In The Shop sat down with Paperless Parts’ newest executive addition, Chief Marketing Officer Sarah McAuley, to hear about her mission to “make manufacturing quoting software sexy.”
Before we jump in, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a mom of three kids, and I coach a ton of youth sports; basketball, softball, soccer – basically anything my kids ask me to coach.
I’ve spent the past twenty years marketing technology. I started my career working for a PR agency, then moved into telecom before spending eleven years at EnerNOC: a demand response and energy management software company. A lot of EnerNOC’s customers were in the manufacturing space (after all, manufacturing uses a ton of energy), but we were working mostly with continuous manufacturing processes, not custom part job shops.
In 2019, I made a big career change by joining CloudHealth and diving into the cloud management space. I then spent the last year at a similar company called Quali, based in Austin, TX.
Sarah pictured here with her 3 children.
What first attracted you to Paperless Parts?
If I’m being honest, I dismissed this opportunity at first. “Quoting software for the manufacturing industry” just sounded a little…dull.
What eventually caught my attention was that Jim Baum, a longtime friend and mentor, had just taken a seat on the Board of Directors and OpenView, a highly respected VC firm, invested $30M into the company. I thought, “If Jim and OpenView think this company is worth a look, so should I.”
That’s funny! So what changed your mind about job shop quoting software not being so boring after all?
Two words: Jason Ray. You cannot talk to Jason and not get excited about Paperless Parts and the manufacturing industry as a whole. It’s not just about “manufacturing quoting software” – it’s about going deep into a dramatically underserved industry and identifying ways that software can help transform how these businesses operate.
Jason’s passion for our customers and solving their problems – and more broadly about making American manufacturing more competitive on a global stage – is infectious. I’ve never met anyone who cares more deeply about the customers they’re serving. I told him about my first impression of the company, and he just yelled back, “Manufacturing is sexy!!!” I’m toying with the idea of making t-shirts with the phrase to gift to our employees for the holidays.
Want to hear what Jason has to say about Sarah joining the team?
So, once you got over that first hump and decided that “manufacturing is sexy,” what made you want to pursue this opportunity?
I try to look at new career opportunities through a lens that considers the following:
1) Is this a big and interesting enough market problem to tackle?
2) Is the company backed by smart people? Does it have good investors and strong leaders?
3) Does this company need something that I’m uniquely qualified to contribute?
4) Will this opportunity stretch me in uncomfortable but productive ways? And lastly,
5) Do I feel chemistry with the people I’d be working with?
I once turned down a job that I had the most amazing chemistry with the people I had met, particularly the CEO, and to this day I regret it. I had that same chemistry with Jason and with the rest of the team I met throughout the interview process, and I just knew I couldn’t pass it up again.
Tell me more about your criteria of “does this company need something that I’m uniquely qualified to contribute” – what is that at Paperless Parts?
The one thing I’ve always been pretty good at is seeing how various pieces can and should fit together – how you get 1+1 to equal 3. In an organization that’s growing as rapidly as Paperless Parts, if you’re not careful, everyone is off to the races but not necessarily running towards the same finish line. Keeping folks aligned and informed around the “why” we’re doing things and how their day-to-day work fits into that picture has always been something my teams have appreciated about me.
You’ve been on the job for about a month now, so is quoting software for the manufacturing industry still sexy?
Heck yeah! I recently toured a few of our customers’ job shops, and I was blown away. I think when you come from outside of the industry, you think of it as dark, dirty assembly lines and guys in greasy jeans. But the facilities I visited were super high-tech and clean, and the people that run them are brilliant and entrepreneurial.
The first shop we went to was C&M Precision Tech. The president and host of our tour, Dan Villemaire, is a second generation owner who took over for his dad shortly after he graduated college. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of parts being made and Dan knew just by looking at them exactly what each one was.
I intuitively understood why some parts were “cool;” their geometry was complex and it didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen. But there was this one that seemed particularly ordinary, almost like a screw you’d find at your local hardware store. But in fact, it’s what’s used to hold night vision goggles onto military helmets. You can literally shoot a bullet at it and it won’t break (not something you could find at Home Depot).
Another tour, New Hampshire sheet metal shop Sweeney Metal Fabricators, we saw chassis that are specially designed to hold cutting-edge medical devices. There’s something very emotional about being able to see and touch the things that help make our world better. Our customers are making these things, and knowing that our quoting software is helping them do it better is incredibly rewarding.
My time at Paperless Parts thus far has literally changed how I see the world. Every time I go anywhere now, I think, “one of my customers probably made that.”
The team at Sweeney with Jim on their recent tour of the shop.
Seems like you’re making lots of lasting memories already. Across your career, what’s your “Most Memorable Professional Moment?”
That’s easy: hearing oral arguments at the Supreme Court for a case I had helped get there. Energy is a very heavily regulated industry, and the Electric Power Supply Association (basically the lobbying arm for fossil fuel-generating power plants) won a legal battle with the D.C. District court that posed a fundamental threat to EnerNOC’s business model.
It was my job to help quarterback a multi-year campaign that included a cross-functional team of lawyers, regulatory affairs personnel, and marketing and communications resources to challenge that ruling and appeal to the Supreme Court. We ended up winning – in January 2016, the Supreme Court overturned the decision.
Okay, final question: What’s your #1 priority at Paperless Parts right now?
Recruiting and training a great team. And not just in marketing, but across the organization. Despite the macroeconomic environment spelling doom for many, our customers are still thriving and growing and there are a lot of reasons to believe that business won’t slow down for them in any meaningful way anytime soon. Paperless Parts has to keep up, and to do that, we need great people on our team.
I don’t want anyone thinking about a career change to make the same mistake I almost did because they think, “this company isn’t interesting enough.” I’m telling you, across my 20 years in the tech industry, this is the most energized and excited I’ve ever been about a company. My kids even recognize it.
Want to see what all the hype is about? Check out all of Paperless Parts’ open roles today.
Click here to connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.