ABOUT THIS EPISODE
How do great engineers become great leaders? It takes more than a title change—it takes a mindset change.
Join us as we discuss:
- Leading an engineering team effectively
- Managing your supplier relationships
- Making strategic supply chain decisions
Check out the book Greg mentioned:
Episode 1 · 6 months ago
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Episode 1 · 6 months ago
#1 — Managing Your Team and Supply Chain w/Greg Smyth
ABOUT THIS EPISODE
How do great engineers become great leaders? It takes more than a title change—it takes a mindset change.
Join us as we discuss:
- Leading an engineering team effectively
- Managing your supplier relationships
- Making strategic supply chain decisions
Check out the book Greg mentioned:
Welcome to peer check, a Colab podcast. This is a show for engineering leaders who want to challenge the status quo for how design teams work together. You're about to hear a conversation about the ways the engineering world is changing and how top teams are carving a new path forward. Let's do it. Welcome to peer check. I'm your host, Adam Keating, and on this episode we're jumping in the lessons learned from managing multibillion dollars supply chains as an engineering leader across multiple industries. Today I'm joining by Greg Smith, and engineering leader who's now taking what he's learned and become a content creator focused on career pivots, helping people go from traditional industry into high tech jobs. He's taken what he's learned, actually that successfully and moving from x I'm mobile into leadership roles at Tesla and offering coaching and supports for people making that transition. Greg has led programs offshore, he's led autopilot and global stamping teams Tesla and I'm really excited to have me here today. Welcome to the show, Greg. Yeah, thanks, Adam. Appreciate it and look forward to it. Awesome. So, Greg you've obviously gone through a bit of this transition yourself figuring out, you know, from engineering school and to be an engineer to like really quickly moving up through your own career progression. How did you end up becoming a manager and what took you into supply chain? Yeah, I mean those are maybe two different questions. I think my first time becoming an engineering leader was at Xon, managing the engineering team for the Russian or Russian and drilling team there. It's a bit it was a big brush team. I managed the early planning that happened in Houston. I mean I think the way I got promoted, or that first promotion, was to become a great engineer, you know, and to get you know, I'd work for five or six years, you know, kind of in the trenches of drilling wells offshore, doing operational experience in a couple of different projects, and then also I did typically at Xon they would get you to do other kind of more business, well rounded roles before you do that. So I worked in this business planning function and this issues management team which was really like an External Affairs Advisor, and then I was kind of promoted from there. I think the tricky transition that a lot of those the first time managers go through is like I think it is one of the biggest channel like transitions of your career. And like what made me a great into engineer or individual contributor does not make you a great engineering manager. And a lot of the time you know it actually can be counter to that, like what made you a great engineer will make you a bad manager. And that might be true across disciplines, but I think especially for engineers, there's a lot of behavior that doesn't translate that. Well, it's funny, gree I actually read a posts. So we talked about five things of letting go, things like delegating, letting go of your own individual contributor roles, like really giving people the Authority and like not taking for granted what you learned as an individual contributor and actually educating people on that. I know you focused a lot, I mean both your roles, on the performance of your team and being a coach for those people. Why was that so important to you? Well, I had this realization, like if you manage a small team, so I safe you manage three or four or five engineers, like the manager can have a meaningful output right. So they might have a quarter or twenty five percent of the output of the team, but I was managing a team of ten, then almost twenty, and, like you're one at your output is is not that big. And like you can work, say eighty hours a week, but largely your individual output just doesn't matter anymore. And I think you know, I spent the first five or seven years of my career trying to become hyper efficient and productive and trying to like maximize my individual output. And then, as when you get into a leadership roll, you kind of have that same mindset, but it just doesn't work. Like your individual output just doesn't matter that much. And so like that was when I really shifted gears. That, you know, hiring the right people and then coaching them to hopefully perform at their highest level or something close to that, and then ensuring their working together and like a meaningful way.
