109. Hero – Greg Paulsen, Director of Application Engineering at Xometry Transcript
My personal why is the build a better tomorrow? I really think everything we do, we where we are right now, we can only do, we can do very little to affect what our lives will endure. But we can do a lot to affect what our next generation will. Yeah. And I think that’s something that drives me is, how can we, how we can build tomorrow, better.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, and spotlights the heroes to keep America running.
I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market instead we focus on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why and today we have a hero conversation. I’m very excited to have with me, Greg Paulsen, who is the director of application engineering at Xometry. So welcome, Greg.
Hey, thanks, Chris.
How you doing, man?
I’m doing good. Shoveling some ice this morning. But otherwise working from a Xometry Greg’s Basement Edition so we’re, still for the last year been working out of my setup down here.
Yeah, man, the struggle is real anybody, but their weather makes it tough too. Man, we love to get these hero conversations, Greg, started by just sharing your journey with our listeners about where you’re at now.
Absolutely. Where I’m at right now I’m the director of application engineering at Xometry and it’s really interesting because we do a wide variety of manufacturing here and when we started out, we, weren’t this company of near 400 people at the time when I joined on, I actually was one of the early hires. I joined in 2014. And just to let you know Xometry has founded late 2013 like November, December, 2013. So we really were just starting to make parts when I joined on.
And before that I had some background in product development, as well as additive manufacturing. So I learned about 3D printing, additive manufacturing in 2007, while I was at James Madison University. And I was actually studying science technology after I had a business hospitality degree.
So had a little bit of a skew on my career path. And my, I thoughts and interest. I’ve always been going to different directions there. But yeah, learn product development. And when I joined Xometry. They were looking for someone who could talk about 3D printing, talk about CNC machines, talk about injection molding.
And it was something that I was very adept at because I use those processes regularly at my previous career.
Cool, man. That’s cool. Now you got a rise out of our executive producer. When you said JMU, apparently he’s a JMU grad as well. Yeah, there you go. I won’t hold it against either one of you.
But no, I actually went to JMU once I went to Old Dominion and we decided to go to JMU one night, we left ODU at eight or eight 30. We got there around midnight. And apparently that’s a really good time to get to JMU cause things are really fun. I don’t remember a lot about that night. It was a lot of fun, man, but yeah.
Yeah, I’ll go on the, I’ll go on the brighter points there. So yeah, JMU is a, is known as a door holding school. Like it is it’s a very friendly place. And I do think like it makes of really really good characters out of the school there.
But I have to joke about the door holding side, because we hear that from folks that are coming up from like tech and other places where they’re like 30 feet away from the door. And there’s someone that just is about go inside, but they’re like, “Oh, hold this for this person.” And they’re like, “Now I feel now if you have to I have to speed up because they’re just being so friendly,” and I’m like, “Listen, I can’t get that door myself, but all right. All right. Thank you. Thank you.” It’s just really funny to hear that I was like, yeah, that, that rings about true. It ringsabout true.
So good man. So good. Congratulations. You’ve done very well. Xometry you’re doing some cool things. I definitely feel you’re passion about what you are doing and you’re serving industry and you’re really helping people.
So what are you seeing as some of those big challenges in industry that you’re trying to close the gap on?
Yeah. One of the biggest challenges is connecting people who can do, connecting capacity with those who are looking to get stuff done. And that’s just Xometry’s platform in a nutshell, is a way for people who are looking to get custom parts made they go online, they get a quote it’s instant and they press buy.
And it connects that work with shops and services that are able to do that work really well. And I think that the whole supply chain need is really important. The more and more I learned this, because I’ve been that buyer as I mentioned in a previous life, I worked for a company called Prototype Productions and I did a lot of sourcing there.
One of the things that I worked in was rapid prototype prototyping. Hence the company that we did, and it was a high mix of work. Uh, so a variety of different 3D printing processes to some more unique ways of fabrication like and different types of welding. And one of the tasks I had was just figuring out how and who can make it and getting quotes back.
And so when I joined this company and their goal was to help alleviate that problem as it was interesting cause I came there with this headache that I had of being the person, trying to buy stuff and get it made as well as being someone who was a supplier yourself, because I also ran machines for our internal shop.
So it’s this mix, but yeah, being able to empower and connect and actually keep some businesses alive, keep them actually running and making parts and be part of their business is really exciting. I joke about my role as a application engineer. When people ask, what does application engineer do?
