Welcome back to Taking a Shortcut, a series where we interview our colleagues. The order in which we run these interviews is random, but that randomization is based on a process in which our Director of Content takes each person’s name, converts it into a number using numerology, enters each number into the lottery, and then interviews whichever co-worker’s number is responsible for winning him the Mega Millions Jackpot.
These interviews are meant to provide a glimpse into what it's like to work at a remote first company, while also exploring the topics of music from horror movies, beach living, the Chuck Norris Academy, and becoming a Technical AE. For this week’s edition, we spoke with Alex.
You just moved to Florida. Where did you move from in this move?
I moved from Alabama to New Smyrna Beach, Florida which is South of Daytona. It's about an hour, little over an hour from Orlando on the East coast. We lived here before, wanted to come back. It's just a small-town mindset. Obviously, we missed being close to the ocean, so that's nice.
That's cool. New Smyrna Beach, one of my closest friends grew up there. He was just down there. So I randomly know a lot about New Smyrna Beach.
The shark bite capital.
So I hear.
I still swim regularly, though. It's got a small-town feel to it. Nice restaurants and little shops and it's like old school Florida, if you will. It's not 100% built up yet and the beaches are really nice. It's good to be there in the morning, when you can see the sunrise come up over it.
That does sound nice. Even with the sharks, a beach feels like one of the best places you could go during the pandemic, since people are usually not right on top of each other. Plus you got a breeze blowing, you're right at the water. You're not crammed into a space.
One of the benefits about being here, there's the Canaveral seashore entrances in New Smyrna. They only allow a certain amount of people in there every day. There are areas where you'll park and there are only a few cars. When you go on the beach, there may be 10 people spread out through a huge area, and so you can go be on your own and you're literally not anywhere close near anyone. It's also where the sharks are usually not.
You can see the rocket launches from there, too. We saw the SpaceX launch recently from our backyard, but we've seen several space launches from the beach over there, which is awesome.
That's really cool. You're really selling me on it here.
It's a great place. That's why I moved back. Yes.
Alright, you live at the beach. That's awesome. Tell us what you do at Shortcut.
I’m an account executive. I spend the majority of my time speaking with prospects and new customers, trying to really learn about their business, understand what they’re about, what they’re looking to achieve, what they’re maybe not getting out of their current solution that we can provide, gaining a real understanding of how we can help.
Every conversation is different. The variation makes my job extremely fun. educating, understanding, showing the importance of having Shortcut within the organization, showing how they can save time, allow their employees to be happy using a tool that brings joy while working.
A lot of times people go to work and they have to use tools that they just generally don't like, and they don't enjoy. It does tax on people. A lot of the other tools out there that software companies use for project management, aren't inclusive at all. They're dedicated to just engineering and not really looking at the product side or design or marketing aspects of a business, and that's one thing that we do extremely well.
Tell me a bit about your career background and how you came to be at Shortcut.
I actually went to school in Colorado for Computer Information Systems, and I graduated with a minor in network engineering.
I always knew that I had a strong passion for technology, obviously since I ended up going to school for it, but I also wanted to find a balance of that technical side with my interests in relationship building and user experience.
When I started my first job, I was in customer support, working for a SAAS company that was in the event management industry. That was in Boulder Colorado, and I did that for several years, and stayed in that space for quite some time and then over time I figured, "Let's take a look at what else is out there," which landed me at clubhouse. Over the past decade, I've been in positions, support, sales, account management, business development. But I’m happiest in Sales because I want to build relationships, I want to show the value, and I want others to see the value after I've sold it to them.
After exploring Shortcut and looking into it, I thought, "This is a company that's doing something different. They really do care about the user experience," and that's what I'm here.
You said that your first role was in Boulder, Colorado now you're in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and were in Alabama before that. It sounds like you've lived all over the United States.
It's interesting. I've moved every two years for the past decade, with my family as well. For us, it's about new experiences. We generally have some idea of why we want to go, where we're going, but what's landed us here has just been that we've been here before and we want to ground ourselves this time. But we always say that.
I grew up in Ohio, in a small area, rural area of farmland and not much around at all. After going to school, I obviously got a taste of what else was out there. It was really something new for people where I grew up to even go across a state line into Indiana, which was 30 minutes away. It just wasn't like a normal thing for people to do. Being able to travel has always been something that opens my eyes to see all of these new things that I didn't really experience until I was 18 years old, and that's led to, "What else is out there? Let's go check this out."
We've packed up and moved several times during the course of all these years, and now it's at the point where it's like, "Okay, let's settle down somewhere, the kids are getting a little bit older." That's led us here, but it's just experience, not having that a lot growing up and seeing different environments, and I think we thrive in that.
If you're going to settle down somewhere the beach is not a bad place to do it.
It's not bad, right? I lived, like I said, in a rural area. Some of the greatest people of my life are still there, including my family, cousins, grandparents, friends. I love the beach, I wouldn't trade it for the world, but there is something also that's pretty amazing about just cornfields stretching on with nothing else around. When I go back to visit, it's great for a week, but then it's like, "Okay, I got to go." Obviously, the weather's great down here and that's nice, but I also enjoy snow and I enjoy the seasons.
Growing up in East Tennessee, I feel much the same way. "Oh, it's a very pretty place," but a week or so of visiting is enough for me and it's time to head back. I moved to San Francisco because it was far away and felt like this magical, artsy city on the edge of the map. I know that feeling of being in a place where it's very rare for people to go a few counties over, much less get out to see all kinds of different states and locations and places. It just feels so-- to It feels almost like a mindset that makes it hard to leave the borders of where you are.
