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How I Got Hired in Product with Alex Gunter | Beyond the Program
5th December 2023 • The Pair Program • hatch I.T.
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How I Got Hired in Product with Alex Gunter

Ever wondered how to step into the world of Product Management? Curious about what it takes to succeed and move up the ladder?

Today’s guest host, Becca Moran, speaks with Alex Gunter about how he stepped into a new role as a Product Manager.

They discuss:

  • Why Alex chose to step into a Product Management career
  • Advice for professionals who are interested in exploring a product career
  • Tips on how to rock the interview process
  • How his role has evolved over time and how he stepped into leadership
  • And much more!

About today’s host: With 5+ years of experience leading startup product teams and almost 10 years in the DC tech scene, Becca offers a wealth of valuable insights. She is currently the Vice President, Product & Engagement at Procurated, where she leads the product, design, and engineering functions for the company.

About today’s guest: Alex Gunter (Staff Product Manager) manages the post-order product experience of customers, partners, and staff in the Xometry Marketplace. Alex joined Xometry in 2017 to manage the homegrown ERP, and has since launched products across the Supplier Job Board, Shop Finances, Supplies, Instant Quoting Engine, and Growth areas of the Xometry platform. In addition, Alex created and tends to Xompedia, the internal wiki knowledge base, does product demos, and runs monthly Investment Day hackathons. Prior to Xometry Alex worked in spot cable media, worked as a field organizer on the 2008 Obama for America presidential campaign, studied Economics and Public Policy at The University of Texas at Austin, and spent a summer studying Industrial Design at RISD.

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Transcripts

Tim Winkler:

Hey, listeners, Tim Winkler here, your host of The Pair Program.

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We've got exciting news introducing our

latest partner series Beyond The Program.

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In these special episodes, we're

passing the mic to some of our savvy

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former guests who are returning as

guest hosts, get ready for unfiltered

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conversations, exclusive insights,

and unexpected twist as our alumni

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pair up with their chosen guest.

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Each guest host is a trailblazing

expert in a unique technical field.

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Think data, product management,

and engineering, all with a keen

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focus on startups and career growth.

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Look out for these bonus episodes

dropping every other week,

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bridging the gaps between our

traditional pair program episodes.

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So buckle up and get ready to

venture beyond the program.

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Enjoy.

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Becca Moran: I'm Becca and

this is How I Got Hired.

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How I Got Hired is a series of interviews

where product managers share how they

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landed great product roles from PMs

who made a career pivot into tech

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to those with more formal training.

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How I Got Hired captures the various ways

to open doors into the world of product.

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We'll be talking about each guest's

recipe for success, what motivated

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them to get into product, how they

prepared for the interview, and what

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they did to set themselves apart.

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Today, my guest is Alex Gunter.

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Alex is the staff product manager at

Xometry, which is an online marketplace

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for custom manufactured parts.

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I hired Alex at Xometry back

in:

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forward to sharing that story today.

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So Alex, welcome to the show.

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Alex Gunter: Thank you very much, Becca,

for thinking of me and inviting me on.

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Of course.

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Becca Moran: Um, well, before we

get into the story of how you got

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hired at Xometry, uh, wanted to

do a little bit of an icebreaker.

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So are you ready for a

little two truths and a lie?

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I sure am.

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Okay.

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Um, I can go first.

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So mine are all, they're like

three things, uh, that I may or may

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not have done during quarantine.

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Um, okay, so during quarantine,

I did the following.

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I became obsessed with

baking bread, number two.

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I learned to play the banjo, number three.

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I attempted to fix a 40

year old sailboat engine.

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Alex Gunter: What do you think?

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Hmm.

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I'm going to go with

learning to play the banjo.

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You think that's the lie?

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Becca Moran: That's the lie.

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Wrong.

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I know.

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Shock.

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I'm sure, uh, you know.

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It seems surprising as a, a

instrument of choice, but I did in

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fact, uh, learn to play the banjo.

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I can, I can play one song pretty well.

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Uh, I did, I watched a, a YouTube kind

of series called the 30 days of banjo

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that taught me to play this song.

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And, um.

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Yeah.

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Been, been picking a tune ever since.

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Alex Gunter: Becca, did you start

having a banjo and deciding,

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let me find a way to play it?

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Or did you have the idea and then

you went out and got the banjo?

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Becca Moran: No, there was, um,

it had always kind of been a

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little like idea in the back.

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I've just always loved the banjo.

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I think it's like a really interesting

instrument and has a cool sound and, um,

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but I don't know anything about music.

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Like I don't.

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Read music.

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Like I never played an instrument.

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Um, but a banjo came up for

sale on, um, the neighborhood

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listserv where I used to live.

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And I was just like, I have to have it.

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Like, this is a sign.

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It's a really nice banjo.

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And, um, the guy that sold it to

me, I guess it was like his father's

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and he had like, he played guitar,

but he had never learned to play it.

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And Um, I, uh, lied when I got the banjo

and said that I knew how to play because

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I was kind of concerned that like if He

knew that I didn't know how to play it.

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He like, might not want to sell

it to me, thinking that I might

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never learn how to play it.

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Um, which added like a pressure.

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Um,

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Alex Gunter: I

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Becca Moran: can't just

have this banjo sit there.

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Like I, I owe it to this

guy to actually play it.

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So, um, no, it's been a lot of

fun and it's a good reminder

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that you can learn anything,

especially these days on YouTube.

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So

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Alex Gunter: that is true.

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All right.

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So for my two truths and a lie, I'll

start with when I was in high school,

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I wrote a letter to the Mac addict

magazine, protesting Apple moving away

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from the striped multicolored logo

during that think different ad campaign.

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And the letter was published

in the, you know, hard.

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Paper, uh, magazine.

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The second one would be that since

Guns N Roses got back together, I

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have seen them in concert three times.

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And the third one will be that by

the time I graduated high school, I.

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Had been to or lived in

seven different countries.

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Oh,

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Becca Moran: that's tough

because I feel like all of those

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things seem very plausible for

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Alex Gunter: you.

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Since you know me, I thought

I'd go with the most plausible.

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Oh my

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Becca Moran: gosh.

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Um, I don't know the first one.

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There's so much detail to that.

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That was.

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Um, and I feel like you

did move around a lot.

