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 Hunter Guerin about how he stepped into a new role as a Product Manager and where that career path led him.
- His background as a mechanical engineer in the defense contracting space, prior to stepping into product management
- Advice on how to get a job in product and ways to navigate into the field.
- How to create a balanced career by making time for sabbaticals.
- Ways that Product Managers can advocate for themselves in order to step into leadership positions and move forward in their career.
- How Hunter transitioned out of Product Management into the role of a startup founder.
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: Hunter Guerin is the founder of LLAMAWOOD, an on-demand firewood delivery platform. He has 15+ years of experience in engineering and product development, he loves local communities and is obsessed with wood fires. You can find him in Richmond, VA, where he lives with his wife and two kids, playing with fire.
Hey, listeners, Tim Winkler here, your host of The Pair Program. We've got exciting news introducing our latest partner series Beyond the Program. In these special episodes, we're passing the mic to some of our savvy former guests who are returning as guest hosts, get ready for unfiltered conversations, exclusive insights, and unexpected twist as our alumni pair up with their chosen guest. Each guest host is a trailblazing expert in a unique technical field. Think data, product management, and engineering, all with a keen focus on startups and career growth. Look out for these bonus episodes dropping every other week, bridging the gaps between our traditional pair program episodes. So buckle up and get ready to venture Beyond the Program. Enjoy.Becca Moran:
I'm Becca and this is How I Got Hired. How I Got Hired is a series of interviews where product managers share how they landed great product roles. From PMs who made a career pivot into tech, to those with more formal training, How I Got Hired captures the various ways to open doors into the world of product. We'll be talking about each guest's recipe for success, what motivated them to get into product, how they prepared for the interview and what they did to set themselves apart. Today, my guest is Hunter Guerin. Hunter is the founder of LLAMAWOOD, the world's first on demand firewood delivery marketplace. Before that, Hunter spent four and a half years in various product roles at Xometry, which is an online marketplace for custom manufactured parts. Hunter, welcome to the show. Glad to be here. So great to have you. Um, so Hunter and I, uh, work together at Xometry. So we'll be telling the story of how Hunter got hired there, uh, on today's show. Um, but before we get into that story, uh, we wanted to kick things off with a little icebreaker. So, Hunter, are you ready for two truths and a lie? IHunter Guerin:
am ready as I'll ever be.Becca Moran:
Alright, um, do you want to go first?Hunter Guerin:
Sure. Um, you, uh, many of these, when I was thinking, um, about ideas, I feel like, you know, so I know it's pretty difficult and basically took almost all true stories that you probably know and just tweaked a little bit of it. So it's Yeah. If you, if you, if you figure this 1 out, I'll be impressed. All right. Appreciate the warning. Okay. So, um, 2 truths and a lie 1st. Um, so I am from Birmingham, Alabama. Um, that is absolutely true. I'm not lying about that. I'm from Birmingham and Michael Jordan. Um, when I was, uh, I don't know, below maybe 15 or something. Um, stopped playing for the Birmingham, I'm sorry, stopped playing for the, uh, Chicago Bulls and started playing baseball for the Birmingham Barons. And so I was at the first game, uh, that he hit a home run. I actually caught the home run ball. Number two. My daughter was born in the front seat of my Forerunner while driving to the hospital to have her at a hospital. And number three is I was the first person on Earth to hold a camera that had just been brought down from the International Space Station.Becca Moran:
Wow. All of those are kind of wild. Um. Okay. At first I thought the, the first one was gonna be like a sports trivia question, and I was like, why are you doing this to me But, um, that one feels the most like a lie to me.Hunter Guerin:
Um, so the catching Michael Jordan's Yeah. Run. Yeah. You are correct. Um, yes, I was at the game, but I did not, wow. I did not catch the home run. YouBecca Moran:
know, and that was kind of my thought or it was like, what are the chances that you would catch that? Oh, you're good. I thought maybe the gotcha would be that Katie actually gave birth in the backseat of your car. Cause I do kind of remember that story and I was like, was that the one littleHunter Guerin:
tweak? But yeah, I thought, I thought about making that tweak, but, um, cause I think, yeah, you knew the story of the car birth.Becca Moran:
Infamous, um, that's amazing. Okay. I kind of went like a similar, I think these are all going to feel very true. Um, all right. Number one, I have a British passport. Number two, I can speak with a British accent. Number three, I was born in Italy.Hunter Guerin:
Okay. I absolutely know you can speak with a British accent cause I heard it and it is hilarious. Um, born in Italy. Uh, you know, I think I'm going to put that one as, as the lie. Cause I thought you were born in Alaska.Becca Moran:
Good try. Um, I was in fact born in Italy. Uh, my dad was stationed at the air force base there. Uh, the lie is that I don't have a British passport.Hunter Guerin:
Yeah. That, that's tough.Becca Moran:
I know. It, it was kind of hiding in plain sight. You'd think. Yeah. British accent. British passport.Hunter Guerin:
I thought it was. Yeah.Becca Moran:
That's your religion. Maybe, maybe I'll get one. But, uh, no. Um, well, you know, I feel like even though we've been friends for a while, we're always learning something new.Hunter Guerin:
We're in Italy. We're in Italy.Becca Moran:
Um, so I was born in a place called Porta Noni, um, which is near, uh, my data station at Aviano Air Force Base, which is like Northern Italy. Um, yeah, we went back as a family when I was like a little kid and I only like, all I remember is, um, Like having gelato and thinking this is the best ice cream in the entire world. Like, what, what is this? Um, but yeah, yeah, pretty cool. Um, all right, well, let's get into, uh, kind of the heart of the matter why we're here today to talk about. Your unique journey into product. Um, I love this story. When I was thinking about who I wanted on the show, I thought of you right away. I thought you would be such a great guest. And, um, I'm excited not only to talk about how you got into product, but then. Um, have your path to becoming an entrepreneur as well. So, um, so let's start at the beginning. Um, so in talking about how you ended up joining Xometry as a product manager, let's rewind a little bit from there. Where were you just before that? What were you doing before you interviewed at Xometry?Hunter Guerin:
Yeah. So, uh, this goes, uh, with my third truth. Um, I was a mechanical engineer for an aerospace and defense, um, contractor for a little over nine years. Um, and that, that particular story, um, the company had made a, a unit, um, electronics unit that flew on the international space station before I got there. And, uh, kind of early on, I did a lot of work in clean rooms. Um, I did. Analysis, uh, mechanical and structural and thermal, um, was kind of the main job, but this, this touches on some probably later questions, but I really enjoyed the physical. Uh, like, working with the physical parts, as opposed to the CAD model, or in in sort of analysis world, which is all theoretical. So any chance I had to go into a clean room and, like, touch a. Piece of hardware I would and so I just went over with my boss to the place where they had brought this camera back. And we all were in their clean room and somehow I started holding the box and they had to. They had to take like, pieces off of it in order for them to get inside and get the data that they were trying to get was a scientific instrument and I ended up just. Holding it. And then as soon as they took like the support piece off, it was just like in my hands. So I was kind of holding this electronics unit and everybody in the room just simultaneously said, don't drop it quickly. Like, put it down. I was, uh, I was a mechanical engineer doing structural and thermal analysis on, um, aerospace and space flight and airborne electronics units. That's so crazy. Yeah, it was my only job. I worked there right out of college. I was, I got a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson, um, and then immediately moved to DC and started working for this company for, um, it was a great company and I loved it. Learned a ton every day. So I never really, um, needed to go anywhere else because it was such a great job. So I've been there a little over nine years, I believe. And soBecca Moran:
during those nine years, like, did you have a thought in the back of your mind that you were like, kind of interested in tech, you know, or, or product specifically, um, were there any kind of seeds of that during that time?Hunter Guerin:
Yeah. Um, so I started that job in 2008. Um, and then I. My wife and I went to the Bahamas, um, and I read a book on the beach there called, uh, the four hour work week by Tim Ferris and immediately became obsessed with starting my own business. So 2012 is when, like, the, the idea to start a business, um, kind of was planted in me. Um, and then around 2016, my brother, um, took a job at, um, a startup in Silicon Valley, um, he was the head of data science. And so I started hearing about software businesses and then his stories and I started getting intrigued with, uh, software businesses, but I actually had no idea what product, um, product management was. So I had never while a mechanical engineer, I didn't necessarily dream of becoming a product manager. I didn't know it existed. Um, I did. I was interested in software sales because 1 thing I learned while being a mechanical engineer is I actually loved to present to customers. I like to talk to customers and I liked this sort of physical. Uh, work and so, um, you know, I wanted I was interested in starting a business, but, you know, in terms of, like, new experiences that I wanted to gain, I was interested in sales and I was interested in, um. Yeah, software development in general, um, the, the development practices and sort of this idea of, like, trying things and crashing and trying it again and crashing really fast. And so, um, yeah, no. No idea what product management was, which I think that that comes later in my story, but I was definitely interested in. Like software development businesses. Yeah.Becca Moran:
And so how did you stumble acrossHunter Guerin:
Xometry? So, um, about that time in 2016, I was, became interested in software businesses. So I started talking to people about, um, you know, what was out there and just learning more. And one of my friends actually had this, um, relationship with this guy as kind of a unique, uh, way of her knowing him. Um, was at a VC firm that, um, had invited this founder named Randy to a, um, to some event. I can't remember what it was, but so she had like dealt with, with this, with this founder, um, for this VC firm. And then she also previously worked on Capitol Hill and knew Andy because he had, had a, um, political, um, kind of history. And so she kind of knew this guy and told me about this. Startup that was doing something, you know, she didn't know a ton of the details, but it was doing something for manufacturing and the mechanical engineering space. And so I was like, oh, cool, let me, I'd love to connect with him. So, um. She connected us, and I really connected with him because I was interested in. Talking to him about what it was like to start a company and how he had those questions with his wife and how he left, you know, a comfortable job to go start a business. He had actually started businesses before that, but it was really a call to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey. I actually, at the time I had no interest in, um, like jumping to Xometry. I just wanted to meet Randy. Um, so, um, once we got connected, then that was sort of the beginning of the, of my journey to Xometry.Becca Moran:
Yeah, I love that. And I think that like. Um, one thing I've heard from other guests that I've had on the show and, and one thing that I've seen to be true in my own experience is just like, so much can come from these just like, I don't know, casual conversations and, and I think approaching your career with a sense of. Just natural curiosity and, uh, hearing people's stories. And, you know, I, I think sometimes, um, when, when a lot of what we're exposed to is kind of the, the same set of like super success stories, right? Like how did Elon Musk get to where he is or Jeff Bezos or whatever. Um, you forget that like, there's people in our midst that have, uh, achieved incredible success and. Um, the path can just look so different and, you know, um, what a cool opportunity to be able to just have a conversation with someone like Randy and, and understand, um, his story as an entrepreneur. So, yeah. That's super cool. So how,Hunter Guerin:
go ahead. I was gonna say, this podcast is called How I Got Hired, so I feel. Um, obligated to to sort of share this is that, you know, of course, like, I've talked to many people since getting that job. Um, I'd only had 1 job, so I was no expert in getting a new job. Um, but I've from that experience and then many, many future experiences. Learn the valuable lesson of if you ask somebody for advice, they, this saying goes, if you ask somebody for advice, they'll give you money. If you ask for money, they give you advice. So, I mean, if you ask for advice, they give you a job might be the situation with with the Randy. Um, yeah, that's, you know, if anybody asks me how to get a job and product or talking about. How to, you know, I'm trying to figure out where my passion is and, you know, I don't know what I want to do. And so I just find some people that are doing cool things and ask them for advice. So how'd you get there? You know, and that will start a snowball for sure. Yeah.Becca Moran:
And that in and of itself, right? Like part of being a good product person is asking good questions and being curious. So like, it's kind of, you know, a little bit meta, but like, Just by doing that, you're kind of displaying the types of skills that make for a good product person. So, um, yeah, it kind of comes full circle. So how did these conversations then progress to, you know, Hey, you asked for advice, but here, how about a job?Hunter Guerin:
Yeah. Uh, so I remember this like it was yesterday, cause it's kind of funny. Um, so we connected in 2016, probably early 2016. And so I emailed Randy, um, and After after getting connected, I said, you know, I'd love to meet, uh, but I'm about to go on a sabbatical for 7 weeks. Um, so let me pay you when I get back. So, we finally, we were, I was going to try to go into the office in Gaithersburg and meet him in person. That ended up, it didn't happen. We got on a phone call, um, and I happened to be coming back from. I had done some work at NASA Goddard that day, so I was like, where are you, Hunter? I was like, well, I'm just coming back from NASA. It's kind of a surreal thing to be able to say to somebody that. Runs a manufacturing business that sort of, you know, targets aerospace defense customers. Um, but so, you know, I just sort of asked him some of those questions, you know, I'm interested in, um, learning about how you decided, uh, to, to make the job. And also, why did you start this business in the DC area? You know, everybody, a lot of people start startups out in Silicon Valley or whatever, some of these other known tech hubs, uh, but he started this company and. Gaithersburg, Maryland. So, and, um, he