Welcome to the Frontier podcast.
Thank you! Thanks for having me.
Oh, obviously <laugh>, of course. I’m always like, this is — it’s such an ask to be like, Hey, I know your days are completely full of your actual job—but you take 30 minutes and talk to me about it and then kind of like a meta way. So I appreciate it.
Not a problem. I was excited. I was like, Oh, I get to be on the podcast! So I’m excited to take 30 minutes away from my day to decompress a little bit and talk about what I do.
<Laugh>, it’s only 9:00 AM so if you need to compress already, let’s talk about that.
Let’s talk about it.
Okay. Ashley, to start, obviously I know a lot of the answers to the questions I’m gonna be asking you, but I think your role here is really interesting, and your story is probably interesting to people who maybe don’t have a background in tech and are looking to get in in a way that like makes the most of a skill set that they built elsewhere. So I guess to start, do you wanna introduce yourself? Tell us what you do at Gun.io?
Yes. So I am Ashley Yearby, and I am an AE account executive here at Gun.io.
Cool. What does an account executive do here, specifically?
Specifically here, it’s a little bit different from any other sales account executive position I’ve ever had. We manage these accounts that come in and the clients that need software developers. We just help manage that relationship between the developers as well as our own internal team. Just managing that relationship. That’s the biggest takeaway I have so far from my job, kind of focusing more on outbound work than I think we have in the past. But I think a big part of what we’re doing every day is just managing that relationship and putting a human element to finding them the right person.
Yeah, I think that’s huge. And also like obviously our matching from candidate to opportunity. There’s a lot of folks that spend a lot of time on those matches, right? Like we’ve got dev, who’s a team of developers that are doing those. We’ve got our product team that’s doing kind of continual iterations on our product and how we programmatically surface those matches. But when I think of AEs here and like the value that they drive to our clients, for me, it’s about helping clients understand how they can get what they need to get done with the right developer in a way that works for them.
Instead of traditional hiring where it’s like, okay, so you need a senior Python developer, you’re gonna have to pay x dollars per year in salary. Like our AEs—you especially—are really good at like helping clients understand, you know, it doesn’t have to be—there’s not like one way to engage with a developer.
We can be flexible. We can drop somebody into your team for half time or quarter time. So I really think of it almost more like solutions help, right? As opposed to sales. That’s really helpful context. And you said you’ve been in AE before, and this is obviously very different than what you’ve experienced in the past. Talk to me about your career so far. What have you been doing?
Oh, wow. It’s so funny, because I was having a conversation yesterday, and every time I would say like, Oh yeah, I did this or I did that, she’s like, What in the world? Like, you’ve been all over the place. So I went to school for journalism, and I got a bachelor’s and a master’s in journalism. Worked in radio for a while, but I actually was not on air. I did marketing and promotions, so I did event planning and all that wonderful stuff. It was a beautiful time in my life. But then, you know, radio was just kind of a dying breed. It still is. So it was time for me to exit, and I left radio after a while, went in and did a little insurance sales, which, you know—oh, I don’t know—that was so long ago. But again, it was a sales position that was very much like hustle, hustle, hustle, go, go, go. Wasn’t really for me. Insurance was just not <laugh>. Yeah. It was not fun. Exciting when you come from radio to insurance, wasn’t that right? <Laugh>? I ended up going back into radio, and this time I went into the sales side of it, and again, as fun as it was, sales is a hundred percent commission in radio, there is no <laugh>. So you—
That explains a lot, actually, for like the outbound messages I get from like radio ads people.
Speaker 2 (04:49):
<Laugh>. Yeah. It is very much like, it is a hundred percent commission. So if you don’t work, don’t hustle, you don’t eat—like that is—that’s just the bottom line of it. And so that was definitely a stressful time. Again, I was young enough though, but I was like, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna get it. But I ended up leaving radio and I went to work in retail sales and again, I’ve always done sales. I’ve always done, you know, customer service. And let me not forget that there were some stints with airlines in there, <laugh>. I know it’s <laugh>— I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’ve always been that type of person. Curiosity really does drive me. So I started working for an airline when I was in college, in grad school. I think I worked like 12 hours a week.
It really wasn’t much, but I got to fly for free, so (Faith: Oh, that’s awesome!) Right. This is a win for me. So I kind of held onto that for a while. But it was very labor intense. Like I was working outside in the heat on the ramp loading planes. But I did that while I was in grad school. No big deal. Then after retail sales, you know, I’ve been laid off a few times, laid off from an airline, laid off from my retail sales job due to cut back. So, you know, I’m always like—what’s the next thing that’s gonna come my way? Ended up back in the airline industry again. But then I ended up going into probably the most fulfilling thing, which actually probably is what led me here is I went to a startup. I went to a short-term rental startup company, and I absolutely loved the environment and having a voice more than anything.