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Wait, what was the middle one?

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Alex Gunter: Seeing Guns N Roses in

concert three times since they got

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back together just, uh, recently.

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Becca Moran: Gosh.

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I'm gonna say maybe that one's a lie?

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Nope.

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Alex Gunter: It's actually the

third one and I threw you off

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because it was only five countries.

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Oh, okay.

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Becca Moran: I was gonna say, I'm

like, I'm pretty sure you lived in

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a bunch of places, but, um, wow.

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So does Guns N Roses, have they aged well?

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Alex Gunter: You know, they have the

same set of songs and there might be,

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I don't know, 20 years of not being

on tour that they were making up for.

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So I just figured, let me go once with.

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My wife, once with my brother, once

with my brother in law and my wife.

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And the setlist was pretty

much the same for all three.

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So I think I got, you know, uh, seeing

them live, but it was fun to go.

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And that's,

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Becca Moran: that's amazing.

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Yeah, I feel like with some of these

older bands that do that, whether

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it's a reunion tour or whatever,

I've, I've heard mixed reviews.

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Like my parents saw, um, meatloaf, um,

before he passed, I think he's dead now.

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Um, rest in peace meatloaf.

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But, um, they said he was just terrible,

really not holding it together.

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But then you've got people like, Paul

McCartney, who's just still crushing it.

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So, um, you never know

what you're going to

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Alex Gunter: get.

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And after the pandemic, I think there's a

pent up demand to see live entertainment.

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So whether it's Rolling Stones still

touring or all the other bands that have

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to put it off, lots of, lots of concerts

to see if, uh, if you're up for it.

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Becca Moran: Yeah, that's right.

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Well, awesome.

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Um, so let's talk a little bit

about your, uh, your story of

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how you got hired at Xometry.

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So, um, I think the best place to start

here is just kind of understanding,

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like, where were you right before?

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Like, what, what was the role

that you were in pre xometry?

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What were you doing there?

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Um, and then, Maybe talking a little

bit about like where this, this interest

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in products, like what kind of sparked

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Alex Gunter: that?

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So I think it's about six years ago that

I had been working in a media company.

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It was spot cable.

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So cable advertising, but at the local

level in the sales operations role.

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So interviewing, hiring, and managing some

of the support staff for the sales team

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here in the Maryland area, the Bethesda

office headquartered up in New York.

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And that.

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It was different than what I

studied, economics and public

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policy, minor in business.

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The angle that drew me to that role

in that company was being in DC,

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interest in campaigns and politics.

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And it happened to be the office that

dealt with most of the political spending.

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So both sides of the aisle, uh,

not just presidential, you have

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elections going on all the time.

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Off years as well as issue advertising

and so the proximity to that, of course,

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often in political Washington Post,

you might have blurbs written about

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ad spend budgets, sending a signal.

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If someone's kind of shifting into a state

or pulling budget back, it's a hint of.

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Where, uh, where a campaign is headed.

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So being able to see that literally as

the buys would come in, you know, trying

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to get on the air for the next day for

about a week at a time had me in a two

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year cycles of staffing up many temps

and using different temp agencies to get.

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Um, probably double in size, a

number of people in the office,

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and it's a lot of data entry.

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It's a lot of managing changes

that are at the last minute, right?

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Usually a 1 p.

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m.

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or a 2 p.

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m.

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cutoff.

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If the advertiser, the campaign,

or the issue group wanted to make

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changes for the next day, right?

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There's a cutoff there.

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So, uh, lunches were later in the

afternoon during the busy season,

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trying to get those last changes,

uh, sent over to Comcast and

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the other, uh, cable operators.

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So, that was Seven or eight years

working at that company and watching it

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grow as the spot cable business group.

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Becca Moran: And so how do you go

from something like that to Xometry?

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Alex Gunter: Looking for product

management and actually having a chance,

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I think for a few years to work closely

with the developers at it was national

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cable communication, uh, NCC media.

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And so there was a kind of homegrown

proposal management system.

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Working with the developers to

improve it, get more data, more

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accurately entered when some of

these media buys would come in.

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So I had a chance to work as they

were switching over from Waterfall

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to Agile, learning it together.

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And because I was so close to the staff

that were the end users of these systems.

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Writing up the bug reports, the

feature requests, sitting with a

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salesperson and saying, okay, here's

some, um, you know, useful information

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for the, the development team.

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However, there was an offer that

I got and it was in Chicago.

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And so with my wife working

downtown, I had to decline that.

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And I started looking within the DC area

and because it's a big area, Virginia,

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DC proper and, um, and Maryland.

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Occurred to me, why don't I

just start in Bethesda, right?

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You know, what are some of

the other employers that are

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literally the same commute?

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And that's when, for the first

time, I think I saw Xometry

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and some of the postings, um,

:

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So this,

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Becca Moran: the position that you

were offered in Chicago, was it like

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a product position within NCC Media?

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Or was it, what was that role?

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Alex Gunter: That's right.

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And the reason for the location was

that despite having a small sales

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staff, Managing the political business

in Bethesda and DC, the office in

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Chicago is where most of the developers

and the tech team, uh, resided.

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So they wanted, I think, to have a

product manager presence there and it

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wasn't the first PM role at the company.

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I think there was a few, um, already, but

that constraint led me to say, I really

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appreciated getting a chance to do.

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Product management, in addition to

hiring, you know, hundreds of, uh,

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data entry, you know, coordinators.

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And I decided to look within the

DC area because it validated.

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I like it.

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I would like to do it.

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Becca Moran: And did you know when you

first started to do that kind of work and,

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and when you were working with some of

the engineers, like, did you know that was

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product work or like, yeah, or was it just

like, yeah, I'm just doing these things.

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And then the pieces

started to come together

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Alex Gunter: at that point.

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I hadn't taken that

general assembly class.

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It would come, uh, you know,

from the beginning of:

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So whether it was product owner or product

manager, I just saw the need for the

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interpretation layer right between the

end users and the developers trying to

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be heads down for some amount of time.

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So when they started doing sprints

and users were employees, right?

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Uh, a direct message away

from saying and this too.

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So they, I think, gave me

the chance to learn what that

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product manager role could be.

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Yep.

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And sit in the room with the product

manager and the head of sales who, um,

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you know, we're in charge of creating a

new platform, um, for this kind of media

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proposal management that was going on.

