At ReadyForZero we strive to always be available and accountable to our users. That’s why we personally respond to every e-mail that’s sent to our support inbox and why we have our pictures on the About page. Now we’re sharing our stories here so you can get to know the fun and diverse people that are working hard every day to make ReadyForZero better. We hope you enjoy these interviews – and don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below!
Our first interview is of Ben Feldman, Writer and Head of Content Strategy. Ben’s been at ReadyForZero for a year now and brings with him years of experience working in politics, great writing skills, and a love for delis and the 49ers. When he’s not eating a sandwich from Subway or the “Ben special” at Lee’s Deli, he’s keeping everyone in the office informed on the most important changes in the law. Read on to get to know a familiar face on the blog!
What were you doing before ReadyForZero?
I was working as a Legislative Assistant in the California State Capitol. The job included researching and writing summaries of bills that came before my boss to be voted on, as well as staffing the bills he was authoring to make sure they got approved by committees and by floor votes so they could get sent to the Governor’s desk and be passed into law.
When you got involved in politics did you ever think of running for office?
No, in college I studied public policy and wanted to work directly on policy issues like education and health care that impact people’s lives. In graduate school I pivoted towards academia where the focus was on uncovering new kernels of knowledge through research. It wasn’t until I moved to Sacramento after getting my M.A. that I really got to experience what it’s like to work in government. I met a lot of principled and hard-working people in all levels of the state government, but after a few years I realized I wanted to try something different.
How does it feel to be working for a startup now?
It’s empowering to be able to experiment with things and find what works and what people seem to enjoy. When I started here, I was told that any time I have an idea I can go for it. That kind of working environment is pretty special, and it has been fun to come up with new ideas and create projects like the Smart Money Debates – things that start out as just a seed of an idea and then are launched and blossom into something significant in just a few days or weeks. It’s pretty rare to get to work in a startup that’s helping people solve a real problem like getting out of debt so I want to take advantage of the opportunity.
Would your past self believe what you’re doing now?
No, probably not.
Were your family and friends surprised by this new path you’ve taken?
I think a lot of them were surprised when I first got the job because it was so different from what I’d been doing. But they really appreciate the mission of ReadyForZero and are excited that we can use technology to help people pay off their debt. Most people know how big of a problem consumer debt is by now and they’re really excited that I’m working on that.
What has been the most gratifying moment for you so far at ReadyForZero?
I think the moment that stands out right now is when we published an article in Lifehacker and someone wrote on Twitter and said after reading the article they realized they could save thousands of dollars by doing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (a program that allows people to have their loans forgiven if they work in a nonprofit or public sector job for ten years). It was pretty amazing to see someone just state publicly how the article had saved them thousands of dollars.
But there have been so many more moments. Every time we post something on the blog and it gets positive comments it’s very satisfying – not to mention seeing the product evolve and get even better as time goes on.
What are you most excited about seeing for the future of ReadyForZero?
I’m excited about the fact that the number of people who find us keeps growing and that, if that snowballs, then the number of people we help will grow exponentially. I want to help make ReadyForZero a place where people can go to get good advice and support and encouragement as they work to get out of debt.
If you could pick a game to have in the office to help you relax or recharge, what would it be?
I think an air hockey table would be a lot of fun – I could play air hockey for hours. It’s fun because everyone who ever plays air hockey gets really into it. It’s impossible not to. We could even play after lunch to get the adrenaline going and we’d be ready to take on the world.
If you were told you could work remotely and thus live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
That’s a tough one! Maybe somewhere in Europe like Spain. I became nearly fluent in Spanish when I studied abroad in Ecuador during college, and would like to get back some fraction of that ability. And it would be fun to enjoy Europe and experience life on another continent. Either that or Kauai - it’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever been – so peaceful and beautiful. It’s one of the most uninhabited islands in Hawaii and it’s surprisingly lush with greenery. I visited once and loved it!