Like those, those three things put together, that drives the output of the team like by ninety five percent. And like your individual you know, I kind of use this analogy or kind of like a conductor or like of the team. You're not really, you know, providing a meaningful amount of the output. And so I think having that realization. It took time, it wasn't like a clear thing, but that that realization just like that's how a high performing team works typically. It's funny because I think when you go back to those three points are really key. And if you start with the hiring front, what were you doing at Tesla, you know and X on, to get these people and like when they came on board, how are you getting them integrated in a way as effectives? We hear a lot today about scaling problems, you know, retention, like how are you doing that to create not only the a culture to attract people there, then also keep them? What was working for you? Yeah, I think trying to find the right I mean a lot of the time you're getting people with the aptitude requires. So you typically want to get to the hiring manager you genuinely generally are qualified for the job. A lot of the time we're looking for like the intangible, like when you go through the interview process, it's like you're trying to look for cultural fit and like the two main companies are work for. We're starkly different, like culturally, and really looking for people that will be successful or likely successful in those organizations. Just makes a huge difference because if you're if you're just used to being a process oriented, structured decisionmaking those kind of things, you're going to be successful in a certain kind of organization. But in a startup environment where it's dynamic and changing, moving quickly, decisions are happening with limited information, like, people struggle in that environment and I tried to be you know, it's romantic to want to go work for an exciting start up and I'm sure you deal with this all the time, but I'm like the reality of that is like a lot of pain and challenge and like perpetual, you know, problems, problems everywhere, and it's like, unless you're excited about that, then you're probably not in the right the right place. Yeah, one of the people on team today said to me that, you know, if you're not expecting growing pains in a high growth company, then you're setting yourself up from failure right from day one. I think it's totally true, right, and you know, the opposite's also true. If you're stagnant, then you're feeling a different kind of pain and you got to pick which one you're going after here. And one thing you said to me a couple of years ago we first met, was about how much you thought about coaching those individuals once they were in to get the best out of them, like going out of your way to do even one on ones with a huge group. Talk a little bit about like what people can tangibly do to do more than just manage work scope, because I know for me, you know coming to managing, there's a misconception on what that is a manager versus a coach. You can title might be manager, but I think what you said earlier is be that conductor for the team. What worked for you that you know it was kind of unique and how you approached team. Yeah, I think. Well, one thing maybe, just on the cultural thing. I tried to have this mindset for I used to use this analogy to say like when the waves, when these huge waves are coming crashing on the shore, we need to be the team that grabs our surfboards and runs into the water, not the ones that are like scared and run away from it. And so it's like the challenge is big, it's like the biggest waves ever and it may like swallow you up, but we need to be the team that runs towards the wave and not away from it, and like framing things that way makes a difference because like the problem can be the same, but like are you excited about solving it or you kind of like annoy it and frustrated, because like that mindset makes a big difference. The coaching part. One really important distinction, I think when you're coaching is that you need to coach the individual and not the work, the work itself, and I think a lot of individual contributors and managers like focus on the work problems and it's like it's sort of like a teach a person how to fish, analogy, and it's like a lot of the time people come to their manager like wanting them to solve the problem right or provide insight on how to solve...
...it, and a lot of it is like when a from a coaching perspective, it really is tempting to help people solve the problem right and it's like it's easier for you in the short term, it's easier for them in the short term, but it's like helping them think through to solve the like to learn how to solve these problems without your intervention in the future. Is like ultimately the better for you. It's better for the individual, but it like it takes more time, you know, and it it takes more like patience and listening, where as a manager, like, theoretically, you were probably the best individual contributor and you probably do have the answer and you don't want to like withhold it, but you also want to help them like think through the logic and grow right, because it's like if you because a big part of it and we can talk more about this. Is like my ultimate goal was like to replace myself and like kind of truck, constantly thinking about like could the a team survive without me? Could someone come into my place? was there two or three people within the team that work had that capability or like on that trajectory, and you really need to be growing people to be able to do that, and that that's beneficial for me because, like, for me, I was wanting to take on more responsibility. But that's what other people want to they want growth, they want to be to be on a similar trajectory, not to feel like there's kind of a shrinking pie of opportunity with this. Funny because I actually say the same thing. I always say my goal is to basically fire myself from the job and currently in and move on to the next thing right. And that's ultimate. You're trying to do right. You're trying to teach people how to do a job really well and not do the job for that and it's hard, like I struggle with it still today. It's a really hard problem when things are intense. It's easy thing to say, like it like for even me to say it, but I would say the part of it that managers need to get comfortable with is like there is a real vulnerability in it, because it's not just that they need to solve the problem themselves but like legitimately probably will get it wrong some part of the time and making mistakes and being comfort like and being comfortable with the team making mistakes and learning from them like that is you know, most managers, especially new ones, is don't want to make mistakes. They don't want their team to make mistakes, and so they're kind of continuously trying to prevent those mistakes from happening, but that will just limit your personal growth, your team's growth and your team's performance. Really, how did you get buy in in like two very high performing cultures to take that long term approach? To people. Like I think it hinds, like saying it out loud, sounds easy in hindsight and like looking at the Daytoday, that's a very tough call almost every single time. How did you get buying from like your team and maybe your leadership to say I'm investing in the people and not the short term? I don't know if it takes a lot of buying. I would say, like you don't really need permission from the ear senior managers only care about results, right, and so for the large part, I mean, they care about you delivering results, and so the important thing is to deliver on those results and set those expectations. But, like the how you do it is kind of up to you as an individual, and I think that you know that's up to you and I think it's well. I should say, though, like the importance of the support from the senior leadership, of the tolerance for failure, makes a huge difference, because when you do give that autonomy, when you do give that space to people and they do make mistakes, then that what is their response like? Even if you have this kind of like balance response, if the executive in a team or that you report to does not then it will kind of it will just tamp out that that culture, and so I would say they their risk tolerance and their acceptance of failure and how that's handle is super, super important. I'll let's give you one like quick analogy, like from like my early career. I was an engineer and we were doing this like pushing like drilling speeds in my team a lot and we we were small ashing like every record oh then the...