You’re someone who talks and consults internally and externally. Spinning the CAD a lot of times, so that, that computer model and giving DFM feedback, providing suggestions on how designs could be improved based on the process, or even suggestions on processes and materials. So you’re a consultant, both internally and externally and I live vicariously through my customers because I’m not a designer myself. I can design stuff, I know enough to be dangerous, but my job is more about what makes my customers projects more successful and their success is my success and that’s now you role.
And that sounds awesome. It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with it too. And how about speak to maybe that J- we’ll stick with the JMU theme, stick with it, speak to that JMU grad or someone who’s going through there right now. And they’re getting ready to consider a career in industry. What advice would you offer ’em up?
Yeah, I think it’s really interesting. So my, my career path was very different from someone who got a degree in the field that they want to apply to, and they apply to that degree field. And now they’re working at degreed field and as they’re continuing to go there until retirement I’ve bounced around.
I, I actually I think work ethic is really important. I think even for no matter what program you’re doing learning how to communicate properly is a really important skill set. So if you are in a technical science or you’re in an engineering, or you’re looking even like vocational machining schools learning how to communicate and talk to people who don’t know your expertise is one of the most important things, because you’re going to be dealing with people at your work and your clients, and you’re going to be needed needing to explain stuff to them in plain English over and over again through your career.
One of actually the owner of the prototype productions where he used to work he always said I’d rather take a good communicator that I train to be technically excellent than someone who’s technically excellent who’s a poor communicator because that is just such an important aspect of the job. And I say that because at JMU or my weekend job was being a wine educator, I actually was the guy at the at the wine booth when you go visit a winery and I talked to you about uh, the nuances, the different different white and red varietals that we were offering and walked you walk people through that journey.
But it also gave me experience in talking to hundreds of people. Hundreds of strangers daily is there so every weekend I talked to, several hundred people all with different backgrounds, different experiences and I was listening for their cues and cut out, try and understand where they’re coming from to, to change my pitch, change what the discussion was going to be sometimes somebody just wanted to taste wine. Some of them wanted to talk about, something more complex, some of them didn’t know what the process was so we talked more about like wine making. And honestly that’s why I still do, it’s just it’s just a different process. It’s, manufacturing, it’s 3D printing, it’s stereolithography, it’s, something a little bit different.
Man. That was great. And such a, it’s such an underrated skill. You’re right. You can teach the technical, but the communication and that it’s hard to overcome that.
I think hospitality. So as someone who has, if you’re a a programmer and you have experience working in, the front end or backend of a restaurant, it still is actually a perk.
Like I still think it’s something worth we’re talking about. You may have a lot of other experience there but it does teach you about service, about communication and some of these people skills that don’t always transfer through from just the technical school alone. Like it just having that. Having to deal with people, deal with difficult people is something that’s very important. Humility being able to apologize is just as important as you to get the job,
No doubt and something that it’s it’s so underrated, man. It’s a skill and if you get good at it, it will take you so far. And I think that opportunity you had as the wine expert man that just, that was a wonderful training ground to learn some of that skillset.
Yeah. It’s it was fun. I also could say it’s like my cool college job. Yeah. And yeah, so that was very good. Just so you know, on that note, I am a sponge by the way, for the experts that around me that have impacted my life. And I remember this was actually for coming from a customer because with early Xometry, we were taking on all this different work and sometimes as you’re growing like your working to drive sales and sometimes something happens. For example, we were running in selective laser centering, which is a 3D printing process in house. And the unique thing about that is you can batch a lot of different parts and build them at once, but that also means that if there’s a failure, like a power outage or something, all those jobs lead times are now affected because you have to re reset and restart that build. So we one of the things we do is if that’s something like that happens, which is rare, you know, it’s manufacturing and it turns out stuff happens, taps break, or there’s other things can cause delays.
So we go and we get on the phone and we we call, we talk, we tell every single customer. Even if it’s not going to be late, we tell them it may be effected, just prepping them. So they don’t wait until the ship date. And then we’re like, “Hey, actually it’s three days late.” That’s not what we’re going for there.
But I remember talking to a customer and he’s he’s like, what really defines his shop is not when things go, cause you expect things to go right. But it’s how they behave when things go wrong. And I think that’s something I’ve ever been able to really bring through the leadership at Xometry is, owning up to it, being able to notify the customer when something happens and we’re able to go and discuss not just this is what happened, but here’s how we’re handling it. This is what we are. This is what we are doing. This is how we prioritize you.