It is difficult. I mean, like I said, the majority of my family is all still there. It's obviously what I would call home, I always will, but it's one of those things that's like, a week is good. I mean, there's still a predominantly large Amish population where I grew up. We had a Ride Your Tractor Day To School. It's a smaller community, but there is something beautiful about it, even going back to visit. But where I live now, I'm certainly very content.
I can see behind you a lot of musical instruments. I see keyboard, I see a horn of some kind, I see multiple, or maybe multiple, I see maybe like a saxophone back there potentially and a-
Mandolin guitar, keyboard, launch pad. Yes, I got all sorts of fun stuff back here.
Seems like you might be into music. Tell me about that.
Yes. My dad and his brother co-own a music store where we grew up. At a very early age, I was immersed into music. Going through piano lessons and doing recitals and then that led into, "Oh, there's nothing to do in this town, let's start a band." I got into guitar and started playing in bands and it just stuck with me.
At this point, I do stuff just by myself, play guitar and do keyboards and make beats, which is really fun for me. This launch pad right here actually triggers off various different sounds and samples that I can pull off. If I want it to do like a rap song, like that I've created, it'll trigger those off, and each one of these boxes is a sample.
I've composed some music for short films that are from a group of people in Dayton, Ohio, which is really cool, where it's not four-time. It's not like you can't write a song to a show, right? It's like, you have to watch it and come up with something during that, which can be a completely off-time signature.
So, yes, it's a passion that I think I'll always have. Any music really besides country, I'm totally game. I dive into most of it.
That's cool that you composed for film. The music and the sound in a movie really drives so much of the emotion. Actors are obviously driving that too, but great music can make an otherwise bland scene very emotional.
The things that I needed to put music over and I would be watching them and they seemed very dry and dull, but as you put music to them, they literally come alive. It's the reason why I watch shows like Stranger Things. That 80's synth wave music that kicks in literally hits me like a nostalgia bomb. The reason why I get so immersed into a lot of the shows I do, is simply because of the composition of the music behind it. A major thing that happened to me is-- I'll show you if I can find it. Let me see, I have to show you this, if you have a second.
I have a second.
This record right here, I'm sure you're familiar with the movie IT. This was the original one, and it was the first horror movie I ever saw, growing up. The music too, it was captivating to me. It was always the one thing that when I heard it, it was like, "Oh, that's that IT show." It was creepy and it was eerie and it had a feeling to it, and when I started getting into writing music and doing things for short films, I reached out to the composer who did the music for this film, Richard Bellis, who actually teaches now. I reached out to him and to my surprise, we had a conversation and I got this in the mail, which was pretty fantastic. It's the vinyl of the entire composition for the movie, and then he signed it, which was huge for me. I get really inspired by composers and people that do music for film. I don't know why, but it's my thing. I love it. Maybe one day I'll have a theme song for a show that'll take off. It would be awesome.
That is so cool! I love the original IT, which is also one of the very first horror movies / shows I saw growing up. Also, I’m pretty excited it’s October now, because I can make the soundtrack of my entire life eerie music from movies like Suspiria.
Before we go, what else do you like to do aside from go to the beach with your family, watch rocket launches and do music?
I do disc golf occasionally. There's a disc golf club here that I joined with a bunch of amazing people and it’s competitive. I'm huge into old retro games, Nintendo, Sega Genesis, all the old school stuff. I'll find myself diving into that. Last week or actually earlier this week, I started martial arts training, at a Chuck Norris Academy, which was pretty awesome. Then occasionally maybe building things, working with my hands, woodworking, things like that, whenever I get a chance to do it.
That's all very fun. The Chuck Norris Academy, that would be my childhood dream to train at a Chuck Norris Academy.
Tell me something that you feel like you've learned, or you've had reinforced, from working at Shortcut.
I think it's amazing to see teams collaborating so heavily within one tool. I've never, in past positions, had access to, say, our JIRA accounts or being able to see actively what we're building or even contribute to it for that matter. It was one of those things where like in an office, you bring up an idea, you hope it goes somewhere, maybe you shoot off an email and then you just wait and see if maybe it's going to pop up one day, and the ability to collaborate and actively participate and visually see exactly what's going on at any time, being able to provide updates to my prospects, people that are looking into us, what's down the pipeline. "Oh, let me check. I actually have access to that now. That's amazing."
Team collaboration in that capacity is crucial for a company that's looking to go full speed ahead. I feel like if you're not working together at that capacity, you're missing out, you're not collectively taking everyone's ideas. Sometimes an idea may spur up from someone that you're not even used to communicating with. You have a conversation and something sparks. Now we have a platform to do that. I think, if anything, I would say for the ability for people to use one tool versus many or versus not having visibility into the tool that the company is using, I couldn't imagine myself not working in that capacity ever again. The inclusiveness and the collaborative effort at Shortcut has been second to none. I've never experienced that before in any other company that I've worked for.
If there's something that I could say to others is, include those in the organization, sales account management, CX success support, have everyone collaborate in one tool, so you can visually see the overall impact that a missing feature maybe having or that a successful use case that somebody brings up could have on a feature. There's a lot that can go into, including everyone in an organization on one platform.
That's great. It also sounds suspiciously like you're suggesting, just maybe, that other orgs should use Shortcut. Something I think we all can support.