...like that had existed for a very long time. But we pushed too far, and this was a lesson for me. But like in the way my manager of the time held this. We pushed it too far and we just like failed a couple of like couple of times in a row. But the way my manager handled it then, I still think about this, was I was like, I'm still not sure why we failed. I know we pushed really heard, but we did like a legitimatest, like post mortem on what happened, and he just didn't cast judgment too early and just said, all right, like I trust, I trust you in the team that you look at it appropriately and come back with like what the answer is. And he just gave and I came back with a non names honest answer. That is likely we push too hard. But he gave us the space to do that and didn't just like shoot, shoot us as soon as we had failed, like we're not we're not doing this again. And I think that kind of message, man, mattered a lot to me as like a willingness to take risk and that failure, you know, was not good, but and we needed to understand what happened. But how he handled that made such a difference to my you know how safe you feel taking risk in the future. Yeah, and it's important one right, like I think you talked about the coaching element and doing one on one's being only give people comfort that they can come to you and be vulnerable is a really important thing as a leader, or else you're not going to get the truth. You're going to get it when they're walking at the door going on to that next job, and that that point is too late. Right. Well, I think the coaching part needs to be bidirectional to right. It's like you're not this omniscient person that knows everything and like the legit. I think that makes a difference. Like and I talked. I Talk Like what coaching. I think is a good analogy, and I mean I'm I grew up playing sports a lot. Like coaching is such a normal part of you know, Lebron James has a coach, like the best tennis players in the world have coaches, and and so and even like from a feedback standpoint, getting very comfortable that, like I was trying to be coaching all the time, like every day, every meeting, every interaction was sort of a mini coaching session. I think we're a lot of managers get it wrong, or leaders, is that they coach to and frequently. So they're coaching like bought every quarter or twice a year during performance reviews as way too late. And then it also stings harder when you only get coach periodically and it tends to be only negative, you know, but it's like doing it frequently, balancing positive to negative, like those things matter a lot to people. How often do you do one on ones with your team? Weekly if the team is not too big, you can't do huge team weekly. Ideally, weekly is the best cadence I find, and I find that that is the main meeting. If you effectively run one on ones, if you can run an entire team like with very and I think people are like, how do you afford to do that? But most, most, a lot, well, I say most, a lot of managers tend to attend a lot of their like individual teams meetings and they just don't need to. And you can get basically through one on ones, you can get us like you can basically be coaching and staying up to speed on a lot of those things without having to attend a lot of the downstream ones. What did your structure look like when it work best? Like how long were they? How did you balance sort of the feedback you gave versus the feedback you receive? What was that structure at worked in the end? Yeah, like thirty, thirty minutes seems like enough, but I also put the onus on the individual like it wasn't my meeting, it was their meeting to run. So they set the agenda and there was probably like save you twenty minutes at a minimum would be maybe like for their their time, their agenda, things they wanted to discuss, like issues, priorities, feedback they were looking for, and then the last five, five to ten minutes would be kind of my time to provide coaching or feedback or anything else that happened during the week that I wanted to talk about or topics that I wanted to bring up. Yeah, that makes sense. I've definitely balanced between like the frequency and length and structure, and that sounds pretty close on to what's working best. But I like that. I guess in summary of all this, like one of...
