We can’t brag enough about our biggest competitive advantage: Our people. They’re some of the smartest, most talented, most interesting people on the planet – and we’re not exaggerating. In fact, if you knew even half the things our employees are up to in their spare time, it would blow your mind.
The Secret Life of RV reveals some of the coolest things our employees are doing outside of work. (Read: THIS is where we blow your mind.)
Secret Life: Rustin Terry
Data Analytics Manager/Hang Gliding Pilot
Rustin Terry went to school at the University of Hawaii and slowly worked his way East since. His first job out of college was in Idaho working for a market research company, then he worked in Ohio at dunnhumby doing analytics for Kroger grocery stores. He joined Red Ventures just a few months ago as a Data Analytics manager for multiple businesses on our Health/Disrupt vertical. (If he continues his Eastward trek he will end up in Bermuda as soon as RV opens up a St. David’s Island office.)
Did we mention he’s also a licensed hang gliding pilot who’s been flying for 9 years? Well, strap in ‘cause this story’s got wings.
Q: Hi Rustin, thanks for hanging out. Welcome to Red Ventures!
A: Of course! Thanks, the past few months have really flown by…
Q: Let’s jump in. Tell us about the exact moment you got hooked on the idea of hurtling yourself off a cliff, into the open sky, with nothing more than a helmet and a sheet of polyester cloth.
A: I was in school at the University of Hawaii, and after a long day of
lounging by the ocean diligent studying, I looked up to see these hang gliders come flying down from the sky and land on the beach. Right away I knew this was something I had to do. I ran over and started talking with one of the pilots. Turns out, they needed a ride back to the top of the mountain they’d flown down from. Just like that, I was in. I became a regular part of their group – not as a pilot, but as the driver who’d help them scout out good launch sites and bring them back up after their flights.
Q: Pics or it didn’t happen…
A: I thought you might say that. Here’s a look at a flight from a mountain called Makapu’u:
It’s a great place to launch from because the wind hits the mountainside and pushes you straight up, so you get a lot of lift. The video doesn’t do it justice, but the view is incredible up there.
Q: Wow, that is incredible! So, you learned the ropes in Hawaii. Tell us about your first flight.
A: After I graduated, I got a job in Idaho. There were great mountains for hang gliding all around me, so I looked up a trainer, and after just a few weeks I got my license. When you’re learning to fly, you start on little hills where you barely get your feet off the ground. Then, you work your way higher and higher up the mountain until you’re ready to launch from the very top.
At first, it can be a bit nerve-racking when you’re up in the air. Your instinct is to slow down and take it nice ‘n easy. But that’s always the wrong instinct. The faster you go, the more wind you get going over your wings. That’s what gives you lift. The slower you go, the more likely you are to stall out. And when you stall out, your hang glider just drops straight down.
Q: Well, consider us speed demons. What’s the secret to being a top-notch pilot?
A: Full disclosure: I was never a great pilot. But everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve found groups of pilots to fly with – and some of those guys were pros.
When you’re hang-gliding, you want to find updrafts so you can stay in the air for a long time. Otherwise, you’re just slowly floating down. In Idaho, you’ll see these “dirt devils” – they’re like mini Twisters. Technically, they’re called “thermal lifts,” which makes sense because they’re just columns of warm air flowing straight up. If you fly into one, it’ll hoist you up higher and higher. Good pilots will look for birds flying into those thermal lifts, and follow them to gain elevation. Really good pilots can fly from thermal to thermal, get up super high, and stay up all day.
Q: Amazing. It’s been said that “what comes up must come down.” Have you ever had any thermal… drops?
A: Yep. Cue the dramatic music. By this time I was living in Ohio and flying pretty regularly with a group there. My plan was to launch from this beautiful hillside, fly over a grove of trees, and land in a soccer field on the other side. (Hang glider pilots love soccer fields, probably more than soccer players.) So, I launch and get into the air. Everything was going fine… until I realized there was no way I was going to make it past those trees.
Q: *Gasp!* RUSTIN, NO!
A: I had to make a split-second decision: Do I speed up and try to hurry past the trees (but risk losing even more altitude)? Or, do I slow down to give myself more time (but risk stalling out). I went with option two, and lightly floated into the treetops. Then, I had a new problem: I was stuck in a tree, 20ft off the ground. After some effort, I was able to unclip myself and climb down with nothing more than a couple of scratches.
Q: What an adventure… kind of like this article. So you’ve taken us from Hawaii to Idaho to Ohio. How’d you wind up at Red Ventures?
A: Great question. I’ve done a lot of moving around the country for new, exciting job opportunities. In Ohio, I worked at a company that did analytics for the retail industry. Now that I’m here at Red Ventures, I’m involved in lots of different businesses on our Health/Disrupt vertical. Using data insights, I get to try out new strategies to optimize our sites. It’s a lot of the same principles from my past job, just a completely different world.
So, the opportunity itself was compelling. But the biggest sell was how energetic the people were. When I came to RV headquarters, I instantly knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of. I knew I wanted to be around that energy every day.
Q: And now that you’re two months in?
A: This is a new industry for me, so it’s been a lot of learning. But the mindset here is really exciting: “We’re not going to be right 100% of the time, and that’s okay. Let’s fail quickly and move onto the next thing.” Actually, it reminds me of that hang gliding crash I told you about…
Q: …in a…good way?
A: Yes! Hear me out. When I crashed into those trees, I learned an important lesson. You’ve got to understand when to sprint, and when caution is your friend. Usually, it’s one or the other. We do a lot of sprinting here at RV – and that’s great. It gives you more velocity and momentum. It helps you learn fast and get results even faster. But it’s important to know when to take a step back and rethink your approach. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and take that “leafy landing” – even though it wasn’t part of the initial plan.
Q: Stay tuned for Rustin’s Secret Life sequel: Inspirational Poet.™ Have you found a hang gliding crew here in Charlotte?
A: Ah, confession: I sold my hang glider. You really need mountains with no trees… and there are so many trees around here. But, I do have a backup plan. I want to get into “powered paragliding,” which is pretty similar. Where a hang glider has a frame that holds the wing in shape, a paraglider is just a parachute. The “power” comes in when you strap a fan powered by a lawn mower engine to your back. You can launch from a soccer field and land on that same soccer field. No mountaintop required.
Q: That sounds like a certified jet pack to us. Anything it takes to get up in the sky, right?
A: Exactly. People hang glide for different reasons. You can do it for the adrenaline rush, and that’s definitely an element of it. But for me, the real draw is how peaceful it is when you’re up in the sky. You’ve got birds flying by checking you out, the views are just amazing, and the feel of the wind rushing by your face is indescribable. That’s the appeal for me. Plus, on a hot day, it’s a good 20 degrees cooler in the sky – so that’s an added bonus.