[Chapter 9] Perfect Timing with James Hunt

My guest for this post is a great example of timing. Let me explain further below.

I connected with this week’s guest with the hopes of learning about the startup culture. After attending the Startup Open House, it reaffirmed me that Toronto is really a booming place for tech startups. That is why when he shared open roles at a growing tech company, I just had to connect with him. Perfect Timing # 1.

He accepted my invitation to connect. Then, he started to post a three-part series on his take on the “Millennials are entitled” debate. At first, I thought he would add another angle to reaffirm the millennial stigma. He went for the opposite side – citing millennials as “valued contributors to a team’s success.” I decided to send him a message, to which he gladly responded with an invitation for coffee. Perfect Timing # 2.

While waiting for our assigned meet-up time, I decided to go through his LinkedIn profile in case I have more questions for him. To my surprise, he published an article about “experienced leaders joining start-up tech companies”. He published it one hour ago. Perfect Timing # 3.

I am beyond excited to introduce to you my guest, James Hunt! I touch based on his early career (he served in the Canadian Forces in the 90’s), his experience at the FMCG/CPG industry, working at startups, and engaged in conversation about his published articles.

James Hunt completed an Advanced Bachelor of Arts Degree in Politics and Economics at the University of Manitoba. While in university, he also served in the Canadian Forces as a Lieutenant – Army. “My service was before September 11 happened. There were no major security threats back then,” recounted Hunt. “I was interested to join the Army. Having grown up in a family with a long tradition of military service, I thought it would be a logical next step.” Until now, he considers this as a highlight and a memorable experience.

I shifted gears to another part of his career timeline. He has worked at big companies such as PepsiCo Canada, LEGO, and Mondelez. I told him, “I’m quite jealous of some of your career experiences.” He laughingly replied, “Jealousy is a sin!” I mentioned my interest in working for a couple of his previous employers. He goes on to tell a story. “My friend who works at LEGO reached out to me for a job opening. He did not mention that it was LEGO. My friend said that it was a big toy company”. Hunt continues to ask questions about this unnamed company. At the end, his friend spilled the beans. He laughed and said, “why didn’t you tell me it was LEGO!?”

His network helped him land roles at these big companies. “It definitely helps when you know someone who works inside the company. It doesn’t necessarily mean that applying online is a waste of time. Take the postings as part of company research,” added Hunt.

He learned about my interest in working for startups. He asked me which start-ups I’ve had interviews with and the responses I received. “Usually, they take someone with engineering experience,” said Hunt. He also comments on the cut-throat competition of startups and how even the young minds get their foot in the tech industry. He is amazed by so much innovation and ingenuity.

He also published an article on how to assess a start-up tech company. He wrote this article after making a trip to the Kitchener/Waterloo area to meet one of the “grandfathers of Canadian tech”. “I wish you published this before I went to the Startup Open House!”, I told him. He pointed out five pillars an experienced leader should use. I’ve heard about the first four. The last one caught my attention – the Founder’s track record. Hunt considered this as “the pillar I missed, my ‘aha’ moment”. I took a screenshot of my favorite part of the article, which I will share below:

“When scorecarding an entrepreneur the only objective and meaningful way to do so is to look at their accomplishments outside of college or university. A founder may be incredibly intelligent, read every book on the planet, and have a great concept BUT If they had never actually scaled, sold, merged or divested a startup business, they really do not know what success looks like and they likely will never listen to his advice.”

Before our coffee meeting, I sent a message to James via LinkedIn on how his three-part article resonated with me. He talked about an interview he had for a senior leadership role at a tech company. He was asked in the process of managing the millennials. After all, this tech company is predominantly millennial and he is an outsider of this demographic. His response was brief yet straightforward:

“I treat everyone with respect. I also delegate responsibility, hold everyone accountable, and focus on results.

I asked further on why he decided to launch this three-part article. His daily interactions with millennials proved his desire to defend this booming generation. “Millennials are equipped with so much resources and technology. They have so much ambition. are ambitious making them an asset to the workplace,” added Hunt.

Returning home, I thought whether our meeting was a success. How did my interviewee think of how I facilitated the conversation? Lo and behold, I received an e-mail from James Hunt to thank me and added a few words of advice in between.

Perfect timing, indeed.

On y va!

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