eventually said, you know, what's like, what's your, what's your purpose on this call? And I said, well, I'm just trying to learn. Cause I, I'd love to one day start a business. Um, I think it's really interesting to me, um, with a mechanical engineering background, I am interested in businesses that have a mechanical or sort of, like I said earlier, physical product, but they sell it. Via e commerce platform, um, that you're able to sort of, uh, test and then make modifications to the like physical product. Um, I later, I think I later learned that this process is called agile software development, but it's basically, you know, trying to. Put out an MVP and, and get feedback and update. And then also since we live in this digital world, we're able to, you know, sort of create, figure out quickly whether there's demand for this product. So at the time I was creating landing pages and these like simple Google ads to drive traffic towards these various products that I was messing around with. Um, and I guess, you know, we can go deeper into some of that stuff, but I was sort of explaining. Those things and that I was really customer focused. I learned that, um, you know, as a mechanical engineer, you have to be very detail oriented. And a lot of times you can get kind of siloed into a specific piece of a bigger system. And I always was really interested in the larger system and talking to customers about it and hearing their needs and presenting what we had built to them and answering questions, et cetera. So he said, you know, well, um. There's this job called product manager, and this gets to, like, how I learned about product management and, uh, we're, I think we're looking for somebody, um, right now. And you've, you know, you're a mechanical engineer, and, um, it might be something that you'd be interested in. And if you send me your resume, I'll shoot it over to the right people and we can kind of take it from there. So, uh, that was basically my intro to product. And, uh, and then I send my resume and. Okay. And then, uh, did you mention, I think, okay, did you ask about the interview or not yet? No, thatBecca Moran:
was kind of my next question. Just kind of, but I was just smiling, thinking about like Randy being the person to introduce you to the concept of, of product management. Uh, but that's awesome that, you know, he heard what you were saying and kind of connected the dots and realize that that would be such a great way for you to learn a lot of those things that you were describing and, and maybe at that point didn't even really have like the vocabulary to, um, you know, like communicate in a succinct way, but, um, to kind of hear that and say like, Oh, maybe give this product thing a try. That's pretty cool. Yeah,Hunter Guerin:
you actually reminded me of something. Um, again, How I Got Hired, uh, I was thinking about the funny thing is on that call. I'm talking to Randy about starting a business. I think 1 of the 1st things he said as well. If you want to start a business, you definitely can't take 7 weeks off going to Argentina and I say, well, that's why I did it before. Um, but the other thing about getting hired, I think is. Yeah. He, in that conversation, I don't think he asked me anything really about what I did professionally. Uh, I mean, he knew I was a mechanical engineer. He knew I was coming home from NASA. Um, but, uh, it was that vacation. I think that like potentially made me sound like somebody worth, or at a minimum, just it's stuck in, out in his mind about this. Random guy who called him that had just gotten back from Argentina. Um, and, you know, I was thinking about, like, somebody says this, but that, like, a lot of times when you're interviewing, like, a sabbatical or, like, a crazy trip is something worth putting on your resume because the person, the people you're talking to might become more interested in that trip than they are in, like, what you've done professionally. So. Um, that's sort of my plug to say, don't be afraid to sort of, like, highlight some weird, like, funny things about you in your resume so that you stand out additionally to the, you know, accomplishments you've. You've had in the past, butBecca Moran:
yeah, well, and on that note to, you know, I, um, this is potentially a topic for a whole nother discussion, but I feel like you have always been a really strong advocate for sabbaticals. And I remember, um, at Xometry kind of when you were gearing up to go on the sabbatical then, uh, you know, When you had first mentioned the idea to me, I was like, Oh, my God, like, you can't just go on a sabbatical. Like, how do you and you were just like. Well, just ask like, you know, like I think so many people just don't even like talk themselves out of it immediately. And I remember that conversation and thinking like, yeah, good point. Like why not just ask and, and, you know, I think you've always been very thoughtful in presenting, you know, a, a good case for it. Right. Kind of like, here's, here's how I'm going to make sure that. My work is covered and that it's not disruptive to the business and, um, you know, all of these things. And, uh, you know, I, I think there's certainly this kind of theme in your career where these sabbaticals have been really transformative for you and. Um, yeah, I think you're, you're, uh, I consider you at least a bit of a thought leader in that regard.Hunter Guerin:
Awesome. I like to hear that. When you interview me on how I took a sabbatical podcast,Becca Moran:
we'll go in deeper on that. Um, okay. So you. Randi says, Hey, maybe think about this whole product thing. And then we had an opening at the time you came in and interviewed what, what was that process like preparing for an interview for a job that You didn't know it was a thing not that long ago.Hunter Guerin:
Yeah, I, you know, um, well, the first thing that I did, um, probably even before getting the invite to interview is I was, I'd become interested in geometry and I was kind of curious what it was all about. So we were working on, um. Something at the time, and I was designing this fairly, um, simple part that was not sort of mission critical. Um, so it was, it was not super expensive. Um, and in engineering companies, a lot of times, like, and many procurement companies, um. If if something's over, like, 2000 dollars, it has to go to the purchasing department and you have to get multiple bids and everything. But if you're just making a little, like, prototype, or trying to make something for a test fixture, which is actually what I was doing, um, you can the engineer can submit requests to manufacturers and then basically purchase it and so. I needed to manufacture this thing and I said, well, let me give a try. So, um, real quick for, um, anyone listening is a on demand marketplace for custom manufacturing and you could upload a CAD file. It would generate a predicted price to manufacture and and, um, the lead time and the price to manufacture. And then, um, it spits out a price and you can just buy online. Yeah. And so thisBecca Moran:
was pretty revolutionary because the historical process for doing so would involve like turning your CAD file, which is kind of a 3D design rendering into a 2 dimensional like PDF drawing and then sending that drawing to a bunch of machine shops and then. They give you prices back and you don't know really how they came up with that price. It can be wildly different. And there's just a lot of back and forth. It's a very antiquated process. And so if you imagine, um, you know, for, for Xometry, this experience that Hunter's describing, uploading a file and knowing Instantaneously, what it could cost you to have that manufactured was a pretty big deal. Yeah,Hunter Guerin:
exactly. And, and when I was doing this, um, at the time you, it was, it was fairly common to, for a few companies out there for you to be able to upload a CAD file and get the price to print 3D print, because That's super fairly simple. It's just volume of material. Plus like the time it takes the printer to print it. So it's fairly easy formula. The sort of revolutionary thing I think at the time for Xometry was that they were doing that, but for CNC machining. And so I actually thought just through the experience and using the website that Xometry was basically just a really optimized machine shop in Gaithersburg, Maryland. That allowed you to upload CAD files and get a price and then you would buy and they would make it and they would ship it to you. That was sort of my impression. Um, when I first did the test. So, as an engineer, um, you know, I had a couple of things that I was interested in. Number 1 is, like, making sure that it was going to be a reputable seller, um, manufacturer. If I was going to, if I was going to then kind of push that design or that quote onto procurement and say, hey, can I buy this? Um, you know, I needed to be sure it was, was going to work. So going through the process, I was attempting to generate, um, an output from Xometry's app that I could share with our procurement and my boss. Um, and so I had, I had some interesting sort of, uh, struggles through the process and we ended up not buying. The thing, so unfortunately, at the time, I didn't have the, like, start to finish experience of symmetry, but then I think looking at, like, the job description, you know, it's like, understand customer requirements, um, and solve problems that people don't even know they have and, uh, manage a list of, uh, features, um, in a road map, you know, so it was. Looking at the job description at the time, I was a mechanical engineer, so I like to say that I was like a hardware product developer, um, and or product manager. And then all of a sudden I was looking to go into software product management. So I was able to link those 2 together and come up with sort of like, here's how I approach, um, the process of creating, uh, something from scratch or defining a specification. That's that was that was really big. Um, and then. Mm hmm. Yeah, so preparing for the interview, um, just sort of matching that mechanical engineering experience to product management experience. And then also, I think that there was a question. I either got access to it before the interview, or they asked me in the interview, but it was what, like, what app do you use? I think this is pretty common management question. What app do you use and love? And like, tell us why, and then what would you do to change it and make it better, etc. So I sort of prepared that. Wait, what app did you talk about? I talked about Jewel, which is an app from ChefSteps, and it controls a at home sous vide stick. Oh, yes! And I love that app. I still love it to this day. Um, and the thing that bothered me is, for some reason, if you The jewel doesn't have a power button. So you basically just like plug it in and unplug it. And if you unplug it without turning it off via the app, the next time you log in, you get this weird alert warning message. That's like, Julie didn't turn off correctly and there's wifi issues. And I never actually figured out how to, how to get that to not show up. And so that was the thing that I was going to change is somehow to help the user figure out why they're getting this error message, but I don't know that that was the best answer, um, for that interview question, but.Becca Moran:
But I mean, I think just having thought about that, and I think it's good advice for anyone, um, going into a product interview that like a very common thing to ask about is like, what are some of your experiences with products? And like, let's unpack that. Right. And so, um, you know, I think that's a question that you can answer off the cuff. Um, you know, Fairly well, but it is something that's nice if you anticipate it and you can think through, well, what's a good example of something that I use and love and I could give some thoughtful reasons why and what are some things that I would change about it and why, like, that's just kind of some basic stuff, but to be prepared with that kind of answer, I, I would have to assume I know Having been a part of a number of product manager interviews, we almost always ask a question like that, right? Because it's, you want to just get the basics of like, how does somebody think about the products that they use and opportunities for improvement? And then, then it's kind of a whole nother thing to like, you know, a lot of the, the product role, and I'd love to get into this topic a little bit more. A lot of the product role is. Not using your own personal experience, but understanding different kind of person's experience and anticipating what they might want or need. Um, and so this is something that I've always thought was interesting with your background where. You know, in a lot of ways, you, there were probably lots of times where you could kind of reference your own experience and you're not imagining, Oh, what, what does a mechanical engineer need in this situation? You actually know, because you were a mechanical engineer. So, um, my question for you is like reflecting on that, like, how do you think that helped you in your role at Xometry to be able to reference your own personal experience? And were there ever times where you felt Potentially, like, limited by that or that that created a challenge in and of itself.Hunter Guerin:
Yeah, for sure. Um, I, you know, through that process of using the app, I basically, I didn't do it at the time, but I identified, you know, 5 to 10 things that I would do to sort of up the instant quoting platform, which is what I ended up becoming the product manager for. Um, and, uh, I ended up doing basically Or I ended up sort of creating the feature stories and working development team to release features that were, you know, updates to the system that I was sort of wanting to to make. So out of this list of 5 to 10 things, I ended up, um. Working through all of them, and then it became like, well, what next, you know, and that's when I think, um, what really always impressed me is that Xometry didn't have at least in product and, uh, marketing, um, software developers. Um, data scientists, you know, the sort of like teams that I worked with a lot, there weren't very many, if any people that had experience as a mechanical engineer or, um, uh, you know, manufacturing parts, um, there were plenty of mechanical engineers, it's on the tree on the operations team, but on kind of in our domain, there. It was a lot of sort of non experts, and I certainly was not an expert, but a lot of people that that knew very little about, uh, when coming into theometry about the whole sort of market that we were serving, but I was so impressed with how basically people that have no idea about mechanical engineering and like what mechanical engineers may need. Uh, then coming in and learning through talking to customers and reading, uh, you know, content on the Internet, asking questions. And so, um, I was sort of inspired by a lot of that to, to try to take this sort of like beginner, you know, beginner eyes, or I think that's what, what's called, uh, you know, first principles, you know, dial it back to say, okay, let's, let's pretend that like, I don't know anything about this and just try to learn through. Through talking to people, um, I think it definitely helped in a lot of conversations, but I also think it, you know, probably limited me, um, in, in, um, certain ways of not being able to see what I, you know, didn't already know. I was just, I was just saying like, when I think one thing with software development and startups is a lot of times something is not possible today, but then tomorrow some update to the app. Releases and all of a sudden that thing that wasn't possible yesterday is possible today. And if you come back to ideas, sometimes it's easy to say, well, we can't do that because of X, Y, and Z. And then the person asking kind of looks into it's like, well, actually, like, why not, you know, or why can't we do it or and all of a sudden it's like, well, uh, and you're sort of defending this. I tried, we tried, but it didn't work. And so, you know, now it will never work. And um, unlearning that, like, that things that didn't work in the past will continue to not work. It's like totally bogus in softwareBecca Moran:
development. We talk about that all the time. Like there's so many things that we have tried that didn't work and it's, it's hard to like It's a natural reaction to be like, Oh, well, we tried it and it didn't work. So it would be a waste of time to try it again. But to your point, like oftentimes these are things that we tried years ago. The business is entirely different now, like the way we might approach it could be totally different. So like, yeah, that's something that is, uh, a bit of a mantra within procurated. Now it's just like not to write something off because we tried it one time and it didn't work. Um, It's you never know kind of what new perspective might allow something to work. Um, and I think the other point that you made that is interesting, and I've seen in my experience is, um, yes, Xometry had a number of people internally that had some good experience in terms of. Mechanical engineering and things like that, where, um, I always felt very lucky to be able to, like, you know, call up someone on the operations team and ask a question. And, um, I think that's. It can be super helpful. Um, it's also, it can become a bit of a crutch sometimes, right? Where like, if you feel like you work with people that are a proxy for your user, you might not actually pick up the phone and call your real users. And, and you can get a little bit of a warped perspective because You feel like you're getting user feedback, but you're still talking to people that are like a part of your bubble. Um, and we have the same challenge of procurator too, right? Like, we've got some people that have had careers in government procurement, and it's incredibly helpful to have that subject matter expertise in house, but we also have to remember that like, those people may not be Like perfectly representative of the opinions of our users in mass and so really remembering to, like, leverage that but not let that be everything is, I think, super important. Yeah, um, so you, you come in, you do this interview, you, you talk about this app, um, and you get the role. Um, and you have this great career at Xometry and you move up, um, could you share a little bit about just kind of like what, what your role was when you started, how things evolved and just like a little bit of just the quick story of like your career path during your, your four and a half years atHunter Guerin:
Xometry. Yeah, um, so I, um, the, the, the interview, um, story that I'd like to share that's, um, that's related to the last thing we were talking about is, you know, having having past experience with the market or product or whatever it is you're, you're working on is can be, you know, you can have blinders and tunnel vision sometimes because your opinion is, um, If you value your own opinion a ton, then you can use the app and then make decisions based on your own opinion, which doesn't work as a product manager. But I think it's also really important to use, especially if you're interviewing for product is to use the product in some way, shape, or form. Sometimes, obviously that's not possible. If it's like an enterprise software or something, you need a business account, but if you can create a account and use the thing. I think it's super valuable and so in the middle of the interview, I think 1 of the questions was, have you ever led a project where you've like, been in charge of finding the manufacturer and and getting quotes and et cetera? And I said, yeah, actually, um, I'm doing something similar. It's it's not necessarily, um, a manufacturing process. It's a fabrication process, but also I used on a. Past project. I use the Xometry app to buy a part and we ended up not buying the part from Xometry and I was like, that's just like. One, but like, I'd, I'd be happy to share my input as to why we didn't buy. And both the, the head of product and the CTO were like, oh yes, yes. Tell us more So, so I then proceeded to like basically point out all the negative things that I found in the app. Um, and I was like, this is, this is terrible idea. What am I doing? Come in here, trash the product, And so I think that like, that was actually, you know, I feel like in, in hindsight, I wanna say I heard that like until that point. I was not necessarily going to get the job. So my new advice in interviewing for product is to just use the product and tell them all the things you would change about it. But I guess that gets to that question about, like, or what did you, what did you like? And what would you change? So, um, because of that conversation, I think I was placed on the, um. The instant quoting engine, I was the product manager for the instant quoting engine. Um, and that was the customer facing platform that allowed engineers to upload and and procurement officers, um, purchasers, anybody that needed to buy a. A physical part using a CAD model would create an account, log in and upload to this platform, change the requirements based on the needs of the part and then go to checkout and purchase. And so I became the product manager of that product. And then I don't know what it was. Except that, you know, a lot of times product management teams, um, and startup structures are pretty flat. And so you, you might have like, um, somebody leading product and then just a bunch of product managers underneath. And that's the way I think I works really well. And I think that's the way it should be. But at the same time. Um, the one cool thing about startups is like, a lot of times job titles are just sort of like nefarious, you know, maybe the pay is good at a startup, but they can give you a job title. Um, and I think I had heard something like, you know, if you're not working with military folks, um, you know, they, a lot of times in certain roles, they move on after 2 years, like they can never work the same job for more than 2 years. And that's, I think that's part of the government's, um. Yeah, methodology, but basically, you know, I'd heard something like if you're not progressing in, uh, in your role every year, every two years or something, then you're, you're stagnating. Um, we didn't have any of these like other roles. And so I think when, when, uh, you know, I was loving working at Xometry, I will, I was Having a ton of fun and I wanted as much sort of impact as possible. And so I think after a while, I, I think I came to you and I basically presented this, um, document. I think actually the, the base of the document was something my wife gave me from a previous conversation she had, where she was asking for more responsibility. And, uh, I have to brush off the dust on that thing, but I believe it was a letter to you. Then. Um, and it ends with I'm interested in taking more responsibility. Um, if let me know your thoughts and if you'd be willing to support that before you do anything else, um, if you, if you, if you would be interested in talking to me about it, that'd be really cool. I think you said, sure. I said, well, I haven't had a chance to get all my thoughts together, but I'll follow up in a couple of days. Uh, with what I'm taking and then the follow up was was a letter. It was the proposed job description. It was, um, then a list of things that I had accomplished over the past 12 months. And then my approach to how I would, I would take on this new role. Um, and so I was. Promoted at the time to this new role called a senior product manager, um, which existed elsewhere. It just didn't exist at the time. Um, and then similar. Um, I think. A little later, um, I, you know, once again, just like, just like I did as a mechanical engineer, it had sort of free products at the time, which is basically like the instant coding engine, the, the internal