with him for years and was happy to share some words on what it’s like to work with Tim:
"Tim has not only had the opportunity to watch our company evolve, but he's had the chance to directly impact the products we offer. He's bright and willing to go above and beyond to bring new ideas to life." Director of Marketing
Tim sets big goals for himself, both personally and professionally, and he’s truly passionate about everything he does. I recently got the chance to interview Tim right after a mid-afternoon ice cream party in The Grind. Check it out below!
Jana: How was the ice cream?
Tim: It was really good. I got the coffee ice cream. Which is weird because I don’t like coffee, but I liked coffee ice cream.
Jana: You don’t like coffee?! I guess that makes sense. I’ve never seen you get coffee in The Grind.
Tim: Yeah, I don’t like the bitterness. But the ice cream was delicious.
Jana: I should've gotten some. After this wedding dress fitting is over, I'm going hard on some ice cream. Alright, enough ice cream talk. Let's start at the beginning. You started working here in 2011. Can you believe it's been five years?
Tim: Yeah, almost five years. This is only my second job, and my last job I was there for about five and half years, so I'm still not quite to my longest time at a job. But five years is a long time, especially here.
Jana: And you worked at Foliotek before this, right? What'd you do there?
Tim: Yep. Same thing, application developer. We built software for universities for their education departments.
Jana: So that was your first job?
Tim: Yeah, right out of college.
Jana: What was your favorite thing about Mizzou?
Tim: Oh my gosh, lots of things. Columbia has a great outdoor system. The Katy Trail and the surrounding parks are fantastic. The football and basketball games were fun to attend since we were actually good back in the day. I lived with a bunch of friends too, which was fun.
Jana: Did a lot of your friends from Blue Springs go there?
Tim: Yeah, there were a lot of people I knew there from Blue Springs. Most of my close friends went there, but obviously I met a lot of people from out of town. I got a pretty close group of friends that stuck together for the time we were there, and then I lived with some of them for years afterwards. I stayed there about five years after I graduated.
Jana: Is that where Foliotek was?
Tim: Yeah, it was kind of nice to stay in the same town. Some of my other friends stayed, and I had younger friends that were still in school. It was hard to beat paying student rent while having a full time job.
Jana: What's it been like to watch RNL change so much over the last five years?
Tim: It's been a whirlwind. When I interviewed I didn't even interview in this building. I interviewed in another building, I'd only met one person, and that was my boss. So coming into it, I had no idea what to expect. And when I came in, everybody seemed like they were doing something different. You'd talk to one group and they would be building some project. You'd talk to another group and they were doing something different, so you kinda just felt like you were in your own bubble. Everyone was working on their own thing.
Jana: What was the first project you worked on?
Tim: The first thing I built was PhnKey. Some people may have never even heard of PhnKey, but it's what powers all of our call tracking software and analytics for Marketing Suite. It also handles some of the features for the Management Suite as well. After PhnKey I moved on to the Marketing Suite team. So I've actually kind of stuck in the storage projects from the beginning. For some reason that interested me. They always asked me "whaddya wanna work on?" and I always stuck with the storage products.
Jana: You were all about storage!
Tim: Yeah, I don't know why. It just seemed interesting to me. Whenever we were doing the incubation stuff with all the little startups, I declined all those for storage. Still to this day I think it's really interesting. I still enjoy it a lot.
Jana: What's your favorite memory from it all?
Tim: This one I was just thinking about the other day. This was about six months after I started. The executives at the time came in, in front of the whole company, and said, "we're leaving for three months. We're going on a sabbatical." Then they tapped people in each department to run their department while they were gone. For three whole months we had no communication with the executives. We were all running the show ourselves. After three months though we ended up doing fine. I thought we were going to be running around like our hair was on fire the whole time. Once they came back I think that was about when we decided to go all in on storage.
