I love that dark green background. That shit’s sick.
Thank you. I told you I would do this in your house. This is what I was talking about with like the…
Yes! That’s what I want. I love them. What is that called?
I think the technical name is like board and batten or something like that. But I just call it a wall treatment and it’s very easy. I can teach you how to do it or just do it for you.
Man. Yeah, that looks so cool. That looks legit
<Laugh> Thanks, Teja. Well, this is not a podcast about–unfortunately–my interior design, but maybe we can do an episode about that later. This–
Let’s talk about that. Have you seen Dream Home Makeover?
Oh, you guys have not seen this show?
Yeah. Studio McGee. Ballers. It’s so sick. Yeah, you’d like that show Faith. It’s a–they like, renovate houses, but it’s like cool, like modern designs and it’s like a couple that owns the design studio. It’s legit.
Yeah. Maybe that’ll be my midlife crisis. So I’ll do that. But I have twenty-five years left, I think, until I have a crisis.
Well, this is a podcast actually about Jessi. So Jessi, welcome to the Frontier Podcast. We’re stoked to have you.
I’m super excited to be here. I feel honored.
As you should. We don’t invite anybody to this podcast. First of all, you have to work at Gun.io and second of all, you have to say yes. So there’s really <laugh>, really harsh criteria. So congratulations on making the cut.
I mean, 7 billion people in this world, 20 people work here, so, I mean, that’s a pretty select crew. <Faith: That’s true>. And you gotta say yes.
It’s true. It’s more than the top 1%, I would argue.
That’s a fact. Yeah.
All right. Well, Jessi, this episode is about you, obviously, and what you do here and what brought you here. And this is relevant because you’ve been with us for three years and until recently you were the only person doing what you do at Gun.io. And the thing you do is basically make sure that people can hire developers, which is the thing that the business does. So if anybody has hired or been hired on Gun.io in the last three and half years, you’ve had a hand in that, which is pretty freaking cool.
When you put it that way.
Can I give big ups to Jessi for a sec? So I think Jessi has presided over and closed–CLOSED–probably close to $7 million in revenue, I would say. Cuz I think, I think we were doing 3 million–for your next, for your next job, you can just clip this part and take it–yeah. Three? I think $3 million revenue, gross. Now we’re at $10 [million], so seven years. Sole sales person and also probably, like sole retention person, basically. <Faith: Mm-Hmm.> Speaks well to the developers, speaks well to people that you connect and the companies. But you have basically closed all that business, gotten all those devs hired, doubled the business–a little bit more: $7 million worth of sales, you know what I mean? So that’s fucking sweet.
Thanks. I couldn’t have done it without, you know, the rest of my supportive team.
Aww. Well, okay. Listeners might be like, ‘Yeah, well what the hell does she do?’ So Jessi, what is your role here? What is it that you do at Gun.io?
Good question. So I am the Engagements Manager. Basically what that entails–you know, I think it’s shifted a bit recently, and it’s shifted from when I started. But anything client-facing at this point. From the time, you know, they join our platform to find a developer. I’m working with them to understand their needs, understand how we can best partner with them. And then from there it’s working with the talent team to get them the right candidates, making sure, you know, they’re interviewing and the interviews are going well. And then working with the clients and the developers to finally, I guess, close that deal. But, you know, preferably I kind of like to just make sure it’s working out in terms of like budget for both the client and the dev; in terms of hours capacity, what the engagement’s gonna look like? And then after that happens, I’m, you know, just kind of here in case anything happens during the engagement. If they need to add on more people, if they need to–they’re starting to work on this new feature and they need a backend developer now. So yeah, really anything on the client side. <Faith: Yeah.>
Why do you think you’re so good at your job? Like, what’s your superpower?
I think that… I don’t–Teja, that is a hard question.
No, it’s not. Come on.
It is a hard question. It requires a high degree of self awareness.
But I’m confident you can get the answer.
I think one thing I’m good at is understanding what we can do and what we can’t do, and being transparent about that with clients when they come to us. You know, and then helping them, helping them maybe realign their expectations to something that will work very well for their team and would be a good fit for our platform. And just trying to get them the best talent, you know, that we have. And that will work out for them for what they’re needing to do. I think I do a good job of that and I communicate things well in that aspect.