...the biggest things you've probably taken away, which obviously work for you, is that, you know, moving up into an engine leadership roles not just about managing people. It's about making people better. It's about coaching them and actually investing in that, because the other stuff is short term. This stuff is long term. This is the hard part. This is what differentiates, I think, you know, good, productive, results driven leaders and then the ones who actually inspire people to stick around and do something generational. Like you know, you did a test lot at Ximobile. I'm curious, like the kind of jump a little bit deeper hair. How did the supply chain make this harder? Was that? It's easy enough when you have one team to think about, but the second you're really thinking about an extended family of groups to worry about and how they all play together and things that are your control. How did you handle the pressures and, you know, uncertainties of supply chain with your own teams. Morale amongst all of this. Yeah, like once managing the internal team, so I will say, is, quote unquote, easy. It's like once you go outside your own walls, you just have influence but not control, and it gets exponentially difficult to nudge people in certain directions. I think that like the single biggest learn it. It's the same response to people. It's the cultural fit for suppliers is the same or maybe more important than that. Well, they're technical, I mean you need to have like basically technical competence and be able to do perform the like, build a product or whatever it might be. But gaining cultural line and having the right like suppliers and partners on board just makes such a huge difference. And I think you can coach someone that's capable and it's kind of culturally aligned, you can coach them to like unbelievable heights, and I think the same is true for suppliers. But if you have someone that's other end is not capable and or is not culturally aligned and they could be saying a mom and pop, that's just like not sophisticated enough to be working with like a fortune five hundred company, or could be company that's just like too big. It's like a to like supplier that's like too big, an antiquated and is not set up to work, to be an agile supplier. You know, either of those can fail for different reasons. But you it's you can't coach. You can't coach those people to fit your culture, and I think like one of the lessons would be for me is that you probably should not like well, like desource those suppliers when you can. And I think you realizing, though, how intertwined you get with these partners. It's just it becomes very difficult to do that. So being thoughtful about which partners you decide to work with, because you're kind of going to be stuck with them forever or be very difficult to disintent, like to like unwind the relationship, makes you realize that the importance of that, and I think I mean that the real way to mitigate some of that risk and to make sure incentives are online is to have multiple supply options. Like having dual supplied tends to D risk a lot of the supply chain aspects, but it also it ensures that it keeps US suppliers honest, because if they have a single source and they know it, they will tend to behave in a certain way. But if they're continuously competing for allocation of supply, there it will keep them honest and for much longer periods of time. So it's kind of two trains here, right you've got new suppliers and you've got your existing ones. A gusting ones are harder to really deal with. I'm going to stare at the new suppliers. Something you said there was that you want to find more than just technical fit, like, can I supply me the wiget? Are they the one I want to work with? And I think I think a lot about this with who we partner with a Colab. I'm curious how you do this, though, in the manufacturing world, because there's so many variables. It's like you could have a mom and pop shop who are amazingly brilliant, I'm perfect for you, and you could have a gigantic company with big brand who just culturally misaligns from what you're trying to do as a company. How did you actually suss that out in a way that doesn't feel subjective? When you're picking your suppliers, I think we try like we would certainly do assessments, you know, objective assessments as best, because I do think dual supply is one way to manage...
