Season 2, Ep. 28 – Meet the team: Gun.io’s Technical Talent Advocate, Girish Kumar
When you hear that someone like our Technical Talent Advocate, Girish Kumar, who casually started TWO companies while running a third, is the kind of talent who helps to vet our talent, it sends a clear signal that our team is up to snuff.
Hey, G, how’s it going? Is this a room in your place?
This is my girlfriend’s flat. I’m in New York.
Oh, nice. I haven’t been to New York all year, and usually I make like at least two trips and I stock up on bagels.
<Laugh>. Oh yeah.
Oh, it’s the best part. Yeah, I miss it. Well, welcome to the Frontier podcast. I don’t think we’ve had you on yet. Is this your first time?
First time <laugh>
Well, Girish, I don’t think we’ve actually talked on a video call since your onboarding several months ago. So let’s start with just like a quick intro tell the folks who you are and maybe what you do here at Gun.
Yeah, sure. Hi, my name is Girish. So I work as a technical talent advocate at Gun, pretty much like helping developers onboard into our platform, asking them questions and making sure like they’re all set for success at Gun. So really that’s what I do. So yeah.
I love that. Yeah. And you do—are you doing matches too? So when we get a new opportunity in, are you helping kind of figure out who’s the best fit for that from the community?
Yeah, exactly. So the second part to my job is to help candidates get placed in certain jobs that we got going. There are like five of us, and I’m one of the guys trying to like, look at candidates who applied for a role and making sure they’re like, you know, a right fit for that role and looking at what clients want. So yeah, it’s pretty much a matchmaking process in the background, I guess.
Yeah. And you were a developer before this, and actually I think I just saw that you got hired on a gig on the platform too, <laugh>, so you’re like concurrently, you know, writing software and doing this job. But walk me through maybe a little bit of your career arc. How’d you get here?
So I went to Cardiff University in the UK. It’s in Wales. That’s completely on the different side of the ocean right now, <laugh>. So I’ve graduated, and I’ve been like standard guy computer science, graduated and got into software and engineering. You know, I worked for an agency in Cardiff, didn’t like it. And then I got a really cool opportunity for a company in San Francisco to open office in London called Turex, and I moved there to London. It was pretty good opportunity, like being an engineer, growing the— being the first person in the company, you know in London. And that opportunity kinda like, you know, springboarded me for a leadership role in the company. I’ve been head of UK for them and subsequently, like, I ran like a networking group in London called Hacker Nest. You can search it up. It’s, you know, it’s pretty common meetup program. They started in Canada, I think, somewhere in the US so they were opening in London. So I was new to London, so I didn’t know much people, pretty much like building my network in London was pretty challenging, so I was like, Yeah, oh, let me run this meetup and like, meet new people. And like all the tech founders and CTOs were all in the meetup. It was pretty cool, like having breakfast with them, coffees with them is like pretty connected, plugged in right from the beginning. So I think from that I got spinned out into two startups trying to work with me. So while I was with Turx in my space, I’m building a brand new company from ground up was what I was doing.
So I built like Opre and Cyber Smart, two different companies. So proper hustler, you could say. <laugh> Built that, scaled the team. So we are like team of like couple of developers in these startups. But while Turx was growing, we had like team of 20 people in London, so it’s kind of like happened all parallelly. So that’s pretty much where I kind of like stood in. And then I quit jobs with Turx and joined startup based in Bristol and in the UK as a CTO full-time. So that was pretty interesting. So then I kind of like moved into like taking a break and then found Gun. So there’s that.
And we snatched you up, and we’re like, we need you on the internal team.
Yeah, I know. It’s so silly, because I applied as a freelancer, so I was like traveling. I was in New York, exactly same place, really. Like I was in a call for onboarding in Ghana. I set up my profile, did all the standard process, and then I had a call, onboarding call with Francois, one of the TTA staff there as well. And we were like, we hit it off. Like it was like instant connection and he was like, Man, we should hire you. You should work for us. And I had a call with Deividi and like, one thing led to another and ended up taking a TTA role in Gun. So, pretty exciting.
You’re here. We’re very lucky. I have so many questions for you. I’m gonna start at the top. First of all, have you seen Welcome to Wrexham? It’s my only context around Wales.
What’s that? Sorry.
Oh my gosh. Maybe this is like an American show that like British people and Welsh people don’t actually care about. So it’s called Welcome to Wrexham. And it’s about the Wrexham soccer club—sorry, football club and how it was purchased by Ryan Reynolds and the other guy. My family, like lineage is from Wales many hundreds of years ago. But they like came to North America in the 1600s. So we don’t have much connection anymore, but it was like the first kind of like education I’ve had and Wales and it’s all about a football club.
No way. That’s awesome.