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Becca Moran: Yeah.

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So you mentioned this general

assembly, um, product class that you

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did, what prompted you to take that

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Alex Gunter: class?

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So that's a, that's a fun story

because I had my heart set on

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product management and product.

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Yeah.

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When the constraint was yes, but

Chicago and so I declined that

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my manager at the time suggested

You should take a class, right?

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That is paid for by N.

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C.

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C.

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Media because you just told

everyone this is my last year

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not being a product manager.

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And so one way to let everyone know

that you're still invested in N.

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C.

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C.

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Media would be to take this class.

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I think you get reimbursed as

long as you stay at the company.

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You know, some amount of time later.

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So I looked around and it was

an in person two nights a week,

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I think two hours each night.

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So long days, and it was in the

spring, but it's always busy

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when it's political advertising.

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And so that advice led

me to take the class.

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Not knowing how soon after that I

would actually be able to move into

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product management somewhere else.

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In other words, paid

for that class myself.

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Not getting reimbursed for it, right?

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It was worth it and all of it was

great, but it was a way to show,

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Alright, you know, continuing

education paid for by NCC Media.

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And it was in product management.

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Becca Moran: Yeah, it's super

interesting because I think, you know,

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it like what you've described, right?

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Where you have this opportunity

to move into a product role

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within the organization.

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Um, that's certainly something

that, you know, I've.

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Seen and kind of experienced on my own.

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Um, but it can be hard

to make that transition.

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Like you start looking for a product

job, but you don't actually have

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like official product experience.

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Like, of course you can take what

you were doing and you can frame

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that and talk about how, even though

your title may not have been product

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manager, like it was product work,

um, but it can be hard, right.

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So you're going to make that transition

and convince a new organization.

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Um, to take a bit of a chance on you.

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And so, um, I do think the, um, you

know, taking a course is a really

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good way to just like, bolster that

experience a little bit and have something

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that you can point to and say, like.

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Okay, I know.

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I know the fundamentals for sure.

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Um,

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Alex Gunter: and that's one of

the other benefits for me was

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that and there was a lot, right?

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Like two features, but I was contributing

to this bigger product called optics.

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If you are doing some level of

design or product work at a company,

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that's not exactly what you put

into your portfolio or your resume.

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Whereas when you take a class,

whether it's a pitch deck or

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a brief or something, right?

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Yeah.

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That is absolutely a

good, uh, artifact, right?

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To include in any, you know,

future career applications

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or, or just general portfolio.

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So it made it a lot easier having,

uh, materials from that class to

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just put them on my LinkedIn, right?

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Becca Moran: Yeah, I remember seeing that.

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So, um, so you had reached out to me.

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So you had identified Xometry as a, a

company that you were interested in.

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And, um, if you want to share the story of

kind of your, your process from there and,

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and kind of how you found me and, and what

your thinking was in, in that outreach.

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Alex Gunter: Sure.

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So during the class, what I was encouraged

by is it became a bit of a support group.

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Uh, people that were mid career, right?

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Switching from one industry, you know,

and trying to get into product management.

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So during the class and then after,

I think it was 6 to 8 weeks, I kept

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in touch with some of the other

students encouraging each other

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and one of the either advice that I

heard and I know there were different

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events that I would go to, uh, was

using that general assembly network.

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Right.

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It's a commonality.

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You send a message to someone and if

you've gone to the same university,

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it is slightly better chance.

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They say, Oh, it's been a while since

I helped someone from my alma mater.

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Well, with general assembly being,

uh, more recent and teaching topics

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that I think you still can't get a

product management undergrad degree,

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maybe masters, maybe some ongoing.

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But I started looking at who in

the area has taken a GA class and.

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There were many across the world,

so I'd connect with them and, you

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know, kind of follow them as they

did land PM roles and whatnot.

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But at some point, combining Xometry

with, you know, product management,

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um, you came up in LinkedIn.

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And I think your title at

the time was product manager.

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I think I reached out

before or during the class.

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I'm taking a G8 class

would love to connect.

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And then Once the class had ended, right?

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And I think at that point,

I had like uploaded, um, you

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know, the pitch deck, right?

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Uh, an idea called in PDA, which

was kind of a wiki for employees

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and questions and answers.

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And I think it was that subsequent message

that you replied to, you know, you want

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to have coffee, whereas the initial one

was, Hey, I'm going to be taking this

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class, you know, maybe not asking a

specific, uh, ask a few, but that's how

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we, I think that led to that meeting at

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Becca Moran: Starbucks.

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Yeah, and I had taken, um, a, uh,

front end web development class

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through General Assembly and, um, I

had done that similar kind of thing.

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I was at Politico at the time.

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I had just moved on to our tech team.

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Um, I was so lost and so confused and, um,

I was like, you know, I just, I feel like

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I need a little bit, something to like

help me And, Make more sense of, like,

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what these engineers are talking about.

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And, um, and I had talked to, um,

a friend at Politico who had taken

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the, um, it was also kind of like

transitioning into a tech role, um, and

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had taken this class and was like, it's

great, great kind of foundation, like.

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Um, and you know, my goal all along,

like I, I wasn't taking it thinking

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like, oh, I'm going to become a software

engineer, but I just, I wanted to know

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enough to not be so clueless all the time.

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So, um, that was a really great class.

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Um, and yeah, so that was kind

of our, our point of connection.

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Alex Gunter: And what's interesting,

you mentioned being, uh, you know,

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already in an environment where you

were working with the developers.

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Yeah.

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:

Yeah.

370

:

Yeah.

371

:

Going into GA, I was torn between

the product management course

372

:

and the front end design course.

373

:

I really like design.

374

:

I did it in high school and, you

know, throughout college, but there

375

:

was a advice my dad gave that led me

to choose product management, right?

376

:

Do you want to be doing the design work

or do you want to be kind of leading?

377

:

And the experience at NCC

Media kind of hiring and.

378

:

Helping people become account

executives, the people

379

:

management aspect I liked, right?

380

:

You get a good rapport with someone,

you watch them grow, maybe you

381

:

have a little bit to do with that.

382

:

And so product management was the

role where you're not managing the

383

:

people, but you have to influence them.