...it. Depending on the commodity, it's like a luxury that sometimes you just can't have, depending but for certain commodities like dual supply is a way to mitigate that. And then I think as you're growing a supply chain, you want to kind of adjust it over time. It's like if you launch a new program you don't want to start with like a brand new supply chain right. I think you want to go with like maybe you trim out some of the suppliers that are not performing well, you add in a small group of new ones that you're experimenting with, and I think over time you should be kind of continuously doing that, where you're trimming suppliers that are not performing well, adding ones that you think are a good fit, and then you increase you can kind of increase and allocate more and more to them based on their performance, because if you just go all in, even if it seems like on the surface to be a perfect fit, just like in the courting phase of starting these relationships. A lot of things can seem amazing and just the realities of what manifest down the road. It just you just don't know and I think it's almost impossible to like fully predictive, and so I think you want to to manage it like in a reasonable way and then and then start to like migrate over time, and then overtime you're kind of moving towards this optimized supply chain, but opposed to like, okay, we're going to get this perfect one and kind of go from there. Even just the state of the world right now, you'd kind of need to have some optionality because you may have a great supplier and literally not able to get the thing you need, because it's the way the world shaping up right now. So well, I was in preparation for this. I was thinking about it and I've listened to some podcasts recently on like supply chain is such a complex it's not just one thing even, and you know it's all. It's the logistics, it's inventory management. You know I did really the purchasing and supply quality aspects of it, but there's so many stakeholders involved there and it's global. There's there's thousands of suppliers like that are providing parts, but then also like all these incillery things in the middle. It's Incredib it is actually incredible when you really start to understand it. How I'm like, how does this happen? It's amazing that it it works at all. In honesty, I just bought a model three. I think I told her just a little while ago. I bought a model three in August. It was supposed to come in October and then got pushed at dotoorer two thousand and twenty two and I was like, oh no, that's not good, and I got to call last week. That's on the way. But I actually think to myself, like I understand why it was being pushed out. I under I get what's going on sort of that supply chain, and I can't I'm actually shocked it's coming. I'm actually like impressed that it's showing up, just given everything else that's going on right now to make this so difficult. Well, I think you'll also see the I think the vulnerability of certain companies. You'll realize like the trend of I don't know the specific time frames, but was to move to outsourcing right you know Moe, a lot of the manufacturers went to really they were just like a sambling assembling plants and and outsours to everything to suppliers, and I think the that was probably great from an efficiency standpoint. It's like it reduces the amount of capital investment you had to do. There's a lot of reasons to do it. But you also like give up control largely, and so it your supply chains is not adaptive, and so that's probably exposed. Like that weakness and companies has been exposed in the last couple of years. If you don't have some reasonable amount of vertical integration, dual supply, those kind of things, then you just don't you can't. You'll struggle more or he'll say that much. Do you think there's, give me, a massive change the next ten years? I've been heard a lot of trends about people moving manufaction back to the US, for example. People think about literally, don't you just describe more vertical supply chainleey, fully integrated setups like people are think about all these things. Do you really think there's going to be a massive shift and if so, like where do you think first people should look? I don't know. I'm not really an expert to maybe offer a meaningful input, but I do think the covid has just stressed the system in a way that will that is going to push people to do things differently, and so...
I do think they'll be more domestic supply, they'll be dual supply to different countries, like I do think they'll be a whole, and that's probably happening like in real time to de risk these things in the future. The other part of it that you just you don't realize. There's such a fine balance of inventory. It's like you want to have this like perfect machine that has low inventory levels but then is also like not prone to supply shocks, you know, and so how you do that is this like it's a very tricky balance to strike. But yeah, I do think. I don't think it's going to be this huge like localization to everything in the US. I think there's going to be a balance of things that will come back domestic. That's like that's high ip that's like important to have secured, and I think you'll see dual global supply chains. You'll see all kinds of and even innovation in that space, like smart inventory tracking, those kind of things with that, without going just for get out the supply chain topic. We talked a little bit about, you know, sort of new suppliers and how to think about that. Also thing about resiliency in your own supply chain with having, you know, dual supply options, having like trimming some of the fat and bringing some new players as you move between programs. When you have an existing supplier, though, and you're on a key programming a tight deadline you're trying to deliver, you know something is complicated, as the model three program or you're going up store built in this massive reag and you have a timeline you're trying to hit. What have you done or what have you seen that's worked to get you out of the pickle? Is I hear this all the time now about where we're a supplier or constantly having design problems, we're having supply chain issues, where having all this and you're stuck right like it's really hard to get out of that. Is there an example, and you can keep it general, but is there an example of something that went astray that you guys actually figured out a clever way to fix, just in terms of like how you worked with that group to kind of just put a bandaid on it to deliver on time and then, you know, worry about the long term solution later. Yeah, I don't think there's not a specific example. The biggest channel. I think the closer to the deadline you get, the heart like a kind of wrote this before. It's like the closer you get to the deadline, it just the harder and more expensive it gets. So like, and so if you can try and like solve these problems like, and it doesn't have to be two years in advance, but you know, two weeks in advance, it's like impossible to solve some of these these constraints. And so doing things out in front matters a lot because otherwise you end up it's so far from optimal. You're using what I call like brute force to make things happen, and you can do a lot with with brute force, with the right supplier that's culturally line, that is willing to be scrappy and do things differently, you can make a lot happen in a in a very short period of time, and I think maybe that's the part of maybe that's the way to do it, is that being willing to meet a crazy deadline or do things in a short period of time. You had to be willing to do probably some unconventional things to make things happen in the near term. But then I think having buying like once you get to mass production or to the final project deliverable, that you're willing to move to what the optimized solution is and that you're not stuck with this like kind of suboptimal solution that you built just to launch a product quickly and to really and so do be aligned with that approach, because other companies or suppliers just like would kind of be unwilling to do that. They're used to launching products and in a certain way, and so you have to have them culturally on board to be able to have something like that approach. Are there certain things that you did with suppliers directly similar to how you coached people on your internal team, that worked to like foster and built relationship? Like what did it look like for you to actually build those relationships? So I think so often it's a lot of finger pointing and supply chain, this things late, this thing's broken. Whose fault is it? I think the teams that are working best or the ones you just described, the ones that rolled your sleeve together, agree that this thing is, you know, kind of messed up, not a good situation, but...