And, And I think that’s something just really important, even as you grow bigger and bigger, you always have to act small. You always have to, you always have to make sure that you’re keeping that service aspect.
I love it. That’s for us, that was such great advice.It took me back to when I ran our shops and, when those warranty types of claims come in, how you respond to those really dictated your future relationship with that client, good stuff, man. How about other mentors that sound like that client or customer really helped you in that area? Anybody else that stood out in your past that has really been a good mentor to you?
Oh, so many first off, so many it’s I’d like to thank the audience. So I will say what I got hired on to Prototype Productions as I mentioned before, I worked at a winery. I had, I was working on a technology and science master’s program, but if you looked at my resume, it was all over the place. And the person who hired me, a guy named Ben Feldman first off he gave me that chance, which was really great. And then he gave opportunities for me to grow within my position. So when I joined on the foot in the door was being a technician.
So my first year I put together cables, I made assemblies, I broke out 3D printer parts, which is we call it breakout how you’re cleaning some of these parts that are built in these power-based processes. And I wrote documentation, like I wrote proposals and other stuff because he’s also like, “you’re a good writer. So what if I just have you put together stuff for the first year? We’ll see how that goes and you help us write proposals.” So it’s just like, yeah, you do mix. You have a mixed background. Let’s give you mixed work. Yeah. But eventually I grew and I had the opportunity to need to grow there into running the rapid prototyping center at the company, as well as doing a lot more than when I started off doing. And I was able to learn from just like a really unique mix of people from mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, assistant engineers to CNC programmers, to electronics manufacturing technicians, to assembly engineers, part finishers.
And I’m thankful for every single one of those experiences and the great people that really were able to teach me that way. And then when I joined Xometry the opportunities that I had with with the founders actually, because it was just a few of us there at the time, Randy Altschule , Laurence Zuriff who are the founder and co-founders, CEO.
And Laurence is the chief strategy officer at Xometry. They really emphasized the service aspect especially Randy he’s like you could never call the customer too much. He was every time I said there was a problem, he’s like, “Have you called the customer?” And it was just one of those things where it just really emphasized.
And by the way, now I put them on, Randy hat all the time when someone says do you think this should be, do you think they mean this tolerance after paint or before paint? I’m like, have you picked up the phone yet? And so we. So it does ring true for me is like being able to work with customer service experience first and an earn trust and earn business.
And that’s something that’s just been so big on Randy side and of course sales, that, that side of things. And I think Laurence um, he’s always, you know, just the bottom line metric, when you talk about like how you act he’s would you post, like that behavior on the, as a headline of wall street journal, if not don’t do it, and it was always about like building making sure that you’re always building ethics into your into your communications, into your work, into your policy.
And I think those two have just had a really terrific structure that helped build some of the foundation of our culture here at Xometry.
That’s awesome. That is so good, man. Now, how about when you look at the industry that you’re in, are there any myths out there that you’d like to debunk where certain people may think that this is what you do, but it’s not true. Just give me a chance to knock something out the park here.
Oh, man. I think Xometry’s interesting. So I talked about this because again it’s been uh, I took my, my thirties have been working at Xometry here. So that’s why it’s so near and dear, but it’s a different model, right?
Because it is a matchmaker, it’s a platform. And there’s always these questions about quality and quality assurance. Are what are you doing with my parts? And if I don’t know my part, if I don’t know who’s making my parts, like how can I trust it? And in one of the things that I will just debunk on the Xometry side right now is we hold the quality standards.
And so a lot of these questions are like, we are actually the people that are your vendor. We are the folks that do the quality, the service inspections, and we’re the ones accountable for that type of work. We definitely, have had the skin in the game there and we have received inspection cause you have received an inspection.
So I’m not sure if that’s exactly what you’re asking for, but that’s one of those one of the things I, we talk about pretty frequently at Xometry, because it’s just such a different business model versus, walking around the shop and by the way, I love walking around shops. Like I love like right now for the last year, I haven’t been able to do it, but that’s, being able to go to the shop like once, once a week or once every other week and talk to some folks, machine is, is, is my happy place.
I was getting to ask you about your happy place cause I’ll tell you, your personality you smile all the time, man. This is wonderful. I can see you love what you do, man. When are you happy? Is it when you’re at the shops walking around and talking to the individuals themselves?
First off, I’ll have to say my family, we have a three and a half year old daughter, my wife, like that’s my happy spot is us being able to, being able to be a family and have a ventures together. But definitely I’m a people person. I’m not sure you may have caught on to that.