Yeah. I think you build a high degree of trust, like very quickly.
Yes. I think that’s a product of what Jessi called out, which is transparency and honesty. <Teja: Yeah. Yeah.> Like if somebody is immediately straight up with me, I will trust them forever because I know that they’re not just like blowing smoke, you know?
Yeah. And on our platform, I think that we have both sides: the client side and the dev side. And if you’re not transparent, if you’re not honest from the go, like, it’s never gonna be a good engagement. So that’s the goal. You know, I only want good engagements for everyone around. Right? So.
Right. So internally, like the job you described is like very specific to Gun.io, right? Like the, the thing that you do, the connective tissue that you kind of serve as between our developers and our clients who are looking to hire, super specific to us. Externally, what people would think of this role as is like sales, right? Like an account executive. And so, you know, obviously we’ve talked about, you’ve been here for three and a half years. I’m curious about your journey before you landed at Gun.io. It wasn’t a technical background but you did have sales experience. So like how did you get here?
So I, prior to being at Gun, my first job out of college, I was an AE for a radio station, which lasted like all of three months before I realized I hated it.
But I worked for a study abroad company, actually, for seven years prior to Gun. So I was the regional director there for the MidAtlantic. And basically what that was was you know, forming connections in the international departments at these universities. End goal with getting them to approve our study abroad programs for their students. And then, you know, from there it was a lot of you know, meeting with faculty to talk about our programs, meeting with students doing these study abroad fairs and Greek life presentations and faculty presentations. And it was really fun. I got to live in Spain each summer and run the study abroad programs there. I was traveling like 40 weeks out of the year to different universities.
Oh my God.
<Laugh>. I think working in education you need to have, like a real passion for education, which is great. And I do to an extent, but I just didn’t necessarily see myself like, you know, I would go to conferences and the people at the highest level of the international education field where it’s like, it’s awesome for them. I just wasn’t that into it, I guess?
Yeah. No, that’s good. I think that’s like something that people often don’t think about when they’re like, ‘What the hell am I supposed to do with my life? What do I care about?’ Yeah. And you just described a very easy test, which is like, look at people at the top of their field and who do you envy? Like who do you wanna be? <Jessi: Yeah.> And if it’s not the people in your field, then you gotta change fields, you know? <Teja: Mm-Hmm.>
Well, and I admired the shit out of them. Like, they’re incredible. They’re like forging all these new paths for like, you know, young students and you know, first gen students and students of color and it was awesome. And I loved being able to do that too, but yeah, I don’t think, like, long term it was probably the field that I was interested in that much.
Right. And like admiration is different than envy. <Jessi: Yes.> Right? Like you could admire somebody doing something that’s totally different than what you’re interested in, but envy is like, ‘I want what you have, I want what you’re doing.’
Yeah. And then I moved to Nashville. I was looking at pretty much–I think you guys advertised on AngelList. I think that’s where I found the job post, cuz that’s what I was looking at. I had a bunch of friends that were doing tech startups in Philly and like, I would work from their office a lot, like for my study abroad job when I was home because I was remote. And I just like, loved what they were doing. It was so interesting to me. So that’s what I focused on when I moved to Nashville and I met Tyler and then I met you fine folks, and here I am, three and a half years later. <laugh>
Has the expectation matched reality. Like, is it really fun?
Oh my God, I don’t even know what I expected. Like, I had no idea going into it. I mean, and even when I started, I couldn’t tell you for the life of me how an app was built, like front-end? Back-end? No, no clue. And now I’m like, I was just on a call earlier and like helping a guy figure out you know, what, what he should do for his like DevOps infrastructure based on the technology stack he wanted to use. I’m like, ‘Where the hell did this come from? Good for you, Jessi!’ But yeah, it’s been fun. I’ve learned a lot.
Yeah. Good for you, Jessi.
I’ve learned far more about software development in the past three and a half years than I learned about international education in seven. I can say that.
<Laugh>. Wow. Well, obviously–you know, maybe not obviously actually–we hired you for a very different job than what you’re doing now. And also all the jobs that you’ve done over the last three and a half years. Like your job has really changed a lot, maybe more than anybody else on the team since you joined. And I’m sure with each of those seasons there’s been a different challenge. But I’m curious to hear about what the biggest challenge is now in the world of Jessi at Gun.io. Like what are, what problem are you trying to hack?
I mean, at the end of the day it’s getting more people hired and I think that’s always <Faith: mm-hmm> the biggest thing that we’re trying to do. But digging into that a bit more <Faith: mm-hmm>, I guess something that I find difficult is when people, you know, come to us with a need we present them with someone, you know, absolutely fantastic. They could knock something out in, you know, a month. Whereas, you know, someone else might be very good as well. But like my challenge is convincing someone that someone at a higher rate is going to, you know, blow this out of the water. It’s gonna take their product, you know, from like level one to level 10 in a very short amount of time. Whereas you can also hire someone that’s like $150 less, but six months from now, you’re probably not gonna see the return that you would if you just hired this perfect person for the job. So that’s always a struggle.
Yeah. I think the problem that you’re describing is a symptom of like the Amazonification of everything, which is everybody wants something fast and cheap, and that’s not, that’s not how you should hire people, right? Like there should be a little bit more strategy involved than just fast and cheap and, you know, able to be searched on a marketplace. We were actually just talking about this with somebody else from the team around, like, how important it is to have somebody technical doing your technical vetting because they’re gonna be able to make those calls. Just like you just described, Jessi. Like, sure, you could hire somebody super cheap who says that they can do the thing that you think they can do, but you know, who confirmed that for you, right? Like, who vetted this person? Did you have a senior dev ask them the right questions? So that’s interesting and I feel like that’s kind of an evergreen thing that we encounter, right? Like we’re up against folks who are advertised as being super capable, but charging like 20 bucks an hour, which, you know, well, seems unlikely.
And I can’t tell you how many people I get on the phone with and they’re like,’ Yeah, listen, you know, I’m kind of weary about the whole freelancer thing. We hired this guy from Upwork, you know, six months ago, and like, it just went off the rails.’ And so, you know, I think it’s being able to make people understand that there’s a difference between the talent on our platform, how they’re vetted, how well we know them, like the, the way that our talent team interacts with our developer community where those, those issues should not be prevalent if you’re working with a Gun freelancer.
Mm. Yeah. It’s interesting. Like, I think, I think it’s fairly true that you either have to be the cheapest option or you have to make the cost irrelevant <Faith: mm-hmm.> by speaking to some other benefit, right? Like, yeah, you may save money, but if your goal is growth or your goal is to have a killer product so you make more revenue, you have to pay more. But sometimes people aren’t in a place to receive that.
Right. And also understanding like in the long term, you probably won’t save money, right? Like we hear from so many people who are like, ‘Well, I went with the cheaper rate, but it took eight months longer and I had to throw the whole thing away.’ <Teja: Yeah>. At the end of the day, like, it’s more expensive.
I mean, good people aren’t costs, they’re investments
Right? From the standpoint of a team leader, it’s an investment in the business. Especially if they’re building a product, you know?
We have a client now. We gave him a few options, in terms of candidates. One was perfect, like had built the same thing before, 20+ years of experience. He was a bit hesitant on signing him because he was exorbitantly more than other people he’d worked with and even other people that we presented. And I just heard from him recently that the guy that they hired did more in the last month than their team’s been able to do the last six months.
Wow. That’s awesome.
Amazing. Amazing. That’s, yeah, you don’t believe that until you see it. Because you unfortunate thing sometimes is like also people who are not good have a really high rate also, like that also happens.
And that’s always lame. So that’s a challenge that, you know, just a business challenge, but for the most part, yeah, I think it’s always like, go for the person that’s solid, you know?
You know what’s funny? I was just thinking if I had asked you this question, Jessi, three years ago, like, what’s the biggest challenge we’re facing in your world? The answer very well may have been ‘My biggest challenge is convincing people that developers can work remote.’ Like, do you remember a time like before Covid? <Teja: Oh shit! Yeah!> When it, like we were, we were creating content, we were doing, like, script writing. Like here’s how to approach this objection. Like developers can work remote. And now it’s like the landscape has just totally changed. Right? And that’s affected us, I think in a huge way.
Yeah, massively. Yeah. I remember that we’d get someone, they’re like, ‘Well we need, you know, this expert Python developer he must be in Wichita.’ And we’re like, ‘Listen, you know, we can, we can get you someone fantastic or we can get you someone in Wichita, you know?’ What is the need? So that’s, yeah, that’s been good for us.
All right. I have, I have one more question for you, Jessi. And I think the, the way I wanna frame this is, you know, for folks who are listening who are interested in pursuing kind of a high-level role at a tech company, but they don’t have a tech background. So essentially someone who wants to do something like what you’re doing, what advice would you have for them?
Good question. Because I feel like I just lucked my way into it. <Laugh>
I feel the same way. <Laugh>
But from, I mean now like, being in it, I think having a good understanding of the industry, even just like Hacker News articles, staying up with that. Doing like, you know, you can do like SCRUM management courses online. So, you know, knock those out in like a couple weeks, then you at least have a good feel for how things are built. Faith, what’s that book that you recommend?
How to Speak Tech? I send that to all of our new employees.
That one’s good. So literally, I mean, I think it’s just having an understanding about how engineering teams function because that was a huge–like once I finally got a grasp on that, I think I just had a much better feel for, you know, how this industry works and how teams work and how things are built. Which is, it’s helped me a lot cuz the first couple months here–hate to tell you Teja <laugh>–I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’
Oh, that’s, that’s normal. I mean that’s, yeah, that’s all good happens for me seven year years later. It happens today.
A hundred percent. Yeah. I feel like an understanding is always good, you know, as, as someone who interviews a lot of folks who are non-technical, who we want on our team, like, it’s cool to hear that they know some things, but I feel like what’s even more compelling is when they can show that they are like actually interested in it.
Right? Because it’s very hard to fake. And even if you can do it for a few months or maybe even a few years, like, you’re gonna burn out real fast talking about something all day long that doesn’t interest you at all. So…
You know, I also say, you know, I think that it’s good to try to do stuff that you haven’t done before. I mean, that sounds so like trite, but it’s almost like if you’re not doing something that you’re a little bit unsure about, you’re probably not pushing yourself, you know, hard enough cuz you’re not exploring a territory that is new to you and that’s how you can add value and make more money and like all that stuff that people wanna do. So that’s true at the business level. It’s true at the personal level, I think. <Faith: Yeah.> So…
So, okay, so you were in like an IC (individual contributor). I mean basically you’re managing like a whole business function by yourself now. You have a team, you have like four other people I think, plus Ben. What’s that transition like?
Well, I mean, I don’t–it’s been a hell of a learning experience because we never had to like, train anyone or onboard anyone. <Teja: Mm.> So I think each new hire we’re like, ‘Oh, okay. Like, this is just, just the stuff that lived inside my head. Like, you know, we need to get this documented. We need to get this on paper.’ This is what things people coming into the team don’t immediately know. So I think we’re getting better with each hire. But yeah, I mean, it’s been a godsend. I’m so happy to have the other people on the team. <Laugh>
What about ownership over the whole function? Do you feel like you have to let go a little bit? Is that a challenge?
Yeah…It was a massive challenge for me in the beginning. Because as, like, the person who all–who did everything on this side, I’m like, well, how is anyone gonna know, like, how I did this or how I did that if I’m not, like, paying attention to every single aspect of it? But the nice thing about it is like, you know, with our coordinators fully doing interviews now, they’re doing interviews a hundred times better than I was because that’s their concentration. You know, like I feel like I was doing everything but not doing everything fantastic, like really well, because, you know, there’s only so much you can do when you’re doing like, the interview process of it, and the inbound leads and you know, being an account manager and all of that. So it’s been nice to see people in those roles, like really own them, develop their own processes, make them better. <Teja: Hmm.> So, you know, I think it’s definitely a good thing that I like, let go of the control there because they’re, they’re doing it better because they’re able to concentrate on it and they’re owning it. So.
Do you look for the same ability to build trust rapidly? Or like what do you look for when you are picking these new teammates?
Yeah, 100%. I mean that’s like my biggest thing with anyone on my team is that what I, that’s what I want because like, I screw up shit all the time, but like, I’m like, ‘Oh guys, I just, I screwed that up.’ Like, I’m very much down to take accountability for things I do wrong because it’s like the only way you’re gonna learn and I don’t know what’s the point of not doing that. So that’s a massive thing on my end. I know for, like, when we first started hiring, hiring the coordinators, it was like, you know, productivity, organization. And I think, you know, we got two great people there. But now seeing them like own it more, I think there’s a lot more to that role besides like, being super organized and following up with people. So it’s been nice to see them kind of like, get creative with it and start developing their own processes and that role. So.
Hmm. You have to show up differently when you have teammates versus when it’s you? Or is that not, not the case? Like, do you, do you feel like there’s a–like your performance is more under a microscope because you know they’re looking to you to model, right? Do you get that sense or are you like, ah, it’s the same?
No, I mean I do. I do to an extent because I feel like if they’re not, you know, performing to what they could be, that’s on me because I’m one that’s, you know, trained them and taught them, ‘Hey, this is how I did my job. Like, this is what you guys should be doing.’ So I do, but I, I don’t know. I mean, I think everyone’s doing well. Like, I’m very happy to have them.
I feel like you and I are similar, Jessi, and that we have such a high bar for ourselves that sometimes if someone on our team messes something up, the first time, like it’s always my instinct to be like, ‘Okay, well I’m never gonna ask you to do that again. Like, I will do that thank you.’ Because I just, my bar is so high that I’m like, it’s just not worth the risk of having someone mess it up again. But that’s incorrect. Like, I know that that is an incorrect way to manage and it has been so hard for me to, like, unwind that and be like, ‘No, it’s okay. We’re gonna coach them through this and they might mess it up again. And that’s still okay’. You know, I just, I think–
We’ve gotten better at that, Faith.
How have you, how have you gotten better at it? Like what, what has your approach there been?
So, in areas where I would normally like, immediately step in and be like, ’Okay, I’ve got it from here.’ I’m trying to, you know, relinquish control. If we don’t, if we quote the clients maybe an incorrect rate at some point, like it’s not the end of the world. We can just, you know, respond and tell them like, ‘Hey, sorry, you know, we mixed that up. It’s actually gonna be at this.’ Like, you know, I think, I think it’s dealing with like, everything doesn’t have to be exact and perfect all the time because, you know, the more learning experiences, the more you know how to handle those future situations. Because each client’s situation is different. Each dev situation is different. There’s so many like, I don’t know, you know, we need to deal with the payment terms on this one, or this one, you know, they’re only looking for a buyout, but it wants to be at a lower rate. And you know, they’re hiring five plus people through us, so we can do that. So the more situations that everyone’s a part of, the better they’re gonna know how to deal with that going forward. And then I don’t have to as much.
We started this conversation talking about how good you are, Jessi, at being transparent with people and how that becomes a superpower when you’re like gaining their trust and eventually like selling. And I think screw ups are an ideal opportunity to provide that transparency. Like, when I think of the biggest fuckups I’ve had here, like a few months ago, I sent a welcome email to literally everybody who’s ever signed up for Gun.io. Like, I clicked the wrong button when I was making a workflow and everybody got ‘Welcome to Gun.io’ and people immediately were like, ‘What is this? I didn’t sign up. Have you been hacked?’ But we sent out an email, like immediately, and it was like, it was super real. Like, ‘Hey, this is Faith. I messed up. So sorry. You could ignore that.’ And we got so many responses being like, ‘This is why I like working with you guys.’ Right? So like those are opportunities. Like I–every mistake is an opportunity to like lean into that transparency.
I swear I get the best emails back when my email starts with, ‘Dude, I’m so sorry. That was on me.’ <laugh>. Like, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, it happens. Don’t worry about it.’
Yeah. It’s such a good reminder that like on the other end of literally everything we do on the internet is a human.
And I think we can lose that a lot when we’re working remote.
And that ownership is so rare, which is why I think it’s so highly valued and, you know, elicits such a favorable response. And it’s not like a, it’s not an affect. Right? You guys aren’t just doing that for the, that’s like a genuine disposition I think, of the team. Yeah. It’s awesome. And, and I don’t know, if you’re not making mistakes, you ain’t working fucking hard enough, moving fast enough.
Yeah. I think, I think the people here who do well, I actually think tend to be like, you have to be a little bit of a rule breaker. <Jessi: Mm-Hmm.> You can’t be divorced from, like, the consequences of misbehavior. But like, you kind of have to be like, I would probably get through this yellow light just fine <laugh> you know? <laugh>
And I think that’s, that’s probably true with, like, every business that’s trying to grow. Like you and I have talked about this Teja, like it’s not good enough to just be as good as the person who’s currently at the top. Like you’ve gotta be better and different than them. And in order to do that, yeah, you gotta break some rules. You gotta gun it through the yellow. That’s a great metaphor. I love it.
Yeah, good enough ain’t good enough.
<Laugh>. But if you’re listening and you wanna [email protected], we do not have incredibly high standards that are impossible to reach. You know, good, good enough–Anyway, <laugh>, we can cut that <laugh>.
No, we do. I mean you have to be a fuckin’–I dunno, I think you have to be good to work here. At least, I hope that’s the case.
Oh yeah, you do. You have to be exceptional. Yeah. But it’s not the culture of like, ‘I see you tried really hard on this. It’s terrible.’
I always say that this team is the smartest group of people I’ve ever met or worked with by far.
It’s true. I think that’s like one of the benefits of working here is I never feel like I’m the smartest person in the room.
Oh no. Me either <laugh>.
Yeah. No, me neither. Trust me. So we covered the team growth stuff. Yeah, I mean so how did you kind of develop the technical acumen? Was it just through like, you know, I’m curious ‘cause I think it would be valuable to the audience. Like how’d you kind of, was it on the job training? Did you do work after? You know, did you ask a lot of questions? Like how did you develop that capacity quickly?
I mean I think I had to, I’d say it was 90% on the job training. It’s being, you know what I’m finding candidates for jobs, I need to understand, like, what they need and how, how their product is built and how their team is run. So I mean I’m on tech calls like with clients. So when clients join the platform, we do this initial tech call to understand, you know, their needs, why they’re hiring for this role, what the end goals are. So being on those types of calls for, you know, all the time with people in different industries and at different roles in different companies and you know, from non-technical founders to enterprise clients. It was mostly that honestly. And then just learning, you know, from our talent team. And honestly I learned a lot from, like, the developers on our platform too. In the beginning of this, like, I don’t as much anymore, but I was sitting on interviews constantly like between clients and developers. That’s where I learned probably 75% of this. Listen about experience, what they built, how they did it. So yeah, it’s, it was a lot of on the job training.
OJT: can’t beat it.
Yeah, for sure.
One of the huge realizations for me a few months in was like I feel, I feel like when people talk to me about something that I am not an expert in and have no desire to be an expert in, I tend to put it in the filing cabinet in my brain of like, do not need to understand. If somebody can talk to me about how they like put on a concert and I’m like, that’s, that’s gonna go in the ‘do not need to understand’ and I’m gonna tune out half of what you’re saying. And like a few months into my work here, I realized that I was putting like backend languages and the way people design infrastructures of apps into that filing cabinet. ‘Cause I was like, subconsciously, I was like, ‘Well I’m not a dev, I don’t need to know that.’ And I had to be like, ‘No, actually, like you need to be curious about all these things and have a real desire to understand them even if you’re not the one who’s writing code.’ And I think that was huge.
Yeah. And it took me a bit to understand them. Cause at that point I was just trying to, you know, get my bearings, figure out what was what I’m like, I don’t need to know, React and Vue. Like what’s, what is the point? When someone says “React”, we find them a React person. Then you start to figure it out. <laugh>
This has been very helpful. Arguably one of the most fun conversations that we’ve had yet in the podcast. I really appreciate it.
Jessi: I feel like this wasn’t even that fun. I could have done way better
Faith: What?! This feels like–it makes me jealous of all the clients who get to talk to you all day. Like I’m bummed that I’m not a Gun.io client.
Jessi: You could be, Faith.
Yeah. Build an app. Build an app. I’ve been thinking about putting an app through the platform just for fun.
Faith: We can do that.
Teja: I wanna try our new scoping session.
Cool. Alright, well I’ll dream on that. But in the meantime, <laugh>, Jessi, it’s been real. Thanks for coming on the Frontier.
Jessi: Thanks guys.
Faith: Thanks for listening to the Frontier podcast, powered by gun.io. We drop two episodes per week. So if you like this episode, be sure to subscribe on your platform of choice and come hang out with us again next week and bring all your internet friends. If you have questions or recommendations, just shoot us a Twitter DM at the Frontier Pod and we’ll see you next week.
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