384

:

And so I think I was leaning 60, 40

towards the product management, but

385

:

really like, let me just do the design.

386

:

And so it was one of those where I may

have ended up taking the same class, um,

387

:

if I thought about it too much longer.

388

:

Becca Moran: Yeah, yeah,

that's super interesting.

389

:

And so we got coffee.

390

:

Um, this people Starbucks a visit.

391

:

Um, and I guess at that

time we were not hiring.

392

:

Is that right?

393

:

Right when we met.

394

:

Yeah, we didn't have an open role.

395

:

Um, and, you know, I, it wasn't

really something that I had done and

396

:

I may have even been transitioning

myself from the role of product

397

:

manager into the director role.

398

:

I can't remember the timing on that, but.

399

:

It kind of like we didn't have

any openings and I feel like maybe

400

:

initially I didn't even really

have the authority to hire you.

401

:

But, um, it just kind of, I don't

know that I thought your outreach

402

:

was compelling and I thought, um,

it was a cool connection and, um,

403

:

just kind of thought, well, why not?

404

:

It doesn't hurt to have a conversation.

405

:

And, you know, I don't even really

remember what we talked about, but I,

406

:

I remember walking away feeling like.

407

:

We had a lot of kind of shared

experiences, um, coming from media and a

408

:

little bit of like the political space.

409

:

Um, transitioning and into tech

through kind of like, uh, like an

410

:

operational type of role and yeah.

411

:

And then kind of the, the

general assembly connection.

412

:

And, um, I also just remember being

very impressed by how much you

413

:

knew at that point about Xometry.

414

:

Like, I was like, wow, like,

he's done his homework.

415

:

Like he understands this

business, which, you know, it's.

416

:

Especially because, like, you

didn't have a background in, uh,

417

:

you know, manufacturing, right?

418

:

Uh, clearly, you had put effort into

seeking to understand what it was that we

419

:

did and how that worked, and, um, I just

remember being super impressed by that.

420

:

That's

421

:

Alex Gunter: awesome.

422

:

Uh, yeah, I had been watching it for

a while, and I think that Starbucks

423

:

was a block from each office.

424

:

So it could not be more convenient.

425

:

I went right back to, I don't know,

people, you know, political ads coming

426

:

in at the last minute, but getting

your take on, on Xometry X pronounced

427

:

like a Z was helpful because some of

my classmates in GA, one of them was at

428

:

Uber and others were at like the tech

companies where, because of the promise of

429

:

going public at some point or some exit.

430

:

The compensation wasn't there or the

hours were insane and they were looking

431

:

to get out right of the company.

432

:

And so I wanted to just check, all

right, what is this startup pace?

433

:

Cause where I am, it's a media company,

but the office definitely operates

434

:

like a startup with a foozle table, the

number of the full timers after election

435

:

season, you know, keep in touch, right?

436

:

Like the contract and

six or nine months later.

437

:

So I had been used to that pace.

438

:

But I had never worked at a startup.

439

:

So getting your take on it.

440

:

When there wasn't an opening, when it

wasn't like an informational, uh, you

441

:

know, for an existing job posting,

I think took the pressure off a

442

:

little bit, you know, let you know,

Hey, I've read this and I understand

443

:

this about the company, what is it

like, and you said, actually, it's.

444

:

Um, all of the, all of the things I

had seen and that you had a positive

445

:

impression is what you gave me.

446

:

Not stay away.

447

:

It wasn't like that at all.

448

:

Yeah.

449

:

Yeah.

450

:

I would have been like, Ooh,

another Uber or something.

451

:

Yeah.

452

:

Becca Moran: Yeah.

453

:

That's awesome.

454

:

And then I remember, so, um, it can't

have really been that long after

455

:

that, that we did have a role open up.

456

:

Um, And maybe that was something

I had in the back of my mind

457

:

initially, even though there wasn't

an immediately available opportunity.

458

:

Maybe there was a sense that

something was on the horizon.

459

:

Um, and.

460

:

Um, so I'm trying to remember, um, kind

of what the interview process was for you.

461

:

I'll tell you the, the one thing that

I do remember is that you had used

462

:

our site and you had ordered a part,

I want to say it was like a back

463

:

Alex Gunter: scratcher, 3d,

which is not the right process.

464

:

You know, you want like a metal rod, not

465

:

Becca Moran: a critical of it now

466

:

Alex Gunter: for manufacturing

metal or something.

467

:

Instead.

468

:

Yeah.

469

:

The fun thing is I noticed after

we had the coffee, uh, a news

470

:

article about another funding round.

471

:

So excuse to message Becca, hey,

great, uh, meeting you and congrats

472

:

on the funding round B or C.

473

:

I forget who was the lead on that, but I

think it was shortly after that, that you

474

:

reached out and fully employed, right?

475

:

Not from a place of desperation,

like, Oh, I need a job.

476

:

It's still required a little bit

of restraint not to reply right

477

:

away because of course interested

in Xometry and having met already.

478

:

So wait a bit.

479

:

Yes, sure.

480

:

Uh, let's talk, you know, play it cool.

481

:

That would probably have been the

summer of:

482

:

Yep.

483

:

And I remember an email maybe or

two with, um, kind of the recruiter

484

:

at, at Xometry, the HR recruiter,

you know, wearing all the hats right

485

:

back then, smaller HR department.

486

:

And I think it was to schedule the in

person where I came into the office and

487

:

met you and met Scott, CTO, and at the

end, a little bit of time with Randy,

488

:

the co founder, who I think I would

have met one more person, the other

489

:

product manager, but he was, he was out.

490

:

So I had a phone call with Hunter,

um, a couple of weeks after that.

491

:

And I think that was the

end of my interviews.

492

:

Um, for that, that opening, do

493

:

Becca Moran: you remember being

nervous about that in person interview?

494

:

Alex Gunter: Of course.

495

:

It's probably not related at all, but

I got lucky on the timing of, have you

496

:

ever met someone that gets a pink eye?

497

:

Have you ever seen someone get

both eyes at the same time?

498

:

So whatever preparation going

into it, I felt good, right?

499

:

We had already met and some

of the questions I prepared.

500

:

I think like the next.

501

:

I would have been scary to sit across the

table from where I would have declined it.