Being with big these bigger companies and having an idea and bringing it to the table only to be told, you know, We have somebody. That’s not your job, that’s somebody else’s job. Like that, to me, was probably the hardest part of every position I had up until that point. So being able to go to a company, have a voice and an opinion, and then actually be heard, even if we tried it and it failed, like they didn’t care. It was more so about, Let’s try everything possible to have the most success. And being able to be a part of that success really invigorated me to wanna do more and actually wanna work for somebody else. So that was the start of like—that was in 2017, and so ever since then, that’s been my focus. If I’m looking, it’s usually at a smaller company, a startup where I can have a big impact.
It’s funny, because we started working in startups the same year, and we both started with a short-term rental startup.
That is right. I remember we had that conversation.
<Laugh>, Isn’t that crazy?
It’s like the short-term rental business is already so chaotic. So like that combined with your first startup experience, which is like by nature chaotic is like you are really cutting your teeth early.
Yeah. You are getting hit every which way, like it is—there’s a lot going on all the time, and you’re literally on your toes every single day. Like you wake up and hit the ground running, just because there’s no other option.
Yeah. I’ve never worked for—I guess like the closest I’ve gotten to like a massive company like an airline or insurance has been working for a school district—like I was a teacher.
And so I imagine that it’s kind of similar though, where like exactly what you said, you know, at a larger company or at like a school district or bureau suits, like there’s not really a lot you can do to have an impact. And like usually in fact, if you have ideas, it’s like, Can you say that a little bit quieter and in fact, like not say it at all? <laugh>
Right. Just keep it to yourself.
Right. But I’m wondering if like, the experience of working for a large corporation and then being laid off—it sounds like multiple times working at a startup gives you a little bit more peace of mind, because you’re closer to those decisions. Like, at a large company, I imagine like those decisions are made closed door, you don’t really understand what’s happening top level at the business. And now, I mean here, I’m not sure what it’s like at your old startup, like you’re so close to the business itself. Like you know exactly how much business we’re bringing in, kinda what the bottom line is.
Do you find that that’s a little bit more—that that brings you a little bit more peace of mind?
Absolutely. Because even with—I’ve been laid off from two larger companies, and every time it happened, like they’d have a company wide meeting and the very next day, right, the company wide meeting and they’re like, rest assured, you know, think of like a movie and they’re playing this video and they’re like, Rest assured that everything is okay. It just sounds so peaceful and Zen. Oh god. And then like the next day, like all hell breaks loose <laugh>. And so like every time I got laid off in those two instances, we had these like company wide meetings and had this like, okay, you know, there’s something on the horizon, but we don’t know what, and we don’t really know when, but you know, we’re bracing for it. And it was the very next day and I was always like the first one they called in. I don’t know why I was the first one. Like I wasn’t even the highest paid.
<Laugh>. I wonder if you’re going in alphabetical order, Like how lame is that, going first name?
They might have been, they might have been. Because I honestly—I was like, I’m not the highest paid person. I don’t understand why I’m the first one that they’re calling in each and every time. It was very weird, but even with the startup that I was at where we shut down due to Covid, there was some layoffs beforehand—but we, again, had that insight into our business, because I could see the numbers. And maybe I didn’t see all the numbers, but I had a very good idea and a very clear picture of where things were going, based on our volume and based on—I never had that insight before, right? When you start talking about places that have thousands of locations, you definitely don’t have insight into volume or what’s really going on. But in these cases I’ve had the last, this is my third startup, I’ve been able to see the volume, I’ve been able to see the numbers and have some sort of insight into how well we are doing and what needs to change. And just having that insight does give you peace of mind. Even if it’s not like—good <laugh> , you at least embrace for what’s coming ahead.
Yeah. When you were describing kind of how you got started, like you went to school for journalism, and then your first role was in marketing, I was thinking like—I feel like that’s one of the things that makes you really good at being an account executive here is your early career was all about like basically learning how to listen to people. Like I feel like the thing like journalists are, if they’re good at anything, it’s listening to people. And honestly, same with marketers, ‘cause like, to understand what kind of story you need to tell, you have to like figure out what’s resonating with your audience. Have you found that that’s been valuable to you here?
