Let’s meet Ben!
My name is Ben (aka @datadad) and I joined Wonolo in December 2018 as the Marketplace Ops Manager, based in our Nashville office. I work on the BizOps team to provide data & analytical support to Wonolo’s Account Management & Customer Success teams.
Prior to Wonolo, I earned my analytical chops at Nielsen and was on a market research team for a smartphone accessory company also based in Nashville.
What are you grateful for today?
Today, I am thankful for the chance to work alongside so many wonderful people. I have been at Wonolo for nine months, but the relationships I have fostered here already make it seem like it’s been years. I have gone through a few seasons in life where things felt very out of balance and I didn’t always know what I was working towards, but these days, it feels refreshingly different.
Wonolo has been a very special place to work. We value hard work, transparency, and vulnerability, but also, we align our entire company on the mission of serving others. I come into work every day with a renewed sense of purpose and belonging and I am honored and humbled at the chance to help provide opportunities and flexibility to the underserved, those who need it the most. It is such a gift to work at a place where I daily feel valued, challenged, respected, and inspired. I work alongside some of the most talented, humble yet ambitious people I know, which is something I do not take for granted.
Additionally, I am truly grateful for a family that loves and supports me. I met my now wife when I was 17 years old, and she hasn’t wavered one bit. Thirteen years later, we are now a family of four. Our two kids take a lot of effort, but they provide us with lots of joy when we need it the most. I often find myself learning more from them and how they view the world than from anyone else. I once was talking to my son about how grateful we were for our dinner, especially in light of the fact that some people didn’t have a meal to eat. He looked at me, quite concerned and said so simply, “Well, we should feed them.” Their innocence is something I cherish.
When you were in high school, what did you dream of becoming?
I grew up in a very musical family in the heart of Indianapolis, Indiana. My mother taught piano and also played the clarinet and saxophone, while my father played the trombone and guitar. This left me almost no chances of not taking on at least one or two musical instruments, so I quickly began piano at a young age and started playing the violin at 8 years old. I was consistently practicing 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, which by the age of 18 equates to roughly 78,000 hours, according to my calculations (*pushes up glasses, puts away calculator). Now at 30 years old, I can easily say that I have spent more time playing the violin than almost anything else I have done in life.
In high school, I took music very seriously, eventually working my way up to being the concertmaster of our symphony orchestra. Even at such a young age, I was learning the value of teamwork, the pursuit of excellence, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. These were some of the best, most formative years of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
All that said, my dreams in high school were not always crystal clear. I idolized the playing of musical greats like Itzhak Perlman, Hilary Hahn, and Joshua Bell and often dreamt about traveling the world playing music. Music brought me lots of joy, so I knew that it would always be an integral part of my life, in one form or another.
What events in your life have led you to your current role/job today?
After high school, I decided to venture down south to Nashville, TN to pursue a degree in Music Business at Belmont University. Next thing I knew, I had joined a band, toured around the country, and even made it onto an episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as the featured musical guest. Those were some times!
Eventually, in hopes of having more consistency in my life (and income), I decided to redirect my pursuits and landed in the world of Marketing and Business. For me, separating my musical endeavors from my career allowed each to breathe and coexist so much better than before. I saw too many of my musician friends struggling to make ends meet while also making music, and their passions often became so strained. For me, it was more important to preserve my love for music as something pure and untainted, which has been remarkably fulfilling.
After college, I started to really lean into my love for numbers, big data, research, and data visualization. I have learned that there is often a story hiding behind the rows and rows of data, as long as you have eyes to see it the forest for the trees. In this day and age, there are so many resources and free tools out there to learn, grow, and expand one’s mind. In my latest role, finding what work I was truly passionate about and learning to become self-driven to acquire new skills along the way was what really became my launching point that brings me to my job at Wonolo today.
As my grandfather always told me, “Read, read, read.”
When things do not turn out the way you planned, what is the first thing you do?
I am learning to practice patience and remind myself to embrace the bumps in the road ahead. Looking back, I cannot tell you how many times I realize, “Man, I’m so glad I didn’t get what I was asking for.” Most often, I was being so tunnel-visioned and focused on fixing this minuscule issue that I didn’t have the eyes to see the greater arc of the story that was happening in the background.
When you have to make a difficult decision, what do you lean on?
I am an innate researcher at heart, so my first tendency is to gather information and to lean on the perspective of others. To me, it’s incredibly valuable making sure you have all the details at your disposal and are able to gather multiple perspectives for any given difficult situation or decision. Often times, in doing so, I am reminded of a completely different approach than I would have considered, had I been left solely to my own devices.
Other times, when I don’t have that luxury, I’ll grab my headphones and zone out to Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians for about an hour or so. Ha! But really, I try to allow myself a day or so before rushing into an important decision. I am often surprised by what getting one good night of sleep does for the brain to work things out (although my 17-month-old begs to differ).
What is one life advice you can give to anyone?
Take the time to listen to one another. In this day and age, we are more connected than ever, but also so much lonelier. So many people are longing for connection. And everyone has a story to tell.
My dad turned me into an extrovert. Growing up, there was little chance we would walk away from a restaurant without learning the waiter’s name and life story (this still happens). While I am the one who often just wants to eat in peace, I am grateful he taught myself and my siblings the importance of never knowing a stranger.
I often feel that if we took the time to know what each other are going through and could see a day in their shoes, maybe we’d change how we approach things once in a while.
Please finish this sentence: If you really knew me, you would know that ______.
I have a highly indexed love for good coffee. I will drive out of the way it. I recently started teaching myself the lap steel guitar. And lastly, my cat (“malfunctioning kitty”) was once on the front page of reddit.