...we need to push through it. What worked for you and building that kind of like true relationship with suppliers. I mean, I think it's this. It's the same. I mean there are all people it's like, whether they work for you directly or indirectly, and I think but what I saw, I mean you can't disclose everything right from like internal de External, but trying to be as honest as you can with people and honest and direct about what your expectations for them are, how they're performing to the level you're expecting or not expect thing. And I think it also goes the same way that you need to be receptive to how you you as a company, is not performed, not performing. It's kind of easy because there's sort of a power dynamic between the customer and the supplier and you you can use that right. That is a point of leverage that you have, as the person like holding the bag will say, but you can't overuse that and it you can use it, but it will arose the trust and engagement of the supplier over time and you really want to create this mutually benefit. Ideally you're creating a mutually beneficial relationship and you need to have a high level of trust between those, those individuals, those teams, and I think having an open and honest discussion and has to be bidirectional to make those things happen. I think the second part that's a little more nuanced, is like the incentives have to be aligned. It's right. So it's like the mutually beneficial part that you know, if you are trying to grow a company and then your suppliers trying to do the same, that those incentives are inlined that as they and that's what they want, because if they're not incentivized to grow, kind of if they make less money as they grow or something like that, then they're just not going to do what you want them to do. But if they have a big pie and they have a big empty factory that they're trying to fill or something like, those incentives. Human behavior is driven a lot by incentives, and so understanding even how the contracts are structured, understanding what their individual goals are, will make a huge difference to like the long term performance of the those suppliers. Let me let me ask you something's on that, because a lot of things you've actually shared. Like you're an engineer by background. You've been an engineering leadership roles. You've obviously moved in supply chain different places, but like, what portion of your job do you actually think is pure engineering versus like more of a business and like coaching role? Because what I think most people get wrong, and you said it earlier on, that you know, oftentimes the best technical person becomes the manager, and I think it was two tracks right. Your best technical person may become the manager. They may also become your sme, and that's totally cool. That's actually very important for every company. How do you think about that? Like what when you were at that point there, you know, a couple of years ago, before you jumped into help people pivot your careers, do you think it? Would you consider yourself to be more of a coach and like business relationship manager than an actual, like engineering focused manager? Really, what do you think is I feel a lot of the advice you're giving me could apply to things I'm struggling with right now building software. Well, I think it. Yeah, it changed. Definitely migrated, like I was a real engineer for probably the first five or six years of my career, like doing the real design, operational design, those kind of things. And then you definitely, I mean I think engineering offers this like tool kid of problem solving that is applicable so broadly that I just kind of started to branch out beyond that. You know, it's earlier. Xon Did, did different roles like that, and and Tesla certainly. And I think the part of supply chain I like so much was that it was almost half and half, like half of the team that reported to me was quality supply or quality engineers, so that that work was very engineering, kind of technical quality focused, and then the other half was global supply manager, so managing, you know supply, but the commercial largely the commercial relationships and seeing, like, I think, a lot of discussion. I mean some of it's like the people's side, but seeing how the commercial aspects of the business relationship, the money part, ties into quality and like those...