502

:

Like, Hey, can we wait two weeks

is, um, conjunctivitis happens

503

:

Becca Moran: wearing like

ski goggles or something.

504

:

It's

505

:

Alex Gunter: cool.

506

:

Dark glasses, like sensitive to light.

507

:

Um, but it was actually, I

think I took the day off.

508

:

It would have been during the

week and my commute didn't change.

509

:

Right.

510

:

Probably park in the same garage and

walk, walk this way instead of that way.

511

:

So.

512

:

I do remember waiting a little while

and then when meeting Randy, there

513

:

was a funny story that after during, I

think the first holiday party, uh, he.

514

:

Remembered me as being a Republican

because I had worked at a Republican

515

:

media agency because he ran for office

in Long Island at the Republican.

516

:

And so what I'd said was, Hey, it is

Comcast owned company where I work.

517

:

We saw your cable media buys for

Long Island and, you know, process

518

:

them, make sure they ran correctly.

519

:

And so it's funny because at this holiday

party, I think that December, um, my

520

:

wife, you know, introducing her both

to Randy and his co founder Lawrence.

521

:

And.

522

:

Randy tells Lawrence, Oh, uh, your

husband, Alex, like one of the few

523

:

other Republicans and my wife is like,

what, you worked on the Obama campaign.

524

:

I remember I told you the cable

company, both sides of the aisle.

525

:

And I think that you just

heard his campaign and he

526

:

was running as a Republican.

527

:

It's funny because the Obama is part

of my resume, part of my, my story.

528

:

So.

529

:

It wasn't hidden at any point,

but it was funny masquerading as

530

:

a strategy that we, um, and so

it was just kind of neat, right?

531

:

All sure.

532

:

Yes.

533

:

I had seen your name before

as a politician, right?

534

:

Yeah.

535

:

In between being, you know, I think his

first and second company, then politics.

536

:

And then third company.

537

:

So it

538

:

Becca Moran: was a funny story.

539

:

Yeah.

540

:

Um, that's really interesting.

541

:

Um, so yeah, I think the, there's

so many reasons that like the story

542

:

of you getting hired some Edometry

really like stands out to me.

543

:

I just, I think the, your, just

like your, your strategy, right.

544

:

And playing a little bit of the

long game and starting with that.

545

:

Kind of informational conversation,

leveraging your network.

546

:

Um, and then, like I said, I think to

me, you just showed such incredible

547

:

initiative and doing your homework,

learning about the product using it.

548

:

Like, truly, I was so blown

away that you ordered a part.

549

:

I was like.

550

:

I could tell you that I wouldn't

have figured out how to do this.

551

:

Uh, when I was interviewing, um,

because it's something that, like,

552

:

I don't know, it doesn't I always

thought it didn't make a ton of sense.

553

:

If you didn't.

554

:

If you weren't someone working in a

engineering type role, where you were

555

:

designing parts, um, you know, I was

like, Oh, I don't, I don't have a CAD

556

:

file, so I guess I can't use a site.

557

:

Right.

558

:

And you had figured that out.

559

:

And, um, it was just, it was super cool.

560

:

And, um, I just remember thinking that

like, you had so much of the right,

561

:

just like product instincts, right.

562

:

Even, even if you hadn't been in.

563

:

You know, a super formal product role,

or, you know, you didn't have a ton

564

:

of product experience on your resume.

565

:

I think you did a really

great job of translating what

566

:

really was product experience.

567

:

And just, like, showing a lot of

those, like, kind of innate ways that

568

:

you thought, like, a product person.

569

:

Um, so I think to me, that's, that's

what makes your story so cool.

570

:

And I think it really is a great lesson

for anyone, uh, whether you want to

571

:

go into a product role, honestly,

or, or any other kind of role.

572

:

I think that's, that's kind of some

of the, the best practices of how to.

573

:

Yeah.

574

:

Navigate the process of of interviewing

and identifying a role that you're

575

:

interested in and and going for it.

576

:

So,

577

:

Alex Gunter: well, it's so cool to

hear that the other side of right.

578

:

My interview or my.

579

:

Me as a candidate and what things

I did, for example, placing an

580

:

order was the most obvious thing.

581

:

I was like, what website will let

me join a sphere with a rectangle

582

:

and export it and like, just, you

know, it's 30 bucks or something.

583

:

It wasn't expensive at all to order that

3d printed part, but I made sure to take

584

:

a couple of screenshots and get some notes

on the interface, the product after all.

585

:

It's the ability to order a part.

586

:

So, uh, that was fun and I've done it

since for anyone else that's looking

587

:

to get into product, you either

don't hear back and so you're unable

588

:

to learn right during the interview

prep, like what you could do better

589

:

or you do and you get the job and you

don't want to spend even a minute.

590

:

Of your first month or year

saying, so what did I do?

591

:

Well, you're just in, like,

let's start getting to work.

592

:

It wasn't something that I even

thought, like, let me spend an hour

593

:

of, you know, Becca's time, like really

finding out what I did well, because.

594

:

Well, there wasn't an hour, right?

595

:

It was just

596

:

Becca Moran: so bad.

597

:

There isn't really like an opportunity

for that kind of feedback loop, Billy.

598

:

So, um, yeah, well, and then,

you know, your, I think the story

599

:

of success does not end there.

600

:

Obviously you've had, um, a

great, you've been at Zomtree for

601

:

six years now, um, next month.

602

:

It's huge.

603

:

Um, and you've moved up

during your time there.

604

:

So I would love if you could just kind of

share a little bit of like how your role

605

:

has evolved since that initial position.

606

:

And, and, um, also maybe, uh, so your

title now is staff product manager.

607

:

If you could talk a little bit

about like what that means, that

608

:

would also be helpful to hear.

609

:

Sure.

610

:

Alex Gunter: So in those six

years, and not just because it's a

611

:

startup, All companies have growth

and turnover and trying things

612

:

and placing bets that don't work.

613

:

And so you're kind of

moving resources around.

614

:

But one thing that I have known about

being a product manager is the individual

615

:

contributor, of course, is different

than being a manager of product managers.

616

:

So relishing, give me a team and I'm,

you know, whatever pair UX researchers,

617

:

You need me to work with, uh, I tried

to be flexible, but as a result of the

618

:

company growing and also, you know,

acquisitions by a company in Kentucky.