So I’m a people person and I love technical expertise and I try to be a sponge for that. So when I go to visit. Visit shops or I go to IMTS or, other other trade shows. I’m talking to these other technical experts. I’m just so interested in what they’re doing and how they do that work.
Yeah. And I could just spend forever learning on different different mechanics, different techniques, best practices. And that’s, that really keeps me encouraged. Like talking to our customers about their applications, helping them, like I said, their success is my success. That is what really drives me in any career.
Anything I do is about not just making them happy, but like creating success there. So like I’m not just saying something to please them trying to create something, to create a scenario in which their ultimate goal is actually achieved. And that’s really great because sometimes what they say and what they want is not actually what they need.
And so you have to like, as a, as application engineer, you tit you draw into your experience, your background and experts around you to help engineer that solution.
Man you’re doing a great job of it for sure. I know, let’s take the, let’s take this Xometry hat off and let’s put the, let’s put the, now let’s put the Greg hat on because I want to learn about you outside of work, man. So you mentioned your family, so you got a three and a half year old and a wife. Okay.
Yep. Yep. And there’s a cat that keeps on walking around while we’re doing the podcast as well. But yeah I have my my daughter she’s three and a half I’d, she’s you know, she’s just really fun and and excited and learning about all sorts of stuff. I can’t wait till the world opens up a little bit more because I will say that’s been a little nuts. Yeah we have some preschool stuff open now, but it wasn’t always like that. So co-working with uh, wife’s upstairs, I’m downstairs. And then our kid was, probably too much Netflix.
Yeah. That’s a, that’s something where we’d rather spend that, spend that time, doing something outdoors and having having some fun there. But yeah, it’s I was an Eagle scout as a kid, so I love hiking, biking doing like spending time on mountains, spending time in water.
I, a lot of times we try to vacation in a place that’s warm where I can actually go and dive under water and snorkel or scuba. Although snorkeling is more, scuba was when I was younger. Now I look at it. I’m like, but what if that regulator breaks I’ll drown here. And so now I’m like, let’s just snorkel. I like snorkeling now.
Yeah. I hear you, man. So now what now where are you from originally?
I’m from Virginia. So I grew up in Winchester, Virginia, which is, if you think about Virginia as a triangle, it’s right at the top tip there.
Yeah. Oh, so you’re from Winchester. So we do have a location up there as well of EECO man. It’s a very cool. I figured, I thought you were a Virginia native. I just wasn’t a hundred percent certain. So the rest of your, like your family still in the Winchester area?
Yeah. Most of my family’s in Virginia and I still, you’ll catch me, you’re like, where are you from? I’m like Virginia. And because I’ve only been in Maryland for a past few years. And so I was still a Virginian at heart. And by the way, yeah, my family a small business construction. My dad who passed away when I was younger and my mom took over a drywall construction business. Yeah. So very likely your business may actually be pretty close to where her business was and one of those industrial sectors.
So I grew up around drywall, sheet rock ,sheet rock construction, workers. And so this is just part of my life is, I want to think that I’m part of the crew, right? I have a different role now, but I do Yeah. Do you want it to be there.
Very cool, man. Very cool. I’m glad we’re able to make that connection there.
And how about, what do you enjoy from a podcast, YouTube, books, anything that you, it could be personal stuff or professional. Just curious on what you enjoy consuming.
Yeah. Book-wise I was on a business book binge for quite a while. Some of the most inspiring books that I had were books, like ‘Good to Great’, which I believe is like Jim Collins and ‘Built to Last’ was another one that he had, although he had another one called ‘How the Mighty Fall’, which I was like, eh, cause it’s basically if you follow, if you’re disciplined, so these first two were like, if you’re disciplined, You’ll be great.
Like just follow these disciplines, ‘How the Mighty Fall’ is basically like, if you do anything else, your job, your company may fail. And I was like, Ooh, okay. So stick with your disciplines there. But I also, when I worked at the previous company one of the things we were seeing was.
Manufacturing delays. We were seeing things happening on the manufacturing floor where something was causing delays and and you’re always seeing projects where something like that became critical. And those delays may make another thing of the CNC shop delayed because he had a programmer that was backed up or something like that.
And right around that time, I was I was reading ‘The Goal’, which is. I will like we’ll put a link to ‘The Goal.’ I cannot remember the author’s name. But he wrote about, it was like almost like a cheesy eighties novel about manufacturing. And it was actually the baseline for what’s called Theory of Constraints.
