Meet the ReadyForZero Team: Loren

Meet the ReadyForZero Team: LorenAt 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 Loren Baxter, Head of User Experience. Loren is a world traveler, lover of surfing, soccer, and photography, and leads the design team at ReadyForZero. He and the rest of the design team are responsible for the design and usability that make ReadyForZero a great product to use. As the first full-time employee, he’s been on the team since nearly the very beginning. Read on to learn more about the person who makes sure ReadyForZero works for you!

What were you doing before ReadyForZero?
After graduating from UCSD (The University of California, San Diego), I got a job for an enterprise software company in San Diego. I spent about a year and a half there and had enough time in a bigger office to know that wasn’t really for me. So I quit and became a freelance designer.

That must have been difficult! Were you scared?
I was scared! But I had been building a clientele with [ReadyForZero CEO] Rod, who I met in college. He was doing freelance work in San Francisco at the time, and had too much. He needed someone to help him take on some of the projects. I started moonlighting in the evening on freelance work for a few months before I took the leap – just so I could validate that it was possible and that the hours were consistent enough that I could support myself.

How did you know quitting your job to work as a freelancer was the right choice for you?
I became a designer to have a big impact. We were working on a software that was used by basically a few IT people throughout the world and I felt like I was working on a niche product. But when I became a designer I wanted to work on projects that my friends or family might use. And I just wanted to tackle the big problems in the world. Getting people financially stable, solving hunger or energy issues, or health – these big massive problems that we face. I didn’t want to realize I’d been working there at one company for ten years without having tried to tackle these problems.

How was it working as a freelancer?
Awesome! I was living on the beach. I would surf every day and work 30-35 hour weeks from home. I did that for six months which was really fun – I felt like I was retired almost. But then I started getting bored again and realized since I was working remotely I could work anywhere. So I moved to Argentina for a while with some of my friends and worked from there.

I lived there for 5 months before moving back  to California, where I continued freelancing and traveling around the state to decide where to live. I ended up in San Francisco because the tech scene here was really the right place to be. I then did a lot of subcontracting work at bigger agencies for about a year before joining ReadyForZero.

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What made you want to work for ReadyForZero?
I was tired of working on small projects that often didn’t have a big impact or a lofty goal. I’d been giving Rod and Nacho design feedback while they were going through Y Combinator and after that I happened to be finishing up another contract and then joined the team.

What got you the most excited about joining ReadyForZero?
The social impact. I wouldn’t have joined any company that wasn’t trying to solve a problem that wasn’t a big pain point in the world. Helping people get out of debt is a big deal. Also Rod and Nacho are both super-talented, so I knew that we were going to have a really excellent team. They’re just fun people who are great to be around and are very fast moving and creative. They’re more likely to say yes to new ideas than no.

What has been the most gratifying moment for you at ReadyForZero so far?
Just seeing our idea work and having people use it is the most fundamentally great part of it. Before this, I’d never really gotten customer feedback on things I’ve designed and now people are really thankful and mention how much we’ve helped improve their lives. That by far has been the most gratifying part of the experience.

Nice! Well, we already know you love to travel. Where have you been and where do you want to go next?
I’ve been to Argentina, South Africa, Europe (where I biked from Italy to England through France with Bobby), Central America, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and a few trips to Iceland where a lot of my family lives. So I’ve done my share of traveling although I’d like to do more. Maybe Indonesia or Australia for a surf trip next.

Is surfing your favorite thing to do while traveling?
I love surfing and I’ll probably do it for the rest of my life. It’s meditative and healthy, a great time with nature, and very humbling. Unfortunately, it kind of pins you to locations that are surfable – but those locations tend to also be very beautiful. I also really love soccer and try to play pickup games in every country I go to. It’s fascinating to experience a culture when you are interacting with people this way and to to see how their culture translates into their style of play. For example, in South Africa their style was very dancy. They’d spin a lot. There was a lot of circular motion that I’ve never seen before. I can’t put my finger on it but I felt like I connected with their culture a little bit while playing.

So what else do you do with your free time?
I spend a lot of time in the design community attending and speaking at conferences, meeting other designers, and giving talks. I’ve always felt this desire to work on big problems and felt like it was hard to do or that I always had to make compromises in terms of chasing my dreams and letting the big problems wait. When I finally just made the leap and really started working on things that I thought were important I found there was plenty of work to be done and that I never had to compromise. I’ve developed as a designer from absorbing a lot of material from other people in the design community so I want to give back. I try to encourage designers to chase their dreams; there are a lot of big problems in the world that need solving and we shouldn’t compromise on that.

If you could have anything in the office to help you relax or recharge, what would it be?
It’s funny because as a designer my mind first jumps not to what is in the space but how the space is designed. If we had any place I could choose it would be more open and made of natural materials and windows that open. You could breathe in the fresh air and there’d be a bunch of sunlight and views out to nature. Then we’d just have some hipstery designy stuff everywhere and a dog :).

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

    Great interview! I wouldn’t have guessed about the different styles of soccer played in different countries. Sounds like a lot of fun!

    • Shannon_ReadyForZero

      Thanks Ben! I thought that was really interesting too :).