619

:

And so that's a team of

developers and product managers.

620

:

Things shift around a little

bit by being both flexible and

621

:

enjoying being a product manager.

622

:

I think the, it's not just

the amount of software, right.

623

:

From one year P to also job board.

624

:

Cause I think when I switched

from our internal ERP.

625

:

So the partner facing portal,

it was to focus on that.

626

:

So over time, the experience working with

probably teams that were given newer, all

627

:

right, there's a brand new, you know, the

payments, for example, what's now shop

628

:

finances was this idea that we had to move

away from the way we did invoicing with

629

:

our manufacturers, partners, or suppliers.

630

:

And so by having experience with both the

internal software, the ERP having been,

631

:

uh, The PM for this kind of partner facing

portal and job board naturally, you know,

632

:

paying partners is almost in between.

633

:

I was able to go from PM, senior PM, and

then continuing, you know, to look for

634

:

more responsibility, staff PM, like is I

think more common on the engineering side

635

:

is still an individual contributor role.

636

:

I think the next one up is maybe

principal product manager and

637

:

the number of projects at once.

638

:

I don't think it's the determinant, right?

639

:

Individual contributor, but

four big products at once.

640

:

It's more the ability to run, for example,

a cross functional cross department.

641

:

It helped if you had context on, you

know, our finances, but we really need,

642

:

you know, some new systems being built.

643

:

So I'm able to continue as a PM.

644

:

It's individual contributor,

more senior, which is great,

645

:

but doing what I love, right?

646

:

Spending with Most of my time in those

conversations, stand ups, discovery, um,

647

:

and not a lot as I did in my previous life

interviewing one on ones and management.

648

:

So I almost have empathy for the

people managers, both my boss and the

649

:

engineering and the design managers.

650

:

And I get to say, okay, when you go

heads down, we're going to try to

651

:

distill and prioritize some trade offs

and design questions, hop on a call with

652

:

a, you know, a customer or an end user.

653

:

On maybe some bigger visibility

projects to the company.

654

:

Becca Moran: I love that and I think,

you know, sometimes in organizations,

655

:

um, people can kind of fall into

this trap of like, the only way

656

:

to move up is to manage people.

657

:

And I think.

658

:

Uh, the creation of these kinds of,

like, staff and principal positions

659

:

that allow you to move up and

take on more responsibility, be in

660

:

positions where you can be maybe more

strategic, whatever, um, but not.

661

:

Necessarily have that tied to managing

people because I think it takes a level

662

:

of self awareness to for a lot of folks

to say, like, you know, that's actually,

663

:

it's not really what I want to do.

664

:

Right.

665

:

Cause I, I've seen people who I can tell,

like only want to be managers because

666

:

they see that as a way to move up.

667

:

And I'm like, I don't think you

actually want to manage people.

668

:

It doesn't, I don't, I

don't think you'd like it.

669

:

And I don't know if you'd be good at it.

670

:

So, um, You know, I've definitely seen

those people and, and to give folks

671

:

like that an option to say, great, you

don't have to pretend to be someone

672

:

you're not to, to move up is huge.

673

:

And I think that's where, like, you know,

I think you have a great level of self

674

:

awareness and, and you kind of understood.

675

:

This kind of unique intersection that

you had within the organization that

676

:

was really your area of expertise

and it sounds like you had some

677

:

cool, like, ways to really leverage

that within the organization.

678

:

And I think that's another part of

it, too, is kind of, like, figuring

679

:

out within the company, like,

what's your brand and how do you

680

:

promote that brand in a way that.

681

:

I'm going to leave an impression so

that when someone is thinking about

682

:

really important project, um, that.

683

:

Your name is somebody

that comes to mind, right?

684

:

It's like, oh, you know, who

would be great at this Alex.

685

:

Right?

686

:

So I think that that's a lot of the.

687

:

As I'm hearing, you kind of recite it

back and thinking a little bit about it.

688

:

I feel like those are some of the

things that really stand out to me.

689

:

Alex Gunter: Yeah, absolutely.

690

:

And the flexibility.

691

:

Means that at different times there

has been turnover when, um, people

692

:

either move to a different department

or more often left to start their

693

:

own company right at a startup.

694

:

Uh, if you have that, uh, itch, it's

good because you now have a network

695

:

of other people that have tried to

start up and you can lean on them.

696

:

So going from maybe one or two

squads to for a short while, three.

697

:

And it does some interesting things

when you're with your time when,

698

:

okay, I'll join the first two minutes.

699

:

Here's an update for the standup,

but giving those teams more

700

:

autonomy because you have to write

you get conflicting standups.

701

:

And so only the squad that

really has some blockers.

702

:

Is the one that you lend your,

your time to convey, right?

703

:

That prioritization now being stretched,

you know, it's also very good to just

704

:

have one, you know, very important

thing and focus on that quarterly

705

:

roadmap for that ongoing project.

706

:

But it has given me the chance to

work with many, if not almost all

707

:

of the combination of designers

and, uh, and dev leads, right?

708

:

Tech managers.

709

:

And it's funny how sometimes

you just don't know.

710

:

Who are you going to

work with again, right?

711

:

In a six year time span.

712

:

Oh yeah.

713

:

A couple of the devs that you

had assigned me to, right.

714

:

That I worked with and then

three years later, and it's like,

715

:

it's only one day passed, right?

716

:

They've been working on another side of

the platform or other side of the company.

717

:

And so it's fun, right?

718

:

You kind of have it mixed up like that,

where sometimes it just happens because

719

:

of need and other times there's a.

720

:

Opportunity.

721

:

Hey, which projects will

get more interesting to you?

722

:

I'm kind of trying to place PMS

with some of these open projects.

723

:

Yeah,

724

:

Becca Moran: yeah, and I think that's

1 of the big things about working

725

:

for a startup in general is just

like being flexible and being agile.

726

:

Um, in terms of, yeah, the, the

types of things that you work on is

727

:

huge because the, the needs of the

business can just change so quickly.

728

:

And I think, um, the times that

I've hired or worked with people

729

:

that have come from a Bigger, more

established corporate environment.

730

:

I think that's the 1 thing that

really catches people off guard.

731

:

They're like, I feel like there isn't

a plan or we don't know what we're

732

:

doing or just things change so much.

