Prairie Portrait: Brandon Ratzlaff of Dwolla
Name: Brandon Ratzlaff
Bio: Family man, designer and Apple fanboy. Lover of attention to detail. Sadly incapable of growing a beautiful beard.
Title: UI/UX Builder at Dwolla
Residence: Olathe, Kan.
Intro music: "New Year's Eve Live at Pier 94," by Avicii (Who doesn't love a good three-hour intro song?!)
Silicon Prairie News: You're one of a handful of Dwolla team members not based in Des Moines. What do you do to stay tapped in to the company's culture from afar?
Brandon Ratzlaff: There are a couple of things we do that I think really help keep the remote members aligned with the rest of the team. The first is a daily G+ Hangout (G+ may lack much content, but its video chat features are pretty great) that everyone on the team is involved in at 11:11am. We each quickly go over our biggest "win" for the morning and what we'll be tackling that afternoon. It's a great way to bring up any roadblocks you have that involve other team members. Regular video calls in addition to 11:11 help as well. The other thing I do personally is travel to Des Moines for a few days each month to spend some time with everyone there in the office.
All of that said, it's imperative that the entire team be on board with having remote employees. Without buy-in from everyone, it could quickly ruin any existing company culture. I'm fortunate to work with a group of people at Dwolla that understands that.
SPN: We learned in April about one of Dwolla's high-profile product advisors, and you no doubt get product feedback from countless other sources. Given that, what's your method for processing and incorporating product design input?
BR: Any feedback from advisors gets filtered through Ben first and foremost. Ben will typically work closely with a product manager and me to determine how that fits into our product roadmap. This allows me to work with just a couple of people and helps keep a lot of distractions out. If we didn't work like this, it would be really easy to get overwhelmed with product feedback.
SPN: As the son of a photographer who ran his own company for nearly 30 years, what career advice did you glean from your dad?
BR: Believe it or not, I have rarely asked him for career advice. I think that's more a result of me watching and learning from him, and just knowing him as a person outside of his business, rather than talking to him directly about it. What stands out to me the most about my dad, though, was his commitment to everything he was involved in. That included his commitment to family, which can be difficult when you're an entrepreneur. It's that commitment to those closest to him that continues to influence my approach to my career and the projects I take on. Rather than "make a dent in the universe," I'd prefer to build things that make a difference in the lives of those closest to me. If *everyone* did that, that dent becomes a lot larger.
SPN: You attribute being an Apple fanboy to the fact that Apple makes "elegantly simple products." Beyond Apple, what are three other companies you support for that same reason?
BR: I really think Twitter has done a great job staying focused on what they do well. They have endless possibilities for what they could do with the service, but they don't lose that focus.
Instagram is another favorite of mine. There's honestly not much to it, but it's one of the most powerful social apps out there.
I don't own much IKEA furniture, but I'm constantly inspired by some of their products. Their recently-announced Uppleva line is a perfect example.
SPN: As someone who has come to grips with your lack of beard-growing prowess, what would you suggest as three alternative ways to add some flair to your face?
BR: 1. Shave your eyebrows. Not creepy at all.
2. Get your nose pierced. Only, the kind that makes you look like a bull.
3. Add a Cindy Crawford Mole™ with a makeup pencil.
Credits: Photo by Anna Jones.
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