Absolutely. I think that whenever you— learning how to listen, learning to write, all of these things—and just being an effective communicator overall. And granted, you have to kind of change your style a little bit, depending on the situation. But overall, being a a good communicator has definitely played a role in every position that I’ve had. And being able to—that customer service aspect that I was speaking about—I think every position I’ve had, there’s been an element of customer service. Whether you’re serving people internally or externally, there is still very much you have to be able to communicate to these people, no matter who they are. And that has served me very well in every position that I’ve had.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I feel like when people think about—people who aren’t in sales, when they think about sales are like Oh—there’s like this vision of a salesperson who’s good at like being salesy, whatever the hell salesy means—
It’s those—it’s when they’re using those big words and you know, like over-the-top personalities
<Laugh> Right. When people like—yeah, like giving people FOMO, like, Oh, if you don’t do this, you’re really missing out. But I feel like the superpower of a salesperson is actually like figuring out what it is that the person needs, who you’re working with, and like sometimes—it happens a lot here actually. Like sometimes when we get to the bottom of what a potential client actually needs are answers, like, we should not work together. Like I feel like that’s a lot of your conversations actually, is like, this is not the solution for you. I could sell it to you, but it’s not for you.
And I think that that’s what makes also this, this particular position very different is that in sales, it’s always about the number, it’s always about, you know, the margin. It’s always about getting new business. And here, that’s not necessarily the case. Here, we’re trying to be a partner in whatever, you know, in your business, a little silent partner, but we’re also going to direct you where you need to be. We’re not gonna oversell you, we’re not gonna give you somebody you absolutely don’t necessarily need. If you don’t need that much fire power in your—you know, from a developer, we’re not gonna find you the most senior most experienced person. We’re gonna find you someone that is senior and is experienced, but might be on a different scale or a different path. So yeah, I think that’s always what stood out for me since I’ve been here is that we are not just pushing people. We are very much talking, listening, finding out what your true need is and where we can bring that value. And you know, when someone says, you know, don’t send me the most expensive person, that’s never our goal. Our goal is always to help someone find a job that’s gonna be fulfilling for them, but also be able to solve your problem. And that’s the fulfilling part of this particular position is that we’re not just out here pushing to get numbers, we’re really building people’s teams and their futures.
Yeah, and I think what’s unique about your role is like, you can’t just kind of like push people, because we have to answer to developers who are incredibly discerning, right? Like if you were to just like, take on every single client that came to us looking for help, our developers would be like, No, what are you doing? Like this is not right for us, or this isn’t a compelling offer. So I think that like adds an additional kind of layer of challenge for your role as well.
There’s definitely—and when I say pushback, it’s not in a negative way—but there’s definitely like pushback on certain actions. Like why did you make this decision? So being the accountability factor there is very high here. And I think that speaks to like morals, and all of those things come into play whenever you are dealing with someone else’s livelihood. Because they can easily go somewhere else and, you know, just get tossed on a job or be given, you know, a crappy company. Like they can go do that on their own. They’re here to find like valuable and become an asset for somebody.
Right? Yeah. And I always tell folks, like we’ve really strategically designed how we make money as a business to align with the long term interests of clients and developers. So we’re obviously not recruiters where like we make our money in an instant when a hire is made, like our business model depends on people loving working with each other and doing it for a long period of time. Yeah. We have to like, I don’t envy your role, ‘cause you have to think about both, like what’s going to be—what’s gonna provide like immediate value to both parties, but also like, is this a long term fit? Like are these people gonna enjoy working with each other for the long term, right?
Mhm. And we’ve had these talks in our sales meetings here recently as far as like—especially since we’ve grown the team a lot <laugh> of having that conversation of how we are not recruiters, why we do not refer to ourselves as recruiters. And even for me that took a while to kind of like differentiate. Like I don’t understand, like how are we not recruiters? And you know, but it’s very clear now. It goes back to building that relationship. Recruiters aren’t necessarily trying to build a relationship, they’re just trying to get a job placed and go onto the next one. We have a system that is, you know, building this relationship but then also like cultivating it along the way. So even after you signed somebody on, now you’ve got still someone that’s going to check in with you and make sure things are going well and just making sure that you are happy the developer is happy. So it really is a very white glove service that they’re receiving, and that’s not what recruiters necessarily traditionally do. They are very much like placing, placing, placing, and moving on the next one.
I’m curious, you know, your professional story is so interesting. Wait, actually before I get into like your advice for people who might wanna do something similar, I feel like you’re the most multidimensional person on the team team, and that says a lot, because we are such a crew of like strange people with like crazy hobbies, <laugh>. But give us like a little taste of what you do outside work.