733

:

And it's like, yes, start off life, baby.

734

:

That's how it

735

:

Alex Gunter: goes.

736

:

Where's the 5 year plan?

737

:

You're like, we're

hoping there's a 5 month.

738

:

Exactly.

739

:

With some stability,

740

:

Becca Moran: right?

741

:

Right.

742

:

Don't ask me anything beyond

like two sprints from now.

743

:

I don't know.

744

:

It's just an infinite abyss.

745

:

Alex Gunter: Yes.

746

:

Becca Moran: Um, well, this is awesome.

747

:

I've enjoyed reflecting on

this, uh, this story with you.

748

:

Is there anything else you want to share?

749

:

Um, just kind of looking back, um,

advice maybe to others who are,

750

:

um, Either looking to transition

into product roles or, uh, maybe

751

:

preparing for a product interview.

752

:

Um, anything that you would share that

you think has been, um, particularly

753

:

effective in your experience.

754

:

Alex Gunter: Yes, so, while I've been at

Xometry, I've been able to use this story

755

:

specifically to say, connect, right, you

know, reach out, especially if there's

756

:

not an opening, because then you Glassdoor

with someone who works there right now.

757

:

Yeah.

758

:

And, and if they're not on.

759

:

People manager, if they're not

the hiring manager, there's less

760

:

pressure, there's more of a chance

that they say, okay, I remember when

761

:

I was trying to get the product.

762

:

I think very few people

started in product.

763

:

They started doing something

and then got closer to this

764

:

thing called product management.

765

:

So I think that's one way.

766

:

Now, if you know, and you're,

you're applying for openings, as you

767

:

definitely know, the continuing to me.

768

:

Be in the meetings and, um, build

that experience in your current role.

769

:

You can do it in pretty

much any role, right?

770

:

If you're in customer support, if

you're in tech design, like just

771

:

express an interest in it, uh, the

language is less about agile and scrum

772

:

and more about prioritizing, right?

773

:

Drawing a line, you can't do everything.

774

:

So, um, how you make those trade

offs and who gets considered.

775

:

I think a lot of times I see PMs as.

776

:

The person speaking up on behalf of the

end user, because they're not always in

777

:

the room and there's needs that sales

and operations, the engineering that's

778

:

going to build the software, they're

the, they have a lot of stake in it.

779

:

If you have been the end user or on a

call daily, because you were in customer

780

:

support, you have half of it there,

if you have an interest and then you,

781

:

you know, you want to spend your time

motivating teams and reminding them

782

:

what, what and why that's the rest of it.

783

:

So I think in almost

any role you can keep.

784

:

Accumulating some of that experience

and, you know, be honest on a resume

785

:

in a conversation, I wasn't the product

manager, but product donor, or I, you

786

:

know, helped with, you know, QA testing

or help to the kind of rollout planned

787

:

or training sessions for the new software

got to know it well, because I was, you

788

:

know, there for the follow up questions.

789

:

If it's staff that have those questions,

or if you're in customer support, And

790

:

you're, uh, you know, fielding the calls.

791

:

That's user research, right?

792

:

You're talking to the user, right?

793

:

So, to make the connections, if

you have an interest in a company

794

:

or an area, but wherever you are,

continue being close to it, right?

795

:

Don't give up just because it doesn't

happen on the first or second try.

796

:

Becca Moran: Yeah.

797

:

And I think it's, um, a good reminder

to like, if you're not sure, right?

798

:

Like, if you're not in a product

role right now, and you would like

799

:

to move into 1 and you're having a

hard time kind of translating your

800

:

experience into product experience.

801

:

That's a great opportunity to have

that, like, informational interview

802

:

kind of conversation, right?

803

:

Talk to somebody in product and

say, Hey, when we talk through my

804

:

resume, let me tell you a little

bit about what I do right now.

805

:

Can you help me translate that

into, like, how would you frame

806

:

that as a, as a product person?

807

:

And how would you relate

that to the typical product

808

:

roles and responsibilities?

809

:

Um, you know, I think people

are always happy to help and

810

:

have conversations like that.

811

:

And that could be a game changer, right?

812

:

That's not, it's not having

different experience.

813

:

It's just knowing how to frame your

experience and in a different way.

814

:

So absolutely.

815

:

Well, awesome.

816

:

Um, so as we wrap up, I just have

a few kind of rapid fire questions,

817

:

um, that I'll, I'll throw at you.

818

:

So, um, so the first one is.

819

:

Do you think a close friend

or family member could

820

:

accurately describe what you do?

821

:

Alex Gunter: Yes.

822

:

Becca Moran: We have more confidence

than anyone else I've talked to.

823

:

Alex Gunter: They would say Xometry.

824

:

Yeah.

825

:

To describe because they

couldn't say, like, um, demos.

826

:

And if someone said,

827

:

Becca Moran: so what does Xometry do?

828

:

Do you think they would

pass that question?

829

:

Alex Gunter: Uh, 3D printing, right?

830

:

Like, yeah, close.

831

:

Uber for 3D printing.

832

:

Yeah, sure.

833

:

Uber.

834

:

So the intonation is deliberate.

835

:

Yeah, there's a bit of, uh, something,

something, something, something.

836

:

Becca Moran: That's funny.

837

:

Um, what is one like product or tech word

or phrase kind of lingo buzzer type thing

838

:

that you wish you never had to hear again?

839

:

Requirement.

840

:

Alex Gunter: And it's not what

I hear every day, it's not

841

:

that, but the requirement field.

842

:

So here's the requirement when the reality

is like a minute later, you're like, Ooh,

843

:

we just, you know, we just, we sensed

something new and there's information.

844

:

So there's a bit of that, like

I'm gathering requirements.

845

:

Yeah, sort of.

846

:

Yeah, but I've never related to as

much as like kind of create some

847

:

products in a time frame, right?

848

:

This isn't open ended and yes identify

as quickly as possible if we're on

849

:

the right track and we're not you

know Going in the wrong direction

850

:

Becca Moran: Yeah, it's like, um,

somewhat recently, I feel like someone

851

:

asked me whether, um, I had a PRD,

a product requirements document or

852

:

something that we had worked on.

853

:

And I was like, I was

like, we don't do that.