system that managed all the orders and then the external job board that the. Manufacturers were using and anything that we did on the instant quoting engine and I think this is an important skill for product managers in mechanical engineering. They call it a systems engineer. And it's like, if you change something on the, uh, customer facing app, how does that percolate? Or propagate through the rest of the system. And so a lot of times I would work with the ERP team and then the job board team to make sure that the things that we were doing on the instant coding engine propagated through the whole system. And I think later on, we would say, no, the, like, the responsibility of integrating that falls on the different teams. And then that was, you know, an interesting exercise to try to coordinate a single product across multiple product teams and multiple disciplines. But, um, I, I was interested in, you know, all of these different platforms. I loved the partner platform. I think we called it the job board at the time. Um, and I was interested in helping out there if I could. Um, and then we started working on a new product. Um. Actually, I guess, additional to the Instant Coding Engine, we had CAD add ons for SolidWorks and then eventually we had one for Inventor, which is the platform I used as a mechanical engineer. Um, and so we had these like multiple apps, uh, multiple add ons. KindBecca Moran:
like integration. Yeah, it was like, how can an engineer use Xometry's platform within their CAD software? And so I manage those as well. And so, um, we were sort of growing our product suite on the customer side. And, um, you know, I, I, at the time I was very interested in getting management experience. That was something I was sort of. Obsessed with from like day one. The thing about actually talking to my brother, the data scientist about product management, and he's like, product management school, because you get to manage, but you don't have to manage people. Um, I think I later learned what he actually meant by that, but I kept wanting to manage people. And so I was trying to sort of figure out how I could maybe manage multiple products with product managers, um, who managed the product, but then I was sort of the system level. Person and those kind of rolled up and so I ended up, um, finishing as a group product manager, which is exactly that role of a couple different things. But yeah, that's so yeah,Becca Moran:
that's awesome. And I think it kind of illustrates just how the needs of an organization can change. Right? So, like, when you join Xometry, I think we were. It was like right before we closed our series a, um, we were maybe 40 or 50 employees. Um, and to your point, like as these companies grow and as the products grow, there's just a level of complexity. And I think that creates. A lot of interesting opportunities for product people and, and, um, you know, as someone who can kind of grow with the company and with the product itself, um, I think it's really smart, you know, the way you kind of zeroed in on like, Hey, I, I like this kind of systems thinking and, and looking across our entire platform and, Understanding the interconnectedness and and thinking about it holistically, and how can I leverage that in the role? Um, you know, I think that's a common need that emerges as a lot of these companies grow and become moreHunter Guerin:
complex. Yeah, and, um, I think that that story sort of reminded me of something actually just at this exercise a couple days ago. It's called the 10 10 10 exercise. Um, and the, the, the, the framing of why I'm talking about this story is that one of the things I learned through this process is the importance of, you know, if you're going to sort of present a, a new role for yourself to an organization, you have to really think about how it improves the company. Like, nobody really wants to care that you want more responsibility. Right. If we do this, then it simplifies your life. Whoever your boss is, it simplifies your life and it's better for the company because X, Y, and Z and, you know, the, the, it's difficult to go up to somebody and say, hey, I want more responsibility. I want a new job title. I want to continue to move up. And so anytime you have a difficult conversation looming, you could do this exercise. The 10, 10, 10 exercise. And it is, if I have this conversation or I do this thing, I'm thinking of, how am I going to feel in the next 10 hours? A lot of times it's like nervous, scared, anxious, excited, proud of myself, etc. Then how am I going to feel in the next 10 months? So basically a year. And then how am I going to feel in the next 10 years? And I didn't do it at the time for these conversations, but the really cool thing about that exercise is that you, you basically say your feelings and other, other things, how's, how's it going to affect my family? How's it going to affect my health and whatever else you're interested in. And you give it basically a plus or minus, and you can kind of quickly see how, how this decision is either likely really going to help you in the long term, or it's not, or this exercise doesn't actually answer your question. So maybe you need more information before having the conversation or whatever, but once you have that, it gives you this road map to having that conversation and in thinking about this example. You know, again, we didn't necessarily have this conversation, but if you're going, like, if I'm, if I'm coming to you, I think that document helped, but it's like, hey, I think, uh, you know, I'm loving life here. I want more responsibility. I want to keep learning and growing, but also, um, if, you know, if I do this, then that we're able to have effectively more product managers without the team growing. So, you know, the, the budget doesn't have to change. Um, because if I'm willing to take on three different products, um, and I think I can handle it doing X, Y, and Z. So the, you know, we can grow our whatever without necessarily growing the team or whatever the case cases. It's a good, it's a good way to walk through that conversation.Becca Moran:
Yeah, I, I remember that document and I feel like I have, um, wanted to like refer back to it at times to like help give guidance to other people that I've worked with on like, Hey, if you, you know, want to move up within the organization, like this is a good kind of framework to use. And I, I do think that being proactive, thinking about what the business needs, I think is huge. A lot of people, I think. Do you get a little too caught up in like, well, what do I want to do? And what you want is to find the overlap of like, what do you want to do? And what does the organization actually need? And that's the sweet spot.Hunter Guerin:
Yeah. And also the last thing on that is when you're talking to your boss or, you know, sort of learn this with any negotiation is, um, you want the other person to feel. Involved and like sort of the hero of the story. So like a good framing of the question is, Hey, I'm interested in X, Y, and Z. Is this something you'd be willing to talk to me about? And, or is this something you'd be willing to like help me with? And then you go through the process. Okay. How are we going? How are we going to present this to the team or to management? And then all of a sudden your boss becomes the, we, and potentially the hero of the story. And it's more about them, you know, helping you than it is about you asking for some promotion or, or whatnot. So, uh, yeah, trying to, trying to get other people on board before you even come out with this, like, here's my new job and here's the X, Y, Z, a conversation you're even willing to have and get the buy in help me with. Yeah, so, yeah,Becca Moran:
totally agree. Um, well, I love that. I love reflecting back kind of on that journey that you had at Dometry and the success you had there. Um, I know we're, we're running a little bit long, but I would like to make sure that we spend a little bit of time talking about your transition into, I find it funny to say becoming an entrepreneur because I. Think that you've been an entrepreneur all along, right? That's clear from how I think you think about things. And there's a thread of that throughout this entire story. But, um, you know, I would love if you could share a little bit of the, uh, kind of quick story of how you decided to. You know, what sparked the idea for LLAMAWOOD and how you decided to kind of take the leap and, and build this business that you've been building for what, last two and a half years, aHunter Guerin:
little over two years. Um, so I loved the Xometry sort of model, um, because. The, the, the benefit that you could bring to a marketplace, the efficiency you could bring to a marketplace by connecting a buyer with a seller and then managing the transaction and fulfillment all within a platform, it's, it's, it just was. I, you know, like, say it was genius. Um, I actually, like, would ask Randy, like, how did you think of this? This is so smart. Um, and I remember feeling like, man, if somebody, like, if Randy can come up with this idea, um, apparently off the cuff, no, that's not actually how it happened, but, I was like, who am I to, like, Think of, I can start a business because this idea is so beyond anything I would have ever imagined. And, uh, I was just so impressed with it, but because of the value that it brought the partner network, I remember specifically this event that happened. Um, I don't remember the year, but a hurricane or tornado hit Texas, I believe, and it just like demolished one of our suppliers and a couple of things Xometry was able to do. There's number one is all of the jobs that had been matched. That supplier got, were able to get routed out. And so the, the customers ended up getting their parts. And then I believe we did a GoFundMe campaign for that, uh, that partner and every other partner in the network, like, um, you know, contributed to the rebuilding of this. And that was the moment where I was like, Oh, this is so cool because not only is this platform bringing jobs to this network, but it's also like created this giant manufacturing family. Um, and that's a little bit like altruistic, but I just was. With that sort of like, I want to start a company mindset, I kept applying this idea to a bunch of different industries. And that is how do you connect buyers again through a platform to a distributed network of sellers who can provide capacity on demand, elastic capacity, which is really important because certain things get. In high demand at some points and low demand and other points, uh, I can think of one firewood, um, but, uh, so I thought, well, we could, I could start a landscape business with a network of sellers. I could, what about, um, home building? Um, and then I had heard this somewhere. Um, I often attribute it to the wrong person. So I'll just. Is that if when you think about starting a business, look at your credit card statement and figure out where you spend a disproportionate amount of your income. And so I was doing that and I never really like highlighted anything as. Oh, this is the thing. Um, and it was mortgage and dining out. And I think that that disproportionate. No, because a lot of people spend a lot of money on mortgage and dining out. Um, but this, this thing about I, everywhere I went, every house that I went into, whether it was my house or somebody else's, I would. Pay whatever I needed to pay to make sure I could have wood burning fires inside and outside. Um, and so I'd spent a lot of money on all things related to firewood, um, and then fires. And so that sort of helped me realize that, like, it's got to be something about fire and then we lived in D. C. with. Neighbors of you, Becca. And then in 2000, um, in the middle of COVID, we decided to move to Richmond and, um, we got to Richmond and it was. It was, we moved in July of 2020. And so the fall is coming up and I want to buy firewood. I just know that Richmond's gonna, it's going to be way easier to buy firewood in Richmond than it was in DC. And I went through the process, the standard process of finding a guy, texting him, they tell you it's seasoned, they come over, they drop it off. Um, You have to pay them in cash. This guy actually took Venmo, but like, as he was leaving, I Venmoed him. And then you have to put in the last four digits of their phone number. I'm like, wait, um, I have, I have since mailed checks. I mean, firewood buying firewood is it was, I just hoped it was better in Richmond than it was in DC. And sure enough, it was like the exact same thing. And I think it was in that moment when that delivery sort of was botched and the wood was wet and it was too big. I needed to split it with an axe, which is a pain. I think I had a, yeah, I had like a 1 and a half year old at the time. I didn't, I was anytime they were, they were not in my arms. I wanted to be like, sitting on a couch or something. So, um. I said, that's it, I am going to, what could I build a network of firewood sellers and build a platform that connected buyers with that network? And then really the, the key there is that you then use technology to manage the quality of the seller. And since, since this idea of Xometry and, and my business is that it's a managed marketplace, it, it connects. The orders with the sellers that are most qualified to perform the delivery. And 1 of the things that goes into that is this is the rating based on their past performance. And so the cream rises to the top. Eventually, you only start delivery, sending jobs to the best suppliers. Um, and so I can provide a, like, a quality standard and, um, a consistency to firewood delivery that, like, in my experience, which was buying firewood and. Across 5 different states, um, uh, that consistency was really hard to find and, um, reliability was really hard to find. So that's kind of how it sparked the, uh, the, the company I started, which is called Lama wood. That'sBecca Moran:
awesome. And I'm sure, uh, hopefully there'll be an opportunity to do a whole episode in and of itself on the lava wood story. But the 1 question. Um, I wanted to ask just kind of to to close things out is. And kind of bring it back to our conversation about, um, your career in product, like what product experience do you feel like helped you feel confident in starting your own business? Like what are you thankful that you learned as a product manager that you've Been able to put into use starting your own business.Hunter Guerin:
Um, I think the biggest thing is that as a product person, again, regardless of the product you manage, um, you, you, you sort of necessitates the system level thinking to where you have to learn about how your product impacts. Every aspect of the business, marketing, sales, operations, finance, admin, it doesn't matter. You're probably talking to one of those. I think I had, I think like at one point, every person on the C suite was a stakeholder of the Instant Quoting Engine. And so you get a, especially if you go, if you do product to a small company or startup, you're going to get a ton of experience really fast. But now that I've started a business, um, I think the 2 critical things, especially early on, why Combinator says this, and I think many others is that as a founder or CEO of a company early on, the 2 things that you need to focus on, because there's a million, 2 things, building the product and selling. So you have to learn how to build and you have to learn how to sell. And basically both, both of those things is the like quintessential job requirement of a product manager. You have to figure out what the customers want. Come up with the vision for how that is going to be built and then you have to sell it to all these people. Um, because, you know, sometimes, uh, what operations wants sales, you know, operations wants, you know, a smoother flow sales wants more. Orders marketing wants more sessions, um, and and top of funnel customers landing on