...things are not mutually exclusive or separate entities, are like inherently a meshed and there's just like a continuous like interaction with those things, and that I loved. Like I love the business aspect, negotiating the pricing aspect, doing our FQ's those things, but also like solving tough engineering problems, understanding how to set up good quality systems, how to root cause analysis, like I'm not really a quality engineer, and that's a legitimate, very legitimate skill set, and I had some exceptional quality engineers work for me that really understood like how, like really how to understand root cause analysis of a problem, how to understand materials, like all these kind of things. And but yeah, that that combination of commercial and engineering made, I think, my supply chain role really fascinating. It's, I think, a special be honest, and we've hired a lot of engineers working at Colab and just the mindset like I've I think back to when I went through school, what I took from that. I mean I don't use my throwne an amics background, my fluids back around most days here, but the problem solving piece is like a really, really beautiful thing to pull into a management role when you apply it in ways that are like against a business problem or, guess, a human problem, because you can just think about it rationally, sift through a lot of mud, I'll say, and solving that stuff. So one thing I've curious about through all this, Graig, like obviously you've been an incredible coach your team at supply chain. You've learned about the difference. I mean kind of just managing, like being human with these people to get the most from that group to deliver, you know, the results you're trying to deliver. What was the biggest difference between doing this in energy, which might have been like real folks on a drillian program, versus like a very conventional automotive supply chain? Like is there anything that any advice should give to a manager or an engineering leader that is different between the two? And then I'll jump for last part. How you bridge the gap. I'm curious to kind of dive into how you jump from energy to automotive. Yeah, I mean, they're different worlds in so many ways. I think I thought I've thought about this a lot, and just even the dynamics of mass manufacturing versus like kind of not mess manufacturing, what you want to call it. Like you know, you know you're kind of do it like we were drilling four wells a year, right, and so you need like eight sets of equipment or something for the entire year. And so just the dynamics of doing like long watch long. We'd play like an oil well for six months and then you executed over like a three month period and just like the different dynamic and you'd have like a very small supply chain, relatively small supply chain for like the entire well. Might have eight or ten suppliers. And then in an int automotive where you're doing this mass manufacturing and you're bringing in huge amounts of inventory continuously, supply base is gigantic, although like I manage like kind of a small portion of it, but those dynamics are just like starkly different and it took me. You know, when I first went to Tesla, I was buying big capital equipment, which was like a similar dynamic or kind of buying big pieces of equipment to go in like a small number of factories. But when you shift into what's called like direct materials purchasing, it's at you're buying part car parts effectively, but like the approach of doing that is is quite different. I think like the thing that I struggled with most was to make decisions with limited information and to be it goes back to like risk taking, being comfortable with that and to make the best using what we'll say is your gut or some inform judgment to make the best decision you could. And that's like, again, that sounds easy and principle to do, but it's like it's kind of it's kind of scary and when you're used to like, you know, my past life, it was kind of perfection and trying to drive, you know, really not make any mistakes. And there's different levels of consequences in the two businesses, which differentiate them a little bit. But being comfortable that you may not pick the right supplier or that you may not do something perfectly, but and be willing to be okay with that and to realize that you could probably repair...
...it or adjust it over time. Like that was the thing I probably struggle with most. It always comes back to risk. I give you a look at that. If you looked on in the world right now, like think about security, there are so many things that are a potential risk to happen. It really comes back to like is it a risk for you and your a particular situation? What is the actual impact of getting that right? But it's a scary thing, like it's a scary transition to make and yeah, I mean I think you start, you start to hone your whatever judgment is, like an or instinct, sometimes I call them, and I think you had to be at a certain stage your career to be more comfortable, like when you're right out of school. I would say your judgment or instinct is probably not that great, but I think is it's something you kind of hone over time and again. It's not perfect, but you have a sense for or over like decision, making those kind of things and making mistakes in the past, and even like using your tea, your collective judgment. It's not even just like your individual judgment right, it's like your collective judgment, the judgment of your executives and even like counterparts and things like that. You had to depend on that more and I think there's also an element that I hadn't really considered before to there's an opportunity cost of not making the decision and being thoughtful over, making the theoretical right decision in six months from now has a cost. You know that making the that maybe more than making the wrong, to say the wrong decision now, and I think thinking about it that way was just different from what I was used to. Yeah, I've people are always saying to me a wrong decision is better no decision because and in a lot of cases, long as the risk profile is not going to, you know, blow something up or cause some long term, irreplaceable or irreversible damage, it is true, because sitting there and sitting in status quo and not actually changing what's going on is oftentimes the biggest risk. Like, if you think about security breaches, most times it's because people don't actually tackle things that they've never been out standing for five years, not because of a new piece of software to introduced. So it's very interesting perspective. Greg one thing that I know you've done a lot of. You shared me a bunch of resources with me and how to become you know better what I'm trying to do, better at what you know friends are trying to do an engering world, and obviously you're coaching people now for a living how to make these pivots. What are you reading, or what would you suggest an engineering leader read to get better at more the human element of being a coach? For suggest a manager both for their team and supply chain. Yeah, the book this is like an old school book, but the book that like change my life. I think would be the seven habits of highly effective people, and I think it's stood the test of time in many ways and it really can be a handbook for your own personal development for a long time. And the way it's structured is like the first three habits are internally facing, and so you can almost spend the first five year, five years of your career, just doing the first three habits basically, and then the second three habits are like interdependence and it's really like how you work with others, and so that book, I think, gave me the tools for both. It's like sort of I don't say I've have selfmastery by any means, but like it does give you like a good framework for internal mastery, like how to understand yourself and work on development, but then also like, as you go into this interdependence, how you work with others. They really does a good job at like describing those things, differentiating that they're different things, and the best analogy in there. It showed this point of leverage right that it showed as an individual you have this like kind of teetertotter that like as you put one unit of energy in, you get one unit out but once you become a leader or a manager, that, like fulk rum, slides in one direction, and so now one unit of energy can produce like five units of energy out and like the like. Understanding that. That, in my mind, was like and you realize you just can't do that much stuff on your own, right, even if you're the most productive engineer in the world. And so that's why I think even the same's like, especially you know, xon had a phenomenal group...