"Tim, Tim, Tim. I’ve got a lot of battle scars with Tim. Fortunately, I don’t remember how I got most of them. We’ve played and worked hard together. It is a testament to Tim that he is one of a handful of employees that has been here from the beginning and the foundation of the dev team. Envy his mad triathlon skills, smart dude, and big hearted, just wish I could get him to respond to my emails. Tip of the day: don’t eat in his car." CEO
Jana: So you came in as a software engineer, and you're still in that role. What does a normal day look like for you now? We haven't worked on many projects together yet.
Tim: I start off the day by catching up on any emails and checking the ticket boards to get a handle of the current progress. From there I have a daily standup each day to get updates from the other team members. From there the day is usually pretty open for me to focus on getting tickets done with the team. I have a few reoccurring meetings throughout the week, but not too many.
Jana: What's your favorite part?
Tim: Probably just the pure software development. I mean, there's nothing better than just putting your headphones on, putting your head down and banging out a feature. Just seeing it from conception, like seeing what Paul designs and what Beth and the rest of the management team thinks of, and then getting the spec and building it, giving the demos, running it through QA and staging, and finally releasing it, is pretty cool. Especially when you get to see the clients using it or get to show it off at a trade show or something. When their face lights up like "woah, that's cool!"
Jana: You're like "yeah, I did that."
Tim: Yeah! Yeah, that's my favorite part of my job.
Jana: That's great. I heard you recently bought a house.
Tim: Yeah, a little over two years ago.
Jana: Oh, so not super recently. But you used to move around a lot before that, right?
Tim: It's pretty recent. Yeah, I moved a ton.
Jana: Do you miss that or are you enjoying owning your own home?
Tim: I thought I would miss it. I think I’ve moved about 15 times since I graduated high school. Which is a ton. Even since I've been back in Kansas City, I think I moved three times in the first year. So it was kinda nice just to settle down. I thought as soon as I got settled in that I might have buyer's remorse like "arrghh, I can't move anymore." Because I do like to move. I like to have a change of scenery, see different areas of the town, and even just purge my stuff. I hate just having a ton of random stuff. But no, I love owning a house. It's great. You're not touching anybody, so you can crank the music. You can be loud. You can paint the walls. That's the first thing I did, because you can't paint when you rent, usually. Unless you don't want your deposit back. And you can hammer as much stuff as you want into the walls. But then there's the other side: you've gotta take care of the lawn, and when shit breaks you can't just call your landlord. Because, well...crazy story. I was renting just a couple of years ago and there was that big snow storm. I think it was February of '12, I think. And a tree actually fell on the house I was living in.
Jana: Oh my gosh!
Tim: A massive, massive tree. I think they estimated over a hundred years old. It was wider than my arms could actually go around. (makes motion of hugging the tree) I'm not kidding. It just crushed the roof. People were living upstairs and it caved in their whole roof.
Jana: Were you in the house when it happened?
Tim: I was on the bottom floor, yeah. I actually heard the initial crack of the trunk. It woke me up and I jumped out of bed. Then I heard the whole thing crash on the roof, but just the initial crack was so loud even that woke me up. And of course I'm runnin around, I'm callin’ the neighbor upstairs thinking, they could be dead up there! He answered and said, "No, we're fine, I think the whole roof just collapsed." I looked out back and this huge tree had just collapsed. So of course, the first thing we did was call the landlord so she could take care of it, right? She took care of everything, which was nice. I couldn't imagine owning a house and having to go through that.
Jana: Wow. That's crazy.
Tim: Yeah it was. Diane Sawyer’s news crew even stopped by.. ABC Nightly News was in my driveway doing a live shot and I was just standing right behind the camera like this... (smiles wide and makes huge waving motion)
Jana: So she was just in the studio commenting on it and they were just like, "yes, Diane, I'm here on the scene of the accident with Tim..."
Tim: Exactly, yeah.
Jana: So I heard you have a room in your house that doesn't have any furniture in it. What's the deal with that?
Tim: Uhhh...It's like a big dance floor, right? It's all hardwood floors. Right now it is a big room for my dog. But yeah, I'll put some stuff in there eventually.
