Enterprise SaaS product veteran discusses the opportunities and challenges facing today’s manufacturers
We recently sat down with Jamie Fernandes, ETQ’s Vice President, Product Management, who has been appointed to the ETQ Executive Team. The conversation is part of a new series of conversations with executives within ETQ and Hexagon, as well as with external industry leaders, to gather their insights on key industry trends.
According to CEO Rob Gremley, “In the year that Jamie has been onboard, he has transformed our product management team and processes into a highly visionary and collaborative organization, and one that works hand-in-glove with our engineering organization.”
Following are excerpts from our conversation with Jamie in which he shares his perspectives on the opportunities and challenges currently facing manufacturers and global supply chains, the importance of harnessing data, the primary projects ETQ is focused on over the next year, and the experiences from his professional baseball career that help him in his current role.
What’s been your primary focus since joining ETQ last year?
I was brought in to raise the level of product management discipline within R&D. When I got here, we were heavily focused on ‘internal’ product management. My background is built on a philosophy of ‘the product as the business’, so I take a holistic view of everything around the product. I am focused on moving the product management team from having an internally focused orientation to one that gets them more externally focused, working with Sales, talking to customers frequently, doing competitive analysis, and gathering data from a lot of sources and bringing it back to our engineering partners. This helps us make sure we are building the right products at the right times for the right markets.
How has ETQ’s acquisition by Hexagon impacted that focus?
There is a lot more opportunity to align with verticals that Hexagon serves to cross sell into the Hexagon customer base and integrate closely with their products that complement ETQ Reliance and our processes. The acquisition presents a tremendous opportunity for ETQ and our customers.
We feel very confident about our position in the market, the breadth and scale of our portfolio, and our customer base – we have customers that are on-premise as well as customers in the cloud, in both single and multi-tenant models. So, we’re asking ourselves, what else can we do to deliver value to our customers that goes beyond that? Data is the primary thing we’re looking at. Hexagon has a lot of metrology and other QC data that we can bring together for customers to enhance processes we are already supporting, to create a broader value proposition.
What other opportunities is ETQ focused on?
I spoke to a customer just last week who said to me, “I have a massive amount of data that is trapped on the shop floor. I cannot get value from it.” To me, that underscores the importance of the connected quality strategy we are driving forward. Taking the core competencies that we do very well around quality management, building a big data platform powered by advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, and then freeing that valuable data. We can bring that shop floor data into our platform, cross correlate it with the quality management processes to drive insights back to the customer to help them improve business outcomes. We already have some use cases among existing customers. We want to broaden that and ultimately have strong ROI stories to share about delivering increased value to manufacturers.
What are some of the key trends facing manufacturers and how is ETQ helping to address them?
Everyone is dealing with workforce issues. The concept of the connected worker in manufacturing is becoming a significant issue. Process optimization is another area of focus. We continually ask ourselves – how can we ensure our customers are able to streamline their operations to maximum efficiency? We have some areas in our platform where we can help solve that problem, and in other cases, we might partner with others to provide a more powerful offering.
Manufacturers are still working hard to catch up from the pandemic to create greater supply to meet increasing demand. It’s going to be that way for a while. Anything we can do to help them solve that problem is where we are focused. Environmental, health and safety, as well as sustainability are some other key areas customers are focused on right now, and there is a lot we’re doing in those areas as well.
What are the primary projects you’re focused on over the next 12-16 months?
There are three primary areas of focus. One is supporting ETQ’s strategic initiatives. We’re expanding geographically, for example, so we are focused on ensuring our platform is more easily localized, has up to date translations, as well as other geo-focused initiatives. We’re also focused on improving our multi-tenant platform around functionality, scalability, high availability, and security – all SAAS fundamentals. We are continuing to build out our foundation in multi-tenant SAAS as we move more customers to it. The third area is the data platform. We are focused on ensuring our customers are ready to receive massive amounts of data, from the manufacturing floor for example, and enable them to derive greater value from that data.
Are there any experiences from your professional baseball career that are applicable to your current role?
Great question. There are many lessons I learned, but four things that I have carried with me through my career in Technology:
- Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. Work hard always, who is perceived as talented can be subjective, but hard work cannot be ignored.
- Failure is your greatest teacher. Baseball is a game rooted in failure. You are either winning or learning. You never lose until you quit or stop learning.
- Be a coach. To yourself and to your people. I have been very fortunate in all my careers to have great coaches who were direct and honest with me which helped me grow immensely. I try to be the same for the people on my team.
- Roger Clemens once said to a group of us during Spring Training, “There is no luck. Luck is when Opportunity meets Preparation. Be prepared.”
What do you see as ETQ’s biggest opportunities for growth?
Our scale levers are geographic expansion, as well as new vertical markets. We have a presence in a lot of verticals but there are some I think we could do more in such as life sciences, aerospace and defense. We added two new apps in recent months – lab investigations and quality events. We’re working on others that will come out next year. There are also potential adjacencies for ETQ that will enable us to continue scaling and improving the platform.
I’ve got a product leader’s dream job right now. Connected quality is a primary area of focus for us as we corral all of the opportunities in the context of our overall strategy. That’s what I’m really excited about.
When you’re not building products or businesses, how do you like to spend your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that? I have four kids, so that’s something I don’t have much of. I enjoy coaching Basketball, Softball and Baseball for my daughters and sons. Between activities, we spend a lot of time on the beaches of Cape Cod, which is our haven. I also take great pride in the maintenance of a crystal-clear swimming pool, and my mastery of the grill and firepit.