854

:

Like, it just, it sounded like

a very Foreign term to me and

855

:

Alex Gunter: I've heard business

requirement and I get it.

856

:

Yeah, it's a brief, it's an

idea, you know, like we have

857

:

Becca Moran: some documentation that

we were like, we created afterwards,

858

:

Tim Winkler: right?

859

:

It looks great because it's more of

860

:

Alex Gunter: a historical log

of what we ended up doing.

861

:

Becca Moran: Yeah, that's right.

862

:

Um, how often would you say you actually

talk to your customers or users today?

863

:

Alex Gunter: So it's not daily, but

recently a drive down to Fredericksburg,

864

:

Virginia, visited a manufacturer,

3d printing partner of ours, um,

865

:

earlier today, responding on the

community kind of discussion forum.

866

:

It's always nice when you have a bug fix.

867

:

And so like to respond with good news,

the downside is that we can't get to

868

:

that request or that bug fix immediately.

869

:

And so I think having the kind of

the marketing layer is helpful and

870

:

then stepping in to be present.

871

:

On a zoom call on an in

person is energizing.

872

:

There's nothing like it, right?

873

:

The direct contact.

874

:

Becca Moran: Yeah.

875

:

We had some really, um, fun field

trips to go see machine shops and, uh,

876

:

yeah, that was always, you know, it's,

it's cool because you're doing that

877

:

user interview kind of conversation

and you're, but you're, you know,

878

:

seeing how folks work and what the

shops look like and what kind of.

879

:

Computer set up they have and you

know, just, there's nothing like seeing

880

:

somebody kind of in their own environment.

881

:

You just pick up on so much easier

when you're trying to envision like,

882

:

okay, how is someone going to use this?

883

:

You can like see that

person in your head, right?

884

:

Um,

885

:

Alex Gunter: people, we did a different

one, I think it was a customer

886

:

visit and the same thing, right.

887

:

Going up to Baltimore, I think.

888

:

You know, they had a job shop,

but we were there to talk to the

889

:

mechanical engineer that had used it.

890

:

Stanley Blackendecker, right?

891

:

That's right.

892

:

So it's just cool to get out a little bit

of face time and then to see the product

893

:

loaded on the website there in the corner.

894

:

And you're like, Ooh, that's from

where they attempt to do, right?

895

:

Our product.

896

:

Very cool.

897

:

Becca Moran: Um, what book or

person would you say has been

898

:

most influential in your career?

899

:

It's a book

900

:

Alex Gunter: called creative selection.

901

:

Ken Koscienda, and he's a, I

think a software programmer that

902

:

at Apple did Safari browser,

and then was on the iPhone team.

903

:

So the, the keyboard and the

way that he describes that group

904

:

of 20 or 30 software developers

putting together essentially iOS.

905

:

Is inspiring and motivating because

it's just a couple of snippets, but

906

:

not a single mention of agile or scrum.

907

:

I think the product manager was the

guy that reported to Steve jobs.

908

:

And so, you know, small team demos, right?

909

:

His focus on brainstorming and discussing

things in the abstract is difficult

910

:

and sometimes impossible, but little

demos makes things child's play.

911

:

I think that's what he said, like, oh.

912

:

Now we know that that makes more

sense, but I've tried to bring that

913

:

culture at least of, you know, Hey, put

together a little demos for things or,

914

:

or use the product and then you will,

you will find out when things aren't.

915

:

And so I've been inspired by the

guy that created the software OS

916

:

for the thing that I use every day,

uh, every read at a time or two.

917

:

Becca Moran: I love that.

918

:

Um, and it reminds me a little bit

of like the, uh, there's a book,

919

:

you may have read it as well on user

story mapping that, um, just kind of

920

:

talks about the importance of like

sketching, you know, drawing out an idea.

921

:

And how it really takes something from

that abstract where people can totally

922

:

be talking about completely different

things talking past each other.

923

:

And then you, you get someone to

kind of like, sketch out what they're

924

:

thinking and that creates a shared

understanding, um, which I think is.

925

:

Something that, especially now, a

lot of us working in a very virtual

926

:

world can be harder to just like get a

whiteboard and kind of draw a picture.

927

:

So we know we're talking about

the same kind of thing here,

928

:

but it can be super powerful.

929

:

Alex Gunter: And one other thing that I

remember from that book is a picture of

930

:

the index card with the first user story.

931

:

I think somewhere in there,

it was like, and at this

932

:

conference, someone wrote as a.

933

:

Yeah.

934

:

And did the entire structure.

935

:

It is a useful structure of all

of the frameworks and things.

936

:

Just don't forget the why and the who.

937

:

Yeah.

938

:

Becca Moran: Yeah.

939

:

That's right.

940

:

All right.

941

:

Last question for you.

942

:

When you were a kid,

what was your dream job?

943

:

Alex Gunter: Lead guitar in a band.

944

:

Do you know how to play guitar?

945

:

I do know how to play guitar.

946

:

Not well, but middle school electric

guitar and, you know, slash, right?

947

:

So which style of, of lead?

948

:

Guitar playing.

949

:

So one day I'll probably buy an

electric guitar again, but I remember

950

:

that it was an affinity and attraction

for music, but not just anything.

951

:

I wasn't, I want to be the drummer,

lead guitar, no talking, you know,

952

:

not out in front and in slash.

953

:

Basically I want it to be slash.

954

:

Yeah.

955

:

Becca Moran: You had a really great

Halloween costume, didn't you?

956

:

That's why the,

957

:

Alex Gunter: jumped out and the wig,

958

:

Becca Moran: there was something, yes,

that is, that is, that Um, I hope we can

959

:

share a picture of that with this episode

960

:

Alex Gunter: because it's

961

:

Becca Moran: phenomenal.

962

:

Um, well, amazing.

963

:

This has been such a fun conversation.

964

:

So great to, uh, relive our Xometry

days, uh, in this episode together.

965

:

So thank you so much, uh, for

joining and, um, We're sharing.

966

:

Alex Gunter: Thank you so much, Becca.

967

:

Tim Winkler: Calling all

startup technologists.

968

:

Have you ever dreamed of hosting your own

podcast, but don't know where to start?

969

:

Well, here's your chance to shine.

970

:

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971

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972

:

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973

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974

:

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975

:

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976

:

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977

:

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978

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979

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981

:

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:

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