Jana: So you just use it as a rec room slash dog room.
Tim: I honestly never actually go in there. It's the front room of the house, but I always come in through the garage. I'm not going to spend a bunch of money on furniture if it's not going to be used.
Jana: Yeah, I guess that's logical.
Tim: Yeah, and whenever I have people over we can just go to that front room and party. But it is true, I do have a room in my house with no furniture.
Jana: Since you brought up dancing, I heard you're also a good dancer.
Tim: I like to dance, yeah.
Jana: No comment?
Tim: I just like to have a good time. (laughs) The Foundry has good dancing.
Jana: Why is it that you have a reputation as a good dancer in the office?
Tim: I don't think I've danced here at the office. There was one time we went to the Foundry after a launch party. A handful of us went to the Foundry and we ended up doing some dancing there.
Jana: That's awesome. And your dog's name is Kona.
Tim: Yep. I think it means "lady" in Hawaiian.
Jana: And she's related to other dogs in the office? How old is she? What kind of dog is she?
Tim: Yeah, she's a sister of Austin's dog, who I think is named Ruby, and Sara, who used to work here, she is a sister to her dog as well. Sara was the one who did the fostering originally. One day she brought the puppies in and I just couldn’t pass her up. I think she’ll be two this month. They estimated she was born in August, but I don't know her actual birthday. I don't really know what kind of dog she is exactly. She is a Terrier and about 28 pounds. They thought she was going to be like 40 or 45 pounds at first.
Jana: Because they had no idea what kind of dog she was.
Tim: Right, right. I hear you can do a blood test and it will tell you what type she is, so I might have to do that. Instead of me just saying every time "well, she’s a Terrier mix..." (raises arms in confusion)
Jana: Yeah! That would be interesting. And then you could share it with Austin and Sara, too.
Tim: True, yeah we could split it and then we would all know.
Jana: I know you like running. Does she run with you?
Tim: I do like running. She has run with me a couple times, but she isn’t too great at running a straight line. I just found myself tripping over her a lot. So I kind of banished her from running with me. But I take her on walks. There's a park down the street I take her to so she can run around. She's good at being off-leash, which is nice, because she'll listen. So I don't have to worry about her running off.
Jana: You just throw the ball and stuff.
Tim: Yeah! Well, she doesn't fetch. She just likes to chase the ball and not bring it back.
Jana: So you throw the ball and she just won't bring it back to you.
Tim: Right. She runs to the ball. Stops, and then runs back. It looks a lot like I’m playing fetch with myself.
Jana: So she's basically playing fetch with you.
Tim: (laughs) Yeah, exactly.
Jana: Well that sounds...fun? Good exercise for you, I guess. Is that part of your triathlon training? Are you still doing those?
Tim: I’ve raced once this year. I ran the Kansas City triathlon. About two or three weeks after that is when I cut my finger. So I obviously couldn't do any training for a while after that.
Jana: So that wasn't very long ago then.
Tim: No, that was just in May when I did the last race. I had another one planned for June and it was only three days before that race when I cut my hand, so I had to back out. The cut was deep enough to get stitches and that makes it hard to swim, bike or run.
Jana: How did you get started in triathlons?
Tim: It was just random, really. I was going to the gym a few days a week, just keeping in shape. But I'm kind of a goal person, and I didn't have a goal. The goal was just to go. And that's no fun. One day I noticed a sign for a local triathlon on the Mizzou campus. The course took place on campus and around town which sounded pretty cool. Even though I had never ran more than a mile or ridden a road bike or swam a lap in my life, I figured, why not do all three at the same time? (laughs)
Jana: Of course.
Tim: I actually talked to a guy at work who’d done it the year before and he was telling me about it. He basically said, yeah, it's fun, but it requires a lot of training, and that it’s cool to do all that in a day and finish. It's an awesome sense of accomplishment. So, I trained for it. It was only six weeks before the race. It was kind of late, but I trained and finished that one. I immediately got the bug to race more. That day, I went home and started searching for the next race. Then I signed up for the next one, which was only two weeks later. From there I just kept racing and before the end of the first season I had completed a half Ironman down in Branson.