Highly recommend watching. Yes. My second question is, did I hear you correctly that in your spare time you were building two startups basically from the ground up and scaling out those teams?
Yeah, that’s right.
Okay. Do you also have 24 hours in a day? Or like what’s going on?
No. I’ve always in my life been a programmer. So I enjoy writing code, building things from scratch. I’m a solid engineer in that area. I mean, I would not say solid. I would say like I’m an engineer who cares about all these things, and I just get fascinated by breaking things and figuring things out. I think that’s my DNA. I think when I was working with these freelancers or like these founders who are like figuring out what they want to do it always like bounds us into like an idea conversation, saying like, Hey man, I can help you build this kind of stuff. And and it’s pretty interesting what they’re coming up with. So we bumped heads, and it kind of worked out into building a company. So I can tell you one story.
It’s like a cyber smart, like the founder, Jamie— we are friends, we met in our networking group. And one day I was giving a talk about, you know, security and stuff like that, I think. Sorry, it’s Jamie who gave the talk around security hacking devices and stuff like that. And then we kind of like chatted on like, Hey, I can actually break your site and we can do this kind of thing, it’s spooky. But that kinda like helped us to grow in our friendship. And one day we were flying to Lisbon for web, and we are ended up in the same flight. So it was completely coincidence, and that’s when he was pitching this idea, Hey man, I wanna build this app where we can build as this whole security platform where we can scan devices and literally like give them cyber certifications in the UK.
So that kind of led into like me writing first code base for them and then using like platforms like Upwork to hire candidates. If I had known Gun then, probably I would probably do that <laugh>. And literally like growing the team. So the team kind of like became like 23 people, and I became hands off very quickly as we raised more capital and grown the business. So, but I enjoyed doing that purely because like I just love seeing new things come alive, and launching my first product, hitting the like database limits right away was like a scary thing, but it’s super thrilling. It’s like you know, like blood rush kind of thing. And I, you know, I enjoyed that. So anyways, like what I would do is like try to make time and make this happen ‘cause that’s just a energy thing I guess.
Right. It’s interesting because I feel like for a lot of founders, especially if they’re non-technical, there’s this really niche need for somebody, a consultant who isn’t a full-time developer on their team, but can be kind of like the liaison and the interpreter for the founder. And so I imagine at the beginning that’s a lot of like, okay, what is it that we actually need to build? Right? What, what are the skillsets that I need here on the team? And that’s something that, you know, we, we do in-house here at Gun.io, but the other piece is like, you know, I’m not a developer myself and I imagine that if I were founding a technical company and if I had my developer team built out, I’d still have some questions for somebody who’s maybe like a third party who could be like, okay, yeah, this is, this is going according to plan. You know, this is maybe like an area that you should pay a little bit more attention to. Right. So I can see that being something I could do in my spare time, but I still dunno how you did all that. That’s awesome.
Yeah. Even I don’t know. It’s just one after another led to that, and it kind of felt like a natural transition growing into that, you know, like, yeah, I didn’t want to be a CTO. I didn’t have an ambition. I mean, I wanted to grow in my career. I want to be a product guy or like do something different. But I think being an engineer as a fundamental like trait I had kind of helped me to figure things out as like, Hey, we have this problem. How can we go and solve using first principles and techniques, which I’m like, you know, as an engineer growing up, like those are the things I applied and it worked out well. And the companies are still afloat and they’re doing well and they’re growing a team of 50 now. And, and I’m no longer part of it, but I can see all that happening.
It’s definitely like, you know, if you have the knack for it and you have the willpower, just go do it. You know? I also think one aspect of me kind of burdens me in my head is like, if I don’t do it, I’ll regret it. So I kind of pushed him to like, You know what, I don’t wanna say no for an answer. I want to just figure it out and maybe nobody has done this before, so maybe I’ll be the first one trying to figure this out. So I love that. And they were <laugh> kinda thing. It’s a good thing and a bad thing, but that’s what’s going on in my life. Even right now, <laugh>.
Yeah. No, it’s interesting ‘cause it’s like—it’s like FOMO, you know? If you don’t build it, someone else will. I feel that too. A lot. What’s also interesting is when we think of kind of like typical developer, at least for me, I don’t think of someone who’s like super excited to go out and network. And so, yeah. So I think it’s really interesting that that seems to have been like a different—a huge difference maker in your career. It’s just being committed to—like, so committed in fact to networking that you started that networking group in the UK. Did you find that people were excited to kind of join you in that? Or was it like, you know, pulling teeth?
