Meet the ReadyForZero Team: Benny

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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 next interview is with Benny Tsai, Full Stack Engineer/Merge Master. Benny is a self-proclaimed OCD engineer (kidding, kidding – sort of) who’s lived in multiple countries and is excited to now call the Bay Area his home. Read on to learn more about the person who makes sure that ReadyForZero is running smoothly with each new feature launch.

What Were You Doing Before ReadyForZero?
Before this I was working for a financial company in Edmonton, Canada. It was a crown corporation that used to be part of the Alberta government, whose mission was to invest the pension funds for the people that work for the provincial government. Before that I worked for Bloomberg in New York City.

Where did you go to college?
I studied computer science at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. I did my undergrad there and also stayed on for a master’s.

Where are you from originally?
I was born in Kaohsiung, a city in the southern tip of Taiwan, but grew up on the other end of the island in Taipei. I lived in Taiwan until I was 10, then my family moved to Tacoma, Washington, which is the place I consider home in my head. I guess it’s because I feel like I did most of my growing up in Washington state.

bennyHow did you find out about ReadyForZero?
Through Hacker News, which posts a hiring thread every month. I had to apply twice, actually. The first time I applied, ReadyForZero was running this really cool online programming challenge. I took a shot, sent in my answers, and I guess they weren’t completely wrong because I heard back almost immediately. At the time I wasn’t ready to leave Edmonton, so I was looking for places that would let me telecommute. For a lot of places, including ReadyForZero, that just wasn’t something that was practical, so nothing came of our talks initially. Then 6 months later, when I did decide to move out of Edmonton, I got in touch again, and they were still looking to hire, and things just sort of worked out after that.

Was the transition from corporate world to startups difficult?
Definitely. One of the biggest benefits (and potential drawback) in a startup is that you’re expected to take on a lot more responsibilities. You can’t hide in a comfortable little box and say “this is my niche, this is the only thing I’m responsible for.” Whenever something goes wrong, if you know anything about it, then you dive in and help fix it.  If you don’t know anything about it, you quickly learn what you can, then dive in and help fix it.

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What has been the most exciting moment so far for you at ReadyForZero?
Launches! Every launch has been both thrilling and terrifying. The goal is always to launch visible features that really have impact for the users. But of course, that means any mistake is highly visible and impactful too!

What’s been your favorite launch?
The last one. I think each time we learn some lessons about what to do and what not to do. So with each new launch, it gets a little less terrifying and less stressful.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
My top three passions are, in no particular order, reading, Ultimate Frisbee, and Japanese animation. As far as reading goes, I love science fiction and fantasy. The very first English books I read happened to be sci-fi and fantasy and they’ve stuck with me ever since. That early exposure to written English really helped me learn the language.

If you could have anything in the office to help you relax and recharge, what would it be?
Definitely a hammock!

hammock

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m an Eagle Scout who doesn’t know how to start a campfire without the aid of lighter fluid.

Hmmmm… aren’t Boy Scouts all about camping? How did you manage to accomplish that?
Well, that’s not the only thing Boy Scouts are about. Proceeding through the different rankings in Boy Scouts is a lot like college: there are a lot of core skill requirements and then there are a bunch of electives you can fill with whatever (i.e. underwater basket-weaving).

Alright fair enough. So what was your Eagle Project?
I got in touch with a local elementary school and asked what they needed. They said what they most needed was a giant painted map of the continental US for their playground. So I proceeded to contact local paint companies, do fund raising, and lead other scouts to execute the project. I learned first-hand that accurately translating a map of the US from an atlas into a giant map on a playground is much, much harder than it sounds.

Very cool! So can you tell me what the philosophy of an Eagle Scout is?
Be a good person that provides a net positive to society and the people around you. When you become an Eagle Scout, the title is yours for life. I think the unspoken message is that it’s your responsibility to always try to live up to that ideal.

What do you like most about working for ReadyForZero?
Knowing that what we’re working on has a direct, positive impact in people’s lives. I’ve always dreamed about being able to do this, and with ReadyForZero, it’s happening for real. When I feel stressed out or worn down, the positive feedback from our users always helps renew my energy and motivation.

Hammock Image Credit: Florin Gorgan

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  • http://www.twitter.com/bwfeldman Benjamin Feldman

    This was a great interview! What a cool skydiving photo. And that is interesting to learn that you are an Eagle Scout, Benny. I like how you define the Eagle Scout philosophy, too.

  • http://innovatebig.com Rod Ebrahimi

    Great interview!