Jana: How many have you done?
Tim: (takes in a giant breath of air) Triathlons, specifically? Probably three dozen or so. Probably 50+ if you include running events.
Jana: You're nuts.
Tim: (laughs) Yeah.
Jana: Was there a specific part that you were worried about the first time? I think I would be worried about the swimming leg…
Tim: Yep. The swimming. For sure. Because the races are mainly open water, in a lake or a river or a reservoir. And not only that, but you start with a thousand people so you're just punching and kicking each other.
Jana: Are there a lot of people who are just like monster swimmers and they just get way ahead of everyone right off the bat?
Tim: Ohhh yeah. You look up after your third breath and there's always someone a hundred meters in front of you already.
Jana: I thought that people who did triathlons were swimmers first, and then they’re just kinda like, “I know how to ride a bike, I guess I'll just do triathlons.”
Tim: You kinda get a little bit of everything. A lot of them actually aren't swimmers, I don't think. Most people I run into are cyclists or runners, for some reason. But yeah. If you're a strong swimmer, you're going to be alright at triathlons.
Jana: What is your favorite race that you've done?
Tim: (takes in another giant breath of air) Oh man, I don't think I can pick one. Probably the most memorable one would be the first Ironman. I mean that's probably the biggest accomplishment. Coolest venue would probably be San Francisco for the Escape from Alcatraz.
Jana: You did that one!? That's so cool!
Tim: Yeah, so you've heard of it?
Jana: Yeah! My friend from California told me about it. She was like, “Yeah, these crazy people every year do this thing…” And now, you’re one of those people.
Tim: Yeah, I’m one of those people. (laughs) Yeah, so you go out on a ferry and circle the island. And when they're coming back around the island, they drop the side doors of the ferry, and you just run and jump off the side of the boat. So it's like you're escaping. It's like an eight foot drop down to the water so you can't stop, because the other people will just push you in. s you're jumping in you can see all of San Francisco, the whole bay and everything, which is pretty cool. The water is freezing though. I think it was around 55 degrees that day. So it's just a shock when you hit the water.
Jana: How do you prepare to swim in the open water of the ocean from Kansas City?
Tim: You can't. You just have to swim in lakes as much as you can. The water here does get kinda cold. It'll get down to the low 60s in May, at least. So you can prepare that way, but man, you can't prepare for the shock because it's just so cold. You know when you turn on your shower and it's very cold at the beginning? Even that is not as cold as the water there. And then you have to be in it for well over an hour. I obviously wore a wetsuit to help stay warm, but some people were crazy enough to swim in a speedo.. That race was probably the most memorable.
Jana: So what's your least favorite thing about triathlons?
Tim: The amount of training. You have no life. The first Ironman I did required a solid six months of training. I mean it was every day at lunch and after work, and by the end of the day you're just beat, so you go to bed early. And then the next day you go work out at lunch, you go work out at night, you go to bed early. You want to go out on Friday night? Sorry, you can't because you have to wake up early. You can't train when it's hot, because you can't go five hours on a Saturday in the heat, so you have to start at 7 AM and get done before noon. So, if you could have a life and do it, it'd be fun. But at some point you can't have both.
Jana: How long is the whole race?
Jana: Got it. That's a lot of things. Have you ever gotten through part of it and just thought maybe I don't want to do the rest of it?
Tim: Always. (laughs) There was a point on the bike during Ironman Cozumel when I really wanted to stop. The wind was blowing upwards of 30 mph that day and you had to go straight into it for 3 laps. By the time I finished that third one, I think I had been on the bike for about seven hours. The thought of running a marathon after that did not sound like something I wanted to do. Going into the change tent after getting off the bike, I noticed everyone else was hurting too.. We looked like we just got out of battle. Everyone was just laying all over the chairs with ice packs and people were just passing out. And it was like, yay, now we get to go run!