It was really good. It’s an established networking group called Hacker Nest. And they were looking for people to host a meetup in London. So I naturally signed up to it and it ran two years running that. It was pretty hard, ‘cause I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to reach and find venues and like, organize something like that. That’s not even what I do, you know, like, it’s not even like my thing. But I just enjoyed like meeting new people, because everybody has an interesting story, and I generally like it. I like to hear what they have to say and where they are in life. And I think the genuity in like knowing somebody kind of helped me in that path. But networking as itself is really fundamental to my career. Like, if I haven’t done what I did with that NEAT Meetup group or like, or like even at like Gun as well, like trying to network with like the staff I’m part of, I would’ve not been where I am. I would say it’s just genuinely like taking genuine interest, like in people kind of help me grow to the place where I am right now. So I’m very grateful for that.
If somebody is listening and they’re like, man, I have a network of one <laugh>. It’s literally me, because I work by myself all the time. How would you recommend that they start building their network like you did?
Yeah, I think there are two types of people, right? Like people who are naturally extrovert, like want to meet new people, want to connect. And there’s one side of people like that. They are organically good at like speaking to people, and there are introverts who are shy to kind of like open up a conversation. I would say, like, read this book called How to Win Friends and Influence—
And Influence People <laugh>, good ole Dale Carnegie.
<Laugh>, Dale Carnegie at finest. You know, like he wrote this book very long time ago and it’s still relevant. And I would say if you’re an introvert, if you never networked before, read that book, it gives you a basic framework of like how to, you know, approach somebody and like say the right thing at the right time. So I think that’s what we struggle, right? When you meet a stranger, you’re like, I don’t know what to say. So I think learn the basic what you need and like go to meetup.com or like even Bright or anything like that and find what you’re good at, like interested in your local neighborhood. Like for example, if you are a a Go developer, just go for a Go meetup and if you love writing books go for a literature meetup or something similar to what your industry is, and go do one which is closer to you and one far away from you.
Maybe go to badminton, you never played badminton, but you’re interested to learn about it. So just go to a sports one or like something like a breakfast club, which you’ve never done before. There are so many out there, you’ll be surprised it’s a big rabbit hole. Once you open up, you’ll find it. It might cost you some money sometimes, but it’s okay. It’s worth the price. When you meet people one by one, it starts building your confidence, and naturally you’ll become very natural among people. And that skill kind of opens up opportunities. So, which did for me, and I’m sure it’ll do for everybody who tries it. And if I can do it, anybody can do it.
I had like a New Year’s resolution maybe two years ago to start building my network because I, you know, I was the only marketer on the team. And Nashville’s kind of—especially at the time—was pretty new to tech. There wasn’t like a huge community. And so I asked everybody who I really respected in tech to introduce me to two people. And like so I tried to get to like the second level of my network and you know, had coffee with them. But another thing that I did, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, it’s called Lunch Club.
Yeah. Heard of Lunch Clubs.
Yeah. So Lunchclub, the website is actually like a matching algorithm.
Yeah. And so every week, you get matched with somebody new from anywhere and you like say yes to having a 30 minute coffee on the day of your choice. And it was nuts, ‘cause the first match I ever had was actually like someone I went to college with and knew.
Yeah. But I had no idea that we like worked in the same field. So it was just—Lunchclub’s cool if you wanna just practice, like put the things that you learn when you read Dale Carnegie to practice and like a pretty low stakes environment ‘cause you know, you might never talk to that person again.
I thought lunch clubs as a lunch club thing—‘cause people do lunch clubs— looks like platform by itself. That’s pretty cool. And definitely, you know, that seems like a cool idea if you’re venturing into things. That’s awesome. Are you still active in Lunchclubs at the moment?
I haven’t done it in like, I don’t know, probably eight months to a year just because my calendar is chaos <laugh>.
Yeah, I can imagine
Yeah. Now, my goal next year is to keep three days a week like totally clear. And so just do you know, Mondays and Wednesdays back to back to back meetings, everything I have to do and then keep those days clear. So we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Yeah, definitely. A day without meetings is always a nice day to just like get your brain going, you know?
It’s critical, especially, you know, if you’re doing something that’s kind of output and creative driven, you know, like coding is creative actually, and you know what I do. So it’s impossible to do that in like the 30 minutes between meetings.
It comes under this thinking process of like make a schedule or manage a schedule. So if you’re a maker, you need the four hour chunk to do something productive. Don’t come into one hour of coding, you know, you’re never gonna happen. It could be like meeting people or like, you know, thinking workshops or whatever it is, but if you’re a manager then just do a one hour chunk. That’s where the traditional one hour slots come in place. It’s pretty cool. It’s from the guys who created or founded it. It’s pretty cool idea.
Yeah, totally. So you mentioned when you came to Gun there was kind of this shift where you’re like, you know, I think I might take a little bit of a break and shift gears. How did you know that it was time to kind of switch up what you were doing?
