Hunter Casillas

This week on Career Crashers Joel is joined by Hunter Casillas to talk about how his ability to backflip helped him land a job at GoodUnited.

Hunter is a junior product manager at GoodUnited and broke into his career without college through self-taught skills and a Praxis apprenticeship. In the episode, Hunter shares the backstory on his unique pitch that won him his job, how he’s learned and grown on the job, and his advice for others on the job hunt.

Don’t try and fit in a box. Don’t try and check any boxes. You are you, you are genuinely just your own brand. You are trying to look good to people, but you’re going to do it even better if you are you. 

Next week on the podcast we are talking with Nick Black from GoodUnited (who received Hunter’s pitch) to hear what it was like from the company side.

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Show notes

  • Getting homeschooled and unschooled, ADHD, and how all those things fostered an exploration mindset of following your interests.
  • How Hunter leveraged his technical interests and projects he’d built into his first professional job.
  • Coming up with a way to stand out, like a front flip off a trampoline.
  • Worrying about looking unprofessional, and misconceptions about what that actually means.
  • Doing a million takes, and beating perfectionism. 
  • Why it’s better to be yourself and your own brand than to try and fit into what you think companies want to see.

Connect with Hunter

Full Transcript:

Isaac
Welcome to Career Crashers, where we tell the stories of those who are not content to wait around following rules and hoping for good things to happen. Great careers are found. They’re forged.

It’s time to crash the party.

Joel
So if you go to crash.co, and you scroll down a little bit, you’ll see a little video of someone jumping off a trampoline. And that is my guest today. Hunter Casillas. And he did that flip off the trampoline, before he made his Crash pitch. And we’re gonna talk about that today.

Hunter is a junior Product Manager at Good United. And he broke into his career without college, leveraging this portfolio mindset, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. And by the way, we’re going to interview Hunter this week.

And then next week, we’re going to interview Nick Black, who’s the CEO of Good United who, who received Hunter’s Crash pitch. So we’re going to get both sides of this process laid out for you, the listener.

So welcome, Hunter. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Hunter
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Joel