Jana: Did it at least make you feel a little better knowing everybody else was struggling, too?
Tim: Yeah, actually that was kind of nice. It was nice knowing I wasn’t the only one struggling.
Jana: And you guys all rallied together and did it anyway?
Tim: Yeah, you always kind of have your comrades by that point. You're running about the same speed as everyone else, so you kind of have the same people around you. It's a cool sport because everyone is encouraging. Most people are out there to just finish the race.. So it's everyone encouraging everyone. Hey you're doing great, let's get through this next mile or next aid station or whatever. It's pretty fun.
Jana: So I heard someone at the office photoshopped a picture of you once and brought it to one of your races?
Tim: (laughing) Yeah. The mustache picture. I actually still have it at my house. It's huge. Probably two feet. That was in Louisville for my first Ironman. Eric was actually there, because his brother in law was running the same race, so it was kind of weird to travel halfway across the country and there was a co-worker there. I knew he was going to be there, but I didn't know where he was going to be because the course was so big. It was somewhere on the bike, probably like 60 or 70 miles in. There was this town way far out where you could go to spectate. I'm going through the town, and it's loud and rowdy, everyone's cheering you on. I hear this loud voice scream "TIM BANNNNNKSSS!" I was like, who is that? I keep riding and I hear it again, "TIM BANKS!" I turn and Eric's holding this big sign of me with this giant, ridiculous mustache. I turned and started laughing, and I wasn’t looking where I was going so as soon as I turned back there was a bike or someone right in front of me and I had to swerve really hard. So he almost got me in a wreck with this sign. I then saw him during the run too. Every time he and Joanna see me, they’re just yelling my name as loud as they can, to the point where everyone is turning and looking at the giant picture of me with this huge mustache.
Jana: Why did they do the mustache? Were you rocking a mustache back then?
Tim: I don't really know. I cannot grow a mustache. I tried it for Movember one year. I think I made it until Thanksgiving. Every week people joked about how you weren’t supposed to shave, but I never did. I just couldn’t grow a mustache.
Jana: Well it's a great picture. I'm glad you still have it.
Tim: I'll bring it in. It used to just kind of make it's way around the office and then one day I think I ended up taking it home? Or no, actually it ended up at my house when I was on vacation. Someone took it there. I think it was Megan and Beth. They taped it to the outside of my kitchen window. So when I got home I just saw that.
Jana: Alright, so these next questions are like 20 Questions style. And you can Family Feud it and pass, or rapid fire answer or whatever.
Tim: Alright, let's go.
Jana: What's your biggest fear?
Tim: Things that sting. Like bugs. Bees, wasps, hornets, even spiders.
Jana: What's your biggest pet peeve?
Tim: Drivers that don't put on their turn signal. It's the worst.
Jana: If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Tim: (high pitch thinking sound) Elon Musk. He's just a visionary. He started a private space company, no one thought that could be done. He's trying to create an electric car company that goes against all odds. He built PayPal, sold that. It's just the things he's done, especially with tech. He does a lot of cool things. The way he runs his business is really cool, too.
Jana: I thought for sure you were going to say someone dead, for some reason. Okay, what kind of music do you like?
Tim: I really enjoy anything except for country.
Jana: If you had to pick one beer to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tim: WOAH. Uhh, I could sit here for probably an hour and think of this. But I'm going to go with the homer pick, and say Boulevard Pale Ale.
Jana: Alright, if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Tim: Ooooo, I always ask that question at hazing. I really want to go to Rome because of the history there. I want to see the Colosseum and the Pantheon, all the historical sites. I think it would have to be Rome, right now.
Jana: If you had to eat one meal, or one food, every day, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Jana: Okay. (laughing) Sorry, but you answered that one REALLY fast.
Jana: Alright next: what did you want to be when you grew up, when you were a little kid?
Tim: An astronaut.