So it says like the foundation of stuff, like agile, some of these software best practices that have now been incorporated back into manufacturing, then manufacturing improved them now that improved software and they’ve gone back and forth, but The Goal is one of those books I keep on revisiting.
And now I just have it on audible, I’ve read it a few times and I’ll listen through it like2X speed just to have a rekindling there because. It talks about is really important concepts when you think about building a manufacturing center and where your bottom line should be, you’ve, you should be selling like the candy at the front of the aisle.
Like you should be selling like your core business and how you split batches to increase output and think about like shippable stuff that you could actually get revenue on. And at that time, when I read that, I felt like the person in that book where everything delayed, all these stresses was happening and then when you like read through, you’re like, “Oh, so you just have to change your mental model.” And I thought that was very good. And it’s a very great read for anybody on the manufacturing end.
Yeah, podcast-wise by the way, I just like geeky, but anything that helps me geek out, I listened to some manufacturing podcasts.
We were on a Manufacturing Happy Hour. I’m also a big fan of something called 99% Invisible. Which is just one of my go-tos because it’s just interesting, just interesting stuff about design art and some interesting public policies that have had positive or negative effects on that but yeah I’m just constantly interested in in the world.
That’s awesome, man. Thanks for sharing that. Now we also do something called alightning round, Greg so, random stuff across the board, whatever pops in your mind, let’s just go with it. Okay.
All right, buddy. Have that favorite food?
So everybody’s favorite food is pizza. Let’s just not deny that, but I have a special place in my heart for Chicken Biryani, which is a Indian dish. It’s like a treasure hunt for delicious chicken and delicious rice.
Okay. Now what’s your adult beverage has gone with it?
Sam Adams is always a good beer for me.
Not too much of a sports person, so I’m going to say because it’s where I frequent again, non pandemic times go Nats. So I love going to a baseball game.
All right. How about all-time favorite TV show?
Oh, that is a tough one. I have to pass on that. I there’s a lot of favorites out there. If you, it depends on what age you interview me, because 10 years ago I’d be like, Oh, Star Trek: The Next Generation was a classic and will always be a classic forever, but we’re in the golden age of TV. So like every other show I watched and I was like, that was great. So it’s very hard to put a favorite on that.
How about a movie then?
Uh, So one of those rewatchables that I always have is stuff like Shawshank Redemption. Okay. I think that’s, again, it’s one of the best movies ever created, but I am also notorious for just watching really bad movies. Again, my friends know this about me and I’ll watch them and then I’ll watch them again. Anything that’s like cheesy, even stuff like scifi or horror it’s something that is almost like candy movies from me.
I gotchu brother. How about music?
Music it’s so I I’m really, I really hang out with eighties. I really like eighties music, eighties rock.
Cool. How about a destination somewhere? You’ve never been, but you hope to go one day.
So there is something called a Tibetan Tea Trails and one day when I can take off like a month or two, I would just love to go out there and hike the trails.
Nice. Nice. Cool. Now thank you. I know the answer to the last one, cause we’ve seen him pop in and out, but pets?
Oh yeah well we got our cat Cocoa that has been jumping in. If you hear any random noises in this podcast probably was Cocoa’s fault there, but she’s actually new. She’s a kitten that we got. She’s been really fun because she’s our coworker. So for my wife and I she’ll switch between our desks and it does brighten the day a little bit, and I do live webinars for Xometry and other events and her head will poke straight into the camera sometimes and actually think it increases attention.
So it’s, she’s not a sales tool. I trust me, but she’s there.
She’s there. I got it, man. I got it. That was a lot of fun. We got to learn a lot about you there Greg. So thanks for playing along with us. Now we call it EECO Asks Why Greg, we always end with the why and it’s all about your passion.
So if someone else would come up to you and want to know what your personal, why is, what would that be?
The personal why is the build a better tomorrow? I really think everything we do, where we are right now we can only do, we can do very little to affect what our lives will endure. But we could do a lot to affect what our next generation will. Yeah. And I think that’s something that drives me is, how can we, how we can build tomorrow better.
I love it. I love that answer, buddy that really speaks a lot to your character and what you’re working on for the listeners out there as always check out the show notes.
There are all sorts of ways to get in touch with Greg to follow him. I encourage you to follow him. He’s got a lot of cool things happening and Greg, man thank you so much for taking the time out with us today on EECO Asks Why.
Chris this is awesome. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Absolutely. Have a great day.