the site or whatever. So, um, you have to negotiate and and work with all these different disciplines to to sell this vision of a greater future. Um, and so I think that. Being able to build something and sell it sort of at the same time, you know, that whole, like jump out of a plane without a parachute and get out on the way down. Um, it kind of happens. And then you've touched on it too, is like this, a huge thing. Like you just can't build a business without talking to customers and understanding what they truly want. Um, because I think what's the saying that like 80 percent of products that get launched, don't, don't get used. So. You can, you can think of a million features for an app, but you know, in order to know which one you need to build next, you have to talk to a lot of people, um, whether you're looking at like, whether the, the talking is looking over user data, um, or actually speaking with the internal team, talking to the external customer, um, but picking up the phone and calling customers constantly. Um, that too is. Is, um, you know, a huge necessity as a product manager and even more so as you're trying to build something, um, and selling it. So you learn as a product manager, you learn how to build and sell. And those are the two biggest skills. And actually they say that selling is harder than building. So if you have to be good at one of them, get good at selling. Yeah. So, um, you get a lot of practice with that as a product. Yeah.Becca Moran:
It's such a good point. And I think it's sometimes, uh, an element of the product role that At least from personal experience, I would say you can kind of resent, right? Like sometimes you're just like, I have this idea. Why doesn't everybody just like go along with it? Right. Like this is my job to do this stuff. Like,Hunter Guerin:
um, something you said, I don't know if you remember saying it, but I laugh at it all the time. I think about it constantly. Is, uh, you said that the job of a product manager is to gently disappoint people all day long. ItBecca Moran:
is like, you have to just get so comfortable with telling people no, or just kind of like redirecting them to different ideas or Um, yes, uh, I, I stand by that statement, but yeah, the sales part is hard, um, and it can be hard, especially depending on kind of the dynamics in the organization in which you're working, where, um, you can be faced with a lot of strong opinions and. Um, sometimes it's, it's hard to convince people of, of an idea that you feel confident about, but, um, to your point, like, I, I hope that anyone who is experiencing that and maybe frustrated by that in their product roles, um, tries to remember that it is such a valuable skill, no matter what you do in your career. Um, and, um, those character, so, um, all right, well, I'm going to shorten our rapid fire wrap up questions to just one, um, which I, I am curious to hear your answer cause I feel like you are a, um, you're always kind of reading something interesting or talking to someone interesting. So. My question for you is, what book or person has been most influential in your career? InHunter Guerin:
my career? I had, I was ready for most recently, but in my career I'm also ready for, and uh, if you know me, you've heard me say it, um, Tim Ferriss.Becca Moran:
I noticed you referenced him, like, right at the beginning. AtHunter Guerin:
least, yeah, I think my brother says if you talk to Hunter and he hasn't mentioned Tim Ferriss within the first 10 seconds, it's an anomaly. But, yeah, the 4 hour work week is incredible read. And, um, it, you know, I think it's super popular. So hopefully a lot of people reading or hearing this, uh, have already read it, but there's another thing is like, I don't always evangelize that book. Um, because the, the title for our work week is sounds kind of cliche or whatever. And that's not the point of the book. The point of the book is to figure out how to spend your time on things that are uh, effective. Rather than, you know, trying to be efficient. Um, I think like product management, this is huge entrepreneurial, uh, paths. This is huge. Is that. You can constantly have things to do on your to do list. And, and you know, one thing I've learned is the more productive you are, the more things that you put on your to do list, like your to do list will never get shorter, no matter what you try. And I've tried it all. And so figuring out the very few things that you need to do, you know, the, the critical few versus the trivial many. And a major principle actually just did an exercise like two days ago. Um, from that book is, is really the kind of two core principles of the 80, 20 principle. And then the, uh, Pareto principle, a 20 is that 20 percent of your, um, output comes from 80%, I'm sorry, 80 percent of your output comes from 20 percent of your input. 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your products, 20 percent of your customers. I mean, you can apply it to everything. And then, um, and then Parkinson's law is that work will expand based on the. Time that you a lot, so setting clear short deadlines, you know, if you have a, uh, if you're going to be interviewed on a podcast and you want to, you know, figure out how you might answer some questions, like give yourself like whatever, a short amount of time to do, to do it. And then you'll, you'll get it done because if you give yourself a longer amount of time, you know, the work will fill the time a lot. Yeah. Uh, and so that. That along with his podcasts and, you know, the last thing that I'll say about, uh, these books is that it, they have the four hour work week and other, other books of his and other business books that I've read, if they have a playbook, like do this, then this, then this, um, I, that really resonates with me. And in the 4 hour work week, there are these things called comfort challenges. Uh, that you do, and I've done every single 1 of them. And like, I always say, anytime I do anything from this book, like, almost exactly what he says will happen happens. I had a problem early on. Actually, I still do where I miss. I take some of his advice out of order. And so if you read before our work week, he has a structure for how you are going to. Uh, become more productive and free yourself to work on the things you love and do the things you love outside of work. And so the last thing in the book is to take a sabbatical or he calls them mini retirements. And I was like, ah, I'll just skip the first three steps and go straight to the sabbatical. Um, but you know, he actually pointed out and in another book, he mentions in that book multiple times, this book called vagabonding by Rolf Potts. And it's that, like, taking these long trips, you learn some of these skills you learn and these things that you acquire through travel will have a bigger impact on your life than whatever you would have done at work for that same seven week period. Absolutely. And so that single book has launched me into a unlimited number of future books that are then recommended by people he's interviewed on the podcast and whatnot. So, um, hands down, Tim Ferriss.Becca Moran:
No surprise there. I love it. Um, I'm going to start thinking about scheduling a sabbatical.Hunter Guerin:
I actually, uh, I have, uh, I I've written out sort of a outline of. Of the process from coming up with the idea all the way to pulling it off so I can share that with you and also the document with my that I shared with you when I was asking for. new role. Um, I can share that with you as well. That'd beBecca Moran:
awesome. Yeah. Thank you. So much good stuff today. Thank you so much, Hunter. I appreciate your time and I always love your thoughts, your perspective, your attitude, your energy, all of it. So thank you for being on the show. It was reallyHunter Guerin:
fun talking to you. Thanks for having me. I had a blast. Um, and would be happy to come back anytime. Awesome.Tim Winkler:
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