Oh goodness. Ok. So outside of work, aside of being like, Wife and Mom, I’ve opened a few businesses of my own, and they’re really just like my hobbies that kind of morphed into <laugh> other things. Yeah. At one point I had a walking food tour company that—I love to eat. And so I was taking people on these adventures with me, and it turned into like a few friends coming to people from all over the world were showing up to go eat and <laugh>
That’s so cool! Wait, I didn’t know about this business.
I don’t do it anymore.
You are such an onion, Ashley. Oh my god.
I don’t do it anymore. Covid definitely killed groups going to eat at restaurants with strangers and like doing community meals. That’s not happen—that wasn’t happening. But I did that for about five years on the side, in Oklahoma City. It was just something that I loved to do. It was a blog that I had. Ok, I’m gonna back up just a second.
Back it up, let’s go.
<laugh> I had a fire, and I was displaced, and I was living in a hotel, and so I wasn’t able to cook. I loved to cook, but I couldn’t cook. So I was going out to eat, and that kind of was like, hmm. I would go to several places in like a day or a night and eat at different places, and eat smaller meals and just enjoy—turned that into a blog, and then I was like, let’s bring the blog to life. And I just started bringing people along on these adventures, and it just kind of grew out of nowhere. So like companies like Dell and Target, they were doing their corporate tours. I had people coming in town from New York to go on the tour just to like—people really travel to go eat. (Faith: What?) <laugh>, I didn’t realize people really travel to go on these tours and eat and they do. So I was getting people from all over. I’ve had people from Germany, it was just— it was crazy.
And my business is Foodie Foot Tours here in Oklahoma City. An actual food tour starts in one restaurant. You’ll eat several items off of their menu, talk to someone within the restaurant, then we’ll leave from out of there and as we’re walking through the area, we will— let’s get a little information of history on that area, then we go into the next restaurant and do it all over.
Again. But it was a really fun and fulfilling time, but obviously Covid kind of killed that. And so I just figured that chapter was over. In the midst of that, I realized that people love to drink as well, and going out to get a cocktail was expensive. Like who wants to go spend 15 to $20 on a drink like every time they go out? So I took the idea of building a craft cocktail, and I created a dice game. And again, it was just me having a thought in my head and wondering, how can I bring it to life? Is it even possible? And it was, and again, it just kind of took off and like did its own thing. And now I have a dice game that I sell just randomly outside of work.
<Laugh>. That is so cool. I need to get this dice game. We always—like when we’re making dinner, we’re like, Do you want a cocktail? Yeah, you want a cocktail? Yeah. And we always make the same, like all I drink is a dirty martini, but it’s not because I don’t like anything else. It’s just that I don’t—cocktails are so creative, and I really need like a little creative push to try something else.
To try. And that’s honestly what it’s all about, because I always tell people life is greater than vodka cranberries.
Is that your tagline?
That’s what my—it probably should be my tagline, but I literally say like— that’s kind of how I drive that conversation is like, you know, life is greater than a vodka cran. And when, you know, I like to have people over and even like girls night, game night, it’s just something fun to do, try something different and kind of, you know, just make you a better home bartender. And again, it was just an idea, and it kind of took a life of its own and I just—I let it go.
That is so cool. Also real quick, power lifting <laugh>, that’s a thing for you as well. Right?
So my husband’s a power lifter. I do what is called strong man events and I’ve only done—I’ve done two competitions and—
Well, that’s more than zero.
That is more than zero.
More than the rest of the population <laugh>
I used to be a college athlete, and I just think that I’ve always been internally competitive. Not outwardly, people don’t necessarily think I’m like a super competitive person, but I’m usually competing against myself. So just still being able to be physically active, and like, I need to go for a goal. Like there has to be an end goal here. I can’t just go work out just to work out. That’s not gonna work for me. And that’s kind of how I got into strong man events—and it’s lifting stones. It is, you know, sandbags, carrying yolks. It’s really fun, and I like it because it’s very much not about the technique of how you get it. It’s like, just be strong and make it happen. And so that’s what I enjoy about it. Like, I don’t have to worry about being so technical with it. I don’t have to worry about like, my form. It is just use your strength, and figure out a way to make it happen. And I enjoy that.
I feel like that could be the theme of your life.
<Laugh> Just get it done.
Yeah, just figure out how to make it happen. You have an idea for a dice game?
Just figure out how to make it happen.
Yeah. Make it happen. Ok. Well that’s a great segue. How can somebody who’s hearing your story and is like, man, you know, I think I have probably what it takes to get into startups and maybe even like a pretty technical role like the one you have right now. How can they just make it happen? What would your advice be for them?