Jana: What is your favorite thing to do for fun in Kansas City?
Tim: It's probably actually just run. I can go anywhere to run. And Kansas City is a fun city to run around.
Jana: Yeah. What's your favorite place to eat in Kansas City?
Tim: Man, you're asking hard questions.
Jana: You can say pass!
Tim: I'd say Anton's. Good beer selection, good steak.
Jana: Paul wanted to know if you've ever straightened your hair.
Tim: (laughing) I have actually. Once in college I straightened my hair.
Jana: Was this at the pressures of a girl, or what?
Tim: I'm sure there were women involved. I mean, how did we get a straightener? I don't remember the exact situation. I remember it didn't come out initially. So I had to go to class with my hair still straightened. And in college I had a lot longer hair and it was really curly, so it was pretty bad. I don’t know if that came up for a specific reason, but there was one day at work I wore a stocking cap in the morning, and I didn't wear the stocking cap during the day obviously, so it looked like I'd straightened my hair. I was actually set up in here (the Discovery room), and everyone kept walking by and looking in. Finally, I asked, “what's the deal?” And they were like, “we just want to know if you straightened your hair.”
Jana: (laughing) Maybe that's why he asked. I don't know, he didn't give me any context.
Tim: Yeah, everyone was so excited like, “did you do it? Did you straighten it?” and I just wore a stocking cap.
Jana: Okay. You just won the lottery, first thing you buy is…
Tim: Probably a sailboat.
Jana: Oh yeah, you just learned to sail, right? What got you interested in that?
Tim: Yeah! So eight years ago in 2008, I randomly got to go on a sailing trip down in the Virgin Islands. A friend of mine was going and they needed more people because some people backed out. I just thought, why not? I didn't know anything about sailing, I'd never been on a sailboat, I'd only been on powerboats. that was just super awesome. If you've never been on a sailboat, it's like a completely different experience. Because it's just silent and you can just cruise along the waves. So after that I really wanted to learn in order to take friends out myself. That was eight years ago. It was not until last year that I actually acted on it and took a local class here. I got certified for small boats, and then this year I took a class down in Florida to get certified for bigger boats for coastal sailing. So now I have certifications to go charter a boat anywhere in the world.
Jana: Is that what you want to do? Rent or buy one someday?
Tim: Probably just rent one. It's pretty reasonable. You can go rent a charter boat that sleeps ten and it's a really reasonable price for like a whole week. You can go down and cruise around for a week on your own. Just wake up and be like, where do you want to go? let's go to this island or this island, let's go snorkel here, let's hit this bar.
Jana: That would be sick.
Jana: Are you planning a trip like that?
Tim: Not right now, but it'll happen. I hope it's something I can do every year.
Jana: That's an awesome plan. Okay, if you could have one superpower what would it be?
Jana: Would you rather be a tiny elephant or a giant hamster?
Jana: I don't know why, but I'm really intrigued by this question.
Tim: How big is giant?
Jana: Like a giant, elephant-sized hamster. And the elephant is the size of a normal hamster.
Tim: I'd probably go with the elephant sized hamster. Just because it would be funny, like, man, look at that giant hamster! And it's like a big, cute ball o' fur.
Jana: Okay, last question. It's ten years from now. August 2026. Where are you and what are you doing?
Tim: Retired on my sailboat.
Jana: Are you in Kansas City on the sailboat?
Tim: (laughing) Hopefully someplace that has a beach.
Jana: Someplace with a beach, living on your sailboat, off the grid, living off fish and seaweed chips. Still running Ironmans, maybe?
Jana: REALLY good swimmer at that point.
Tim: Yeah, I'd be working on my swimming skills, for sure.
Jana: I'm picturing like Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.” The part where he has a massive beard and he's an expert at spearfishing.
Jana: That's Tim Banks in ten years?
Tim: (laughing) Yeah.
Jana: Perfect. I'm going to try to find you in ten years and check on the beard situation.
Tim: Yeah, we'll see about the beard.