Meet Dano from the Hectic team

Meet Dano, Hectic's head of product and co-founder. Learn about Dano's motivation behind Hectic, and his advice for aspiring freelancers.
Meet Dano from the Hectic team

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Who is Dano?

A common theme running through my life is that I’m a curious explorer and builder. If I go camping near a stream, I will build a little dam out of sticks and rocks just because I like to make things and I want to see how the dam changes the flow of the water (and I take it down once I’m done so I don’t disturb the stream long-term). With friends and family, I like to ask questions and work towards goals. At work, I like to make things and do research. After work, I relax by landscaping my yard and pushing myself through improv comedy and Muay Thai kickboxing.

A bit about your background?

I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. That led me to the Air Force Academy for college. Turns out, my eyes weren’t the right shape to be a pilot, so I became an intelligence officer, instead. While in the Air Force, I spent my nights and weekends building a wine recommendation app (since wine was a big hobby of mine at the time) and I learned that I love product design. I left the Air Force to make products and have since worked at design consultancies, large product companies, and startups. I like startups best because I get to be so hands-on with the strategy, product direction, and research.

Tell us about a career-high moment?

My favorite times at work are when I’m running a usability test for something I’ve designed and the participant just loves it. This has happened several times while building the Hectic app and people say, “Oh, I love this. This is so cool.” and ask, “When can I start using this?” The best compliment I’ve ever received was being completely ignored during a usability test because the participant dove into the prototype and started to just work. This was back when I was at a design agency that was hired to re-design a complex system for aircraft maintenance and logistics. The participants hated the old system and we sat them down to complete a few specific tasks on the prototype, but they ignored us and just started working in the system and beaming with happiness at how much better this system was.

Why are you involved with Hectic?

The team. I really like this team. This group is smart, motivated, fun to work with, and dedicated to understanding the life of our users. As a product and UX person, it’s incredibly important for me to work with people who value understanding the problem and not just rushing to market with the “next big thing.” We are willing to take the time to understand the lives of freelancers and work our way up to a strategy that we hope will change the future of work. We are grounded in reality, willing to change when we get feedback, and ultimately hoping to change what work and life look like for countless people. It’s rare to find a team with that mentality.

What’s your hope for freelancers just getting started?

I hope new freelancers can feel confident. I want you to have an abundance mentality and see the world as a place full of opportunities rather than a place full of bad news and disappointments. Making your way in the world is hard, and being a freelancer adds a layer of difficulty on top of that, but with the right attitude, community, tools, and skills, the world can be full of amazing opportunities to build the life you want to live. I hope we can help make that happen in your life.

What advice do you have for aspiring freelancers?

Say “yes” to as much as you can. You never know where a skill, new connection, or bit of work will lead. That’s also true of life outside of work. Say “yes” to new experiences at the gym, on the road, at a theater, and in nature. There’s a paradox at work here. By focusing your energy on things you care about beyond your work, you will open new opportunities and be more effective when you are at work, which allows you to experience even more things outside of work. So maybe it’s not a paradox, maybe it’s a virtuous cycle.

What do you do when you’re not doing Hectic?

I love to be active in a way that helps me enter a flow state. If my mind and body are fully engaged in something difficult, I’m happy. That’s why I think improv comedy, skiing, and kickboxing are so fun, and so similar. You have to be fully aware of your body, be aware of your partner on stage or in the ring, be aware of the environment on the slopes or in the theater, and give in fully to the moment to achieve a state of flow. I also play Overwatch and main Sombra or Ashe. Orisa, Brig, and Bap are fun, too.

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Dano Qualls
Dano Qualls
Dano is a designer and researcher at heart. Lucky for him, his drive to understand the world and make it better can be put to good use at a company like Hectic. Dano got his start creating digital products by founding two companies, then rolled that experience into working at design consultancies and large product companies. Outside of work, he enjoys Muay Thai kickboxing, performing improv comedy, backcountry camping, skiing, gardening, and the front porch swing.
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