Meet Ben Ihnchak
Time at Fuzzy Math: over 10 years (since the very beginning!)
Editor’s note: This interview was conducted a few weeks ago, right as Ben returned from paternity leave. “Please make it clear that I was very sleep deprived when I answered these questions,” he says.
What’s your favorite blog/instagram/YouTube account to keep up with?
I just had another baby, so I don’t have a whole lot of free time these days, but I’ve seen my fair share of Baby Shark on YouTube, if that counts? I really don’t know if there’s a single blog I read on a regular basis… but tons of news, and I keep my eye on whatever the gang posts in Slack for design stuff and whatever “the kids” are up to. I really like my wife’s Instagram since she posts a lot of good photos of my actual kids. That might be a lame answer, but most of my Instagram is following people I know personally.
What are you currently listening to?
I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a single podcast… just throwing that out there. I’ve also never listened to an audiobook! Normally I’m listening to jazz, I really like John Coltrane, classical music, basically anything without lyrics. And then Tool. That’s been my go-to band for the last month whenever I commute.
What’s the best thing about Fuzzy Math?
This is probably gonna be the same as what Mark said, but it’s the people. I actually enjoy being here, I really like the people we work with, and I think it’s super fun seeing the same faces over the years. Carl is a great example – his first day, he was a slightly nervous intern but ready to tackle whatever we threw at him, and nine years later he’s one of the most experienced in the office. Everybody here is (in a very friendly way) weird, goofy, super smart, and motivated. I’m surrounded by a really good group of people. I enjoy coming to work every day, and I think that’s pretty special.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
Well I have a newborn, so I’ve gotten pooped on a few times. I’m much more comfortable with that than I ever thought I would be, and hearing an 8-week old toot is pretty funny every time it happens… and she’s probably gonna be a little less fussy afterwards. Hopefully! But my wife and I have spent the past 8 weeks home together with a newborn, which means we’re totally sleep deprived. So we’re both doing things like putting milk in the cabinet and forgetting everything, like things I shouldn’t forget. If I didn’t find it funny, I would find it pretty depressing.
What inspires you?
Seeing my daughters interact with the world inspires me to be a better person and a better father. I want to make the world a better place that they can grow up in.
What are some lessons you’ve learned over the past 10 years with FM?
Man… what haven’t I learned? I tend to think people are really good at their core and I think I’ve learned that that’s pretty much true. We’ve had difficult situations, difficult clients, and difficult projects, and I’m not in control of everything, but the great majority of things have gone really well. People are nice and things tend to work out.
I think being kind pays and the last 10+ years here have shown me that’s pretty much true, too.
I think it’s cool to sit back and reflect and watch employees grow and all that good stuff. I’ve done a pretty bad job at finding time to stop and reflect for the last, oh, 38 years, but I’m very proud of what we’ve built here. Lots of special people have come (and gone) through this office, and I’ve learned something from each of them.
Another funny thing is that at one point I was a pretty talented designer. I mean that’s why we started the company, we were really good designers. But as Fuzzy Math grew, we designed less and less until we basically didn’t design anything anymore, which I find darkly funny. I really don’t think I knew what I was getting into 10 years ago!
How would you describe your day job to a child?
I help make things easier to use. If that works on a two year old, I’d be thrilled. I answer a lot of questions from my daughter every day and not sure how much she’s really grokking.
If we were to walk in on you in your apartment, unannounced, what would we most likely find you doing?
I would definitely have some spit up on me, or on some body part or piece of clothing. I’d also definitely be holding a child, most likely standing and bouncing with a newborn but maybe a toddler. I’d mentally be in my happy place, but physically not in my happy place. Um, that sounds rough… I love my family very much and am generally pretty happy! But yeah there would be a lot of toys on the floor and a toddler running around like only a toddler can..
Tell us about your family!
Kristi’s the best. She’s my wife. She’s an urban planner, which in some weird way is kind of like UX – you go and learn about a community, do some research about what’s working and what isn’t, do some design, create a master plan or update zoning codes, implement all that, and then you get to see the results. I think I got all that right. Bad news for her is that it takes 20-40 years to see results in urban planning. We’ve been dating or married for 20-something years, and she still makes me laugh every day. Usually with the same jokes!
Julia is 2½ and she’s my sweet pea. She’s hilarious, she has so much energy, and she picks up on way more than I want her to (laughing). I’ve never really been around kids for an extended period of time before, so watching her grow up has been something else! I love spending time with her and listening to her never ending monologue about everything she experiences.
Hanna is my sweet potato. She’s 8 weeks old*, so not really giving me a whole lot right now. Not the best sleeper, not the best eater, but I can’t wait to see her grow up and be a toddler and curious like Julia. I have this dream about going on a road trip with Kristi — we’re in front, kids in the back, and just listening to the ridiculous conversations that they have. It’s gonna be something else. I really look forward to that.
* At time of publication, Hanna is more than 8 weeks old. The rest is still accurate.
Thanks to Ben for giving us a peek into his life at (and away from!) Fuzzy Math.
That concludes our FM Spotlight series. Stay connected for more insights into Fuzzy Math by signing up for our newsletter, or following us on Twitter!