We are revisiting our Core Careers feature, and reached out to Jason McCaffrey, Global Business Unit Director for the Surf Division at Patagonia.
Jason started building blanks for FCD Surfboards in 1997, and has worked in the surf industry ever since.
Jason shares his path, the challenges he has faced along the way, and his advice for others.
How did you get started in the industry?
Jason McCaffrey: I started building blanks at what is now FCD surfboards after work and on my days off in 1997 for free. Soon thereafter I was put on the payroll building blanks and it was so lucrative I was able to move out of my house on the Mesa in Santa Barbara and move into a friend’s van in the shop parking lot.
The upside was that I had a short commute to work! Six months later he sold the van and I moved into the shop, and the rest, as they say, is history. I learned a ton, met legends, listened a lot, and went back to school. When Patagonia was looking to hire someone to run the surf program, I was lucky enough to get a shot at making it work.
What qualities do you appreciate most in direct reports?
Jason McCaffrey: The balance of a good work ethic and an appreciation for having fun. My team laughs a lot and our North Star is if we are having fun or not. If we are, it always shows up in the finished product, and if we're not, then we're doing it wrong and need to start over.
How do you manage all of the demands on your time?
Jason McCaffrey: I'm really lucky in that I work with a great team of people that don’t need me to micromanage them or tell them how to do things. I try to support them when they need it and make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs the best they can.
I find that keeping up is easier than catching up, so for me making time to stay on top of emails is key. Even if I don’t respond to every email, I read the conversations so that I know where things are going.
I am also very intentional with my time. I only go to meetings that are important for me to run the business and our team tries to divide and conquer so that we aren’t all sitting in the same meetings all the time. That way, when the wind is right or the swell is pumping, I can get out and kite or surf.
What is the best advice you have for someone who wants to be in your position one day?
Jason McCaffrey: Learn to love the taste of ramen, eating peanut butter and jelly, and sleeping in uncomfortable places. That phase might last for a few years but if you do it right, it will pay off. Work hard, love what you do and don’t tell your mom you slept in a car until well after you have moved out of said vehicle.
What is your biggest challenge at work at the moment and how are you trying to overcome it?
Jason McCaffrey: Work can be hard sometimes, but most often we make it harder than it is. We are lucky at Patagonia to have a very clear, strong mission that we stick to and that is incorporated into everything we do: build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to find and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Even still, my biggest challenge is keeping things simple, or trying to see them as simple so that plans can be made and decisions can be executed. Nobody makes a good decision when they are stressed out, so keeping the team in a good state of mind is what I concentrate on most (thankfully, my team keeps me in a good state of mind too!). After that, the rest of what we have to do on the day to day is a lot easier than if it were the other way around.