I like to have something to do. That’s kind of my personality I guess. So when I took a two months break, it kind of really creeped up to me. You’re in New York City, things are happening, people are bustling and hustling to the where they need to get to. And you see that and the vibe is pretty awesome. And I wanted to work something for myself on a project or build a new SaaS app or something like that. So, but in order to kind of like keep going, I wanna like take up some freelance work on the site to like fund myself or like do something different. And I’m— I think that’s kind of what I was thinking in my head. Maybe I can get an opportunity in the US, and like try to work for an American client so I can be closer to the east coast. It’s kind of what I was thinking roughly in my head and just like started looking at companies who are like a job boards or like companies who are like open to look for freelancers or hire freelancers. And then I found out Gun at that time. So it’s kind of like a neat thing that I wanted to do. I guess.
It’s interesting, because I feel like I was talking to a friend last night who is, you know, thinking about a shift and it’s—I feel like so many of us think of jobs as like you keep it until something major happens. Like you couldn’t possibly stay there any longer because you’re burnt out or because you know, you leave not of your own accord. And I think it’s like really powerful actually to keep track of the things that are most important to you consistently. Like it sounds like to you it’s like being close to the US, having a fresh challenge, and maybe like flexibility, right? Like pursuing something that’s freelance.
Exactly. I’ve been really fascinated by the async culture. I think Gun follows it to some level, at least the dev rep team. Yeah. async is like where you can choose the hours you wanted to do and the way you wanted to do, giving you time to do to invest in like meetups for example or whatever, right? Like you want to grow personally and professionally and you want to keep work as work in a good fashion. So Async culture was like very fascinating and when I was like having a chat with Francois the first time I kind of saw how the dev rel team kind of has an async culture ‘cause we are all in different time zones, the whole dev team, right? Even though I’m not in right now, I traveled in New York, but I also live in London my best part of my time. Right? Like and being able to work with, you know, West Coast people or like, you know, Deividi being in like Brazil for example. It’s like a time difference thing. So how can we work together collaboratively without overlapping that much? The solution is async. I think I was fascinated by that idea and like wanted to find out like freelance world is heavily dependent on that area, right? Like, so I wanted to see where I could—how I could like find that out and do something like that. So Gun was like a perfect fit ‘cause we have that kind of culture in that—
I actually just recorded an episode with Teja and Abbey about our transition to remote and async and kind of where we are in that process and what we think we’ve won, what we think we’ve lost. And it’s just like, it’s fascinating to think about the ripple effects of moving to async, right? Like, oh yeah, we inadvertently got really good at documentation. Like it was, we knew that documentation was a problem on the team, but nobody had to fix it because we were just around each other all day. And then, you know, going remote and people moving to new time zones and hiring people from across the world, it’s like, it just became a necessity.
Yeah, I think that’s kinda what we advocate at Gun in some sense, right? Like we have talent all across the world. You know, you guys got from—we got talent from Japan all the way to the US right? Like east to west, you know, when I speak to companies as well, I try to say like, Hey, if you are hiring somebody international not from your time zone, just be mindful of how you set up your culture and your async stuff. It’s kind of funny, some people say this, right? Like, oh, my developers are still coding while I sleep. So it’s kind of interesting. Gun as a platform, you know, we find candidates all across the world and I think one of the things we see that as well, like companies who are in Gun, having that openness to you know, look beyond the US or the UK and like find talents, which are really smart and diverse, self-managed. And I see that happening in various roles by the candidates or place. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool.
Yeah, it is really cool. It reminds me of a relay race. I need to draw this out for it to make any sense, but when I work synchronously with somebody—let’s say we’re like writing, we’re writing a blog post or something. We can’t work on it at the same time, because that’s just not how a creative process works. Like one person has to work on it and then it’s handed off to the next person. And when you have people that are in opposite time zones, that handoff can happen at the end of one person’s day in the beginning of the next. So you’re not having that kind of like full 24-hour lag between work. It’s interesting, it’s interesting to think about like how to optimize that schedule to make work happen faster.
It’s a growing, growing thing at the moment. Even Spotify recently openly spoke about their remote culture and the workforce kind of moved—had an opportunity to work from anywhere, and the retention increased by I think 15%. Maybe something to check out. But definitely is a pretty awesome thing to be like thinking about.
I feel like we have so many sub-topics to invite you back to talk about during another episode. Yeah. But this has been awesome. It’s been really fun to kinda get to know your story a little bit better now we have it on video that you’ve inadvertently signed up to help us with networking events. So we’ll be following up with that. You can find—if you’re listening and you’re part of the Gun.io network, you can find Girish on Cantina on our Slack community or also just, you know, reach out to us, and we’ll give you the intro. Well enjoy your time in New York. I hope you have lots of bagels and the weather isn’t too crappy for you.
Whether you’re looking for some temporary help or your next full time developer, let Gun.io help you find the right person for the job.