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June 18, 2013

Q&A: Britt Atack, 44, school athletic director

[Part of our occasional series spotlighting real people and their real Windows Phones. –.ed]

To all appearances, Britt Atack is an easygoing kind of guy. He pads around The Northwest School in shorts, t-shirt, and a well-worn pair of Vibram Five Fingers, calling out affable greetings to students and colleagues.

But his job as athletic director of this Seattle independent school for grades 6 to 12 means a demanding schedule and lots of juggling. So Britt, 44, relies on his HTC 8X with Windows Phone 8 to help him stay on top of his chaotic workday while preserving his laid-back demeanor. I sat down with him earlier this month on the Northwest School’s Capitol Hill campus to get the details.

What’s a typical day at work look like for you?

First thing in the morning, I work at home so I can take my daughter to school. But one of the tenets of my job is to be available for coaches, parents, and any administrative issues that come up. I’m in and out of my office all day, sometimes in meetings, but I need to know whether fields are rained out, whether a bus broke down. I need to coordinate with buses, parents, coaches, and officials, wherever I am.

photo credit: Juliette Guilbert

How does your Windows Phone help you manage things?

It’s substantially changed my ability to do business in two places at once and to know about a problem in time to be able to fix it. I can look at those big squares to see calls, texts, my school email, my other email, various threads that are happening. Let’s say a parent is lost in Bellevue trying to find her daughter’s game, and she sends me an email because that’s the only contact info she’s got for me. Even though I’m not at my desk, I can see it and save the day. I used my phone to take headshots of the track and field kids for the state website. And I can update our website from my phone—I could never do that from my old Android. It took forever to load.

Why did you choose a Windows Phone?

The school was providing the phone, and I could have chosen anything—iPhone, Android. One of our IT guys had a Windows Phone, and he really liked it and spent 20 minutes showing me how it worked. The visual layout was clean, it seemed really intuitive, and I liked the aesthetics. Also, I didn’t want a big learning curve, and I was able to get up and running with 98 percent of what I need in 20 minutes.

It sounds like your phone is a pretty key part of your work day. Do you use it for anything else?

I’m on a pro Ultimate [frisbee] team with a bunch of young twentysomething guys, and they’re always sending funny stuff around via email. One guy made [ESPN] Sports Center for some amazing play, and everyone was commenting—that’s fun. I also like the grocery store effect, where my wife and I can stay in the loop when one of us is going to the store. And then one of my students just showed me how to set up Facebook on my phone. I didn’t know I could do that. She was like “Dude, just give me the phone.”