...of SMEs. They were the ones that were most effective or phenomenal communicators, influencers and like ability to like, because you just can't do that much on your you can be like the best engineer, but if you don't have like interpersonal communication skills, ability to influence others, like not manipulate them, but to like be able to to persuade people of your ideas, then you're really just going to limit how much impact you have, how far your idea is spread, those kind of things. Yeah, I like that takeaway, you know, individual contributor, kind of one in, one out, and looking at it from like a leadership perspective, depending on where you put the Falconon, It's kind of a it's a good way to look at it. Well, I think it realize the higher you go, I mean for you as a CEO, like the consequences are bigger too. So like you're your good decisions are amplified, but you're bad ones are too, and so it does create more pressure, but it's like that's why it's important, anyways, important, important in both directions. I'll tell you an interesting thing that I actually did. So I found myself doing too much of individual contributor work, and it's hard scaling this fast and like being a founder and CEEO, two different jobs, very different jobs, found her very scrappy. CEO should be a leader. And one of the things we found we went through was looking at our actual time and where we invested time. And I read this book that talked about basically scoring your own calendar for Ad Min work, or's individual contributor work versus management, versus like strategy and like truly coaching, and basically giving you a dollar value for those hours, like ten dollars for Red Man, a hundred for the individual contributor, five hundred for management and five thousand for strategy. And I basically said, then how would you feel about spending your calendar that way you currently are, versus what you said you do, if this actually came back and how much you made and you're like, well, that's what you're doing your team right. You're cutting your team short because they were expecting you to deliver en x when you're only doing it min work, which isn't getting even close, even if you worked twenty four hours a day. That was a really keen takeaway. So I like the one in, one out, one in twenty out reference. Yeah, it's so. It's so because I think even if you're a great individual contry, there's something like super satisfying about being a great individual contributors, like a part of like mastery. It's like being good at something and it's a super tempting to want to do that, and I think there is a good there's like a little bit of a balance. I think, like a manager still needs to be like a great individual contributor, but it can't it has to be like fifteen percent of their time or something, and the right slight. Yeah, and where it has to be like something super strategic that they are maintain responsibility for it, because it's some way to keep your shots, your sawce sharp as like the set. That's what this part of the seven habits book. And so you can't just be like kind of the conductor that's always monitoring things happening. You need to be like in the trenches. You need to be maintaining and growing like an individual contributor skill set. So there's like there is like that balance that you kind of need to be going back and forth between. Yeah, and this the same framework right, like it doesn't say cut everything out. It's about waiting it properly, because you'll burn out. To write, if you're in one of those buckets completely, you will just you'll lose either the part you love, you won't you'll stop learning, you'll lose something that makes you not the same leader that got you to where you were, which is, like, you know, an interesting take. Great, this has been awesome. I really appreciate you jumping in and Takmas three, or sort of how you take a human approach to both your team, supply chain and even your career. Thanks so much for joining and I'm looking forward to Divin D for next time. Yeah, thanks that, I'm I appreciate it and good luck in future. Episodes. Thanks for having me. Awesome. All right, take care. You've been listening to pure check, a Colab podcast. Keep connected with us by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player, and please leave a rating on the show. That helps us keep delivering conversations about how the engineering world is changing and how you can challenge the status quo. Until next time,.
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