I said it before, but I’m always—I live through curiosity. Curiosity is always one of those things that has taken me to the next level of whatever it is. ‘Cause honestly, I had never heard of a product manager until I was at my first startup, and I was like, what do these people do? And in wondering that, I ended up going and getting a certificate in product management. Now I know what they do—I have a better understanding—but that also helped me with my day to day life, and in my day to day work, and understanding what they do, taking some of those key things and implementing them into how I run my day. So just to being curious definitely will go a lot further than just having the knowledge or having the interest. Knowing a little bit of everything, like I said, it’s gotten me really, really far.
So I think that’s really the biggest key, is if you see something and you don’t know what it is, go look it up. Then you’re—then that’s gonna take you on the rabbit hole. You’re gonna go down a lot of rabbit holes, <laugh> especially when you’re a curious person. But having that knowledge opened so many other doors. Like I would’ve never thought about going into—I think the previous startup I was at was a FinTech company. I would’ve never thought about being in FinTech. I do not do numbers, I do not do math. But that’s—I ended up there going down a rabbit hole. Same thing with my previous startup. Before that in short term rental—went down a rabbit hole of like, Oh these Airbnbs—like people outside of like Airbnb, like someone else is running this, how does this work? So just having curiosity, it’ll lead you to so many other places. And even in this role, I’m still learning every single day. As a matter of fact, Faith sent me this book <laugh> and I keep it by my desk. So it’s very good, and I use that as a reference, especially when I’m like, I don’t know what these people are talking about sometimes. And that’s okay, because that’s why we have other people with stronger skill sets like our TTA team for me to go and get the information from. So it’s not always about knowing everything, but it is about the ability to learn, and it is about being open to criticism and feedback. And again, curiosity. As long as you’re curious, you’ll be okay.
<Laugh>. Yeah. I love—I think that that’ll be like our quote for your episode is knowing a little bit about a lot of things will get you far. I think that’s so true. And yeah, especially in this role. Like yeah, we need to understand what frameworks are and languages and kind of what kind of talent can fill what kind of need. But also we’re working with people who are running businesses across like—
<Laugh>, infinite numbers of industries. Right? And so we have to understand kind of the specifics, at least like broad specifics of a lot of different industries. So that’s really awesome. Yeah. One of the things I wanna put together this quarter is a bookshelf, like a publicly accessible bookshelf.
So people can see like what the team here is reading, and all those rabbit holes that you’re talking about. Like not just about, you know, tech news and that kinda stuff, but like what are we learning about? I think that would be really cool.
I think that’s why I really enjoy our Friday check-ins, because we get to see like the random things that we all do outside of work when we are checking in and talking about like what we’re grateful for for the week, but also what did we learn this week? And you know, it’s a very interesting day. I enjoy Fridays <laugh> in Slack.
It’s so much fun to read through those, yeah.
To see what people have learned. ‘Cause then that opens us up to like, Oh, I didn’t know that—that’s gonna send you down another rabbit hole, ‘cause you’re gonna go look it up yourself. (Faith: Yeah.) It’s just, I fully enjoy that part of our Slack channels, is being able to like share something we’ve learned that week.
It is a really fun ritual, and I love that we’ve been able to keep it going as the team has grown. ‘Cause you’re right, it gives us exposure to so many different like random facts about like historical events that people are reading about or…wildlife events in their backyard, you know?
Yes. That or that people eat bean chowder and cinnamon rolls. <Laugh> That was a hot topic a couple weeks ago. But yeah, it’s—I really enjoy that aspect of the Slack channels, being able to kind of share what we’re doing outside of work and kind of, you know, a little insight into what everyone’s personality is like.
Yeah. A hundred percent. Well Ashley, this has been so much fun. This is the best way to start my Thursday, and I might make an excuse to interview you every Thursday morning, actually.
Well I’ll take that, ‘cause I definitely enjoyed the conversation and you know, just kind of keeping me on my toes and being able to really see the value in what I’m doing. It’s very easy to like do the work and get caught up in it, and be like, Oh, sometimes it can be exhausting. But when you sit down and talk about like the joy and value that what we’re doing, it definitely puts things into perspective.
Yeah. Awesome. Well if you’re listening, and you wanna meet Ashley, all you need to do is sign up for Gun.io, and she’ll probably be one of the first people you meet, so…
And where can people buy your dice game? Because I’m asking for myself.
<Laugh>. It’s called the Adventurous Bartender, and it can be found at theadventurousbartender.com
Amazing. All right Ashley. Well, thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your day!
Awesome. Thanks, Faith. You have a good one, too.
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