Technology contractor Bruce Farr works long hours for giant companies, but he’s adapted his life to maximize time on the river.
Washington’s contrasting elements are Bruce Farr’s yin and yang. The picturesque Puget Sound, the rivers and creeks spilling down from jagged Cascade peaks, the monolith of Mount Rainier; business giants like Microsoft, Boeing, and Starbucks. The wild beauty and powerful companies are critical pieces of both the state’s and Farr’s identity. As a lifelong fly fisherman and longtime project manager in the tech industry, Farr floats between nature and technology each day, and relishes the satisfaction that juxtaposition provides him.
Farr spent nearly 15 years at Microsoft — notably on the launch of Expedia when it was a Microsoft division, Home Advisor, and other early forays into ecommerce — before setting out on his own. Farr is now an independent technical project manager who contracts with some of the world’s largest companies, including Microsoft, Google, and Starbucks, helping take new applications and software from inception to launch.
Farr spends his days spearheading 80-person teams to make sure the engineers, the business analysts, and the code testers all operate in unison. Doing this while ensuring that everything is done on budget and at the highest quality requires diligence, planning, and, thanks to a globally dispersed workforce, conference calls to multiple continents at all hours. “There are no 40-hour workweeks,” Farr says.
Farr’s work often entails working with some of Microsoft’s high-level executives. “Some of my projects have involved C-level managers. Interacting with Microsoft CEOs and CTOs is like working with the Obamas of the business world,” says Farr. “You have to be able to deal with pressure as a project manager. You need composure to maintain the vision and drive to get to the finish.”
For Farr, finding time to get away from his work is a critical piece of maintaining that composure. Fly fishing has provided an escape since he was a boy.
“You’re out in the stream in the woods with dogs … you’re in a different world,” Farr says. “Casting requires concentration and takes your mind off the rest of the world.”
Farr’s father taught him how to cast as a kid. He got attached to the sport and has continued throughout his life. He tried other forms of fishing a few times, but the extra challenge of fishing with a fly instead of bait always brought him back.
Washington’s mild weather makes fishing a year-round pursuit. In the winter, Farr and his friends head to the Olympic Peninsula in search of steelhead. In March, they fish for trout. In the summer and fall, Farr follows salmon from Puget Sound up the Sauk, Skagit, North Fork of the Stillaguamish, and Cedar rivers. The Cedar became a personal favorite, so he chose to build his Maple Valley home on its banks. At 5 a.m. most summer mornings, you can find Farr doing a little pre-work casting in his backyard stream.
“I’m up early for an hour of fishing,” he says. “Then it’s off to work, where I can be on the phone with someone in India or Munich talking about cutting-edge technology.”
The escape fly fishing offers Farr is one reason he keeps doing it. Another reason, one he says is even more important, is the camaraderie of the sport. “Over a lifetime of fly fishing, the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve shared, the places we’ve been, that’s what’s most important,” he says.
Farr took his dedication to his fly-fishing community a step further this year when he became the president of the Overlake Fly Fishing Club, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month. Befitting Farr’s work-life relationship, the club meets at the Redmond Veterans of Foreign Wars office, which is surrounded by Microsoft buildings.
Fly fishing provides Farr with an important balance in his life between the natural and digital worlds.
“Fishing, time in my garden, they provide a connection with the natural world. I see beavers, otters, deer, elk, bear, cougars, ospreys, eagles, and herons while I’m fishing in my yard,” says Farr. “At work, I’m collaborating with the most cutting- edge tech companies in the world. I like the juxtaposition from one side of the pendulum to the other.”