Karin Christen is an interaction designer from Switzerland and a partner in the Zurich based web agency required+. Karin was a speaker at WordCamp Europe 2014 in Sofia where she shared her interactive prototyping approach to projects.
Karin is one of the people who knows how to combine running a highly successful business back home with travelling the world and enjoying the outdoor activities she loves so much. We caught up with Karin a few weeks before her #WCEU talk to ask her a couple of questions about this and give you a chance to get to know her better before you meet her in Seville. Read on!
Hey Karin, could you introduce yourself?
I am a co-founder and the CEO of required gmbh (LLC) a UX and WordPress agency from Switzerland and Germany. When I’m not travelling the world, I spend my days living at the wonderful lake of Zurich and mountain-biking the Swiss Alps.
Tell us a few words about required+, how did you guys get started?
In 2009, my business partner Silvan and I had the chance to go to London to a front-end and design conference for our former employer. The conference and the people we met and talked to were very inspiring and we started brainstorming about the way we want to work in the future. At the time we both worked for the largest Swiss web agency within great teams and for some interesting clients.
Besides our day job we already had some side projects and small client gigs going on. Back in London we had long discussions with Dan Rubin (http://danrubin.is/), one of the speakers. He revealed his project “Sidebar Creative” too us, a collective of freelancers spread across the US working together on bigger projects. We knew we wanted something like this for ourselves, a company that allows you to take on interesting projects while maintaining a flexible lifestyle and schedule.
This is how required+ as an idea was born, we went on to form a network of individual freelancers and started to take on more and more work. By the end of 2012 we decided to partner up with the most active individuals within required+ and form an actual company. Before that everyone of us had an individual company and we teamed up on a project basis. Nowadays we work for medium sized and enterprise level companies throughout Switzerland. We never lost sight of our core belief that an individual lifestyle and workplace for each of us brings out the best in everyone and fosters creativity beyond a classic work environment.
Why did you decide on WordPress?
It’s all Silvan’s fault :D. When we met, I was using Joomla for all my personal and small client projects I did on the side of my day job. At the time Silvan was using WordPress and another open source solution to build his side projects. He quickly convinced me that WordPress is both a joy to use and build upon. The logical conclusion was to use WordPress as our go to technical solution for projects.
Besides work, what are the things that drive you?
I love outdoor sports as much as I love being creative on my laptop. To me there is no better way to recharge my batteries and get inspired than being active outside in the fresh air. I’m a passionate mountain biker, so when I’m in Switzerland you can find me riding my bike somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Riding my bike allows me to focus entirely on the trail ahead, something that helps me to recharge my batteries.
My second passion is surfing, even though I’m not living close to a surf spot or the ocean at all, I go surfing in the waves at least once a year. Surfing to me is the perfect sport, it’s so inspiring, I just love it. Not only riding the waves, but everything that surfing is giving me. The silence in the line-up while waiting for the next set of waves, the struggle paddling a wave that plays hard to catch. Just after a few waves I instantly feel more inspired and creative so I go back to the screen to create new things.
You are both distributed and have an office in Zurich, how do you manage client work and travelling?
To this date the best decision we made, was to create a remote company. This way we can travel around the world and still have access to the necessary info and tools. Most Swiss clients want to have a face to face meeting at first, so we now have access to an office desk and a meeting room in a shared office in Zurich to meet up with potential clients for example. Before we met clients on-site in their offices, which was very time-consuming. Having access to a calm office makes it easier to have calls with the team or clients too, compared to noisy cafes we sometimes work from.
We have set of basic rules in place that we follow when travelling, but I’ll cover them in detail during my talk.
There’s a very clear problem with freelancers and remote agencies where people tend to do much longer hours than they would do if they had to go into an office. How do you deal with the whole work/life balance problem?
I don’t distinguish between work and life, for me there is my chosen lifestyle. Life and work belong together and at required+ we try to manage work around our individual lifestyles, because we firmly believe this helps us to create better things for our clients.
What’s your wceu talk going to be about? What should people expect?
The nomadic lifestyle gained lot of traction in the past few years and is now a very trending choice for independent freelancers and people with a small product company. In my talk I will cover the challenges of having an entire team and clients back home while being on the road living the nomadic lifestyle.
Karin Christen’s talk How to Run a WordPress Business While Travelling the World is scheduled for 12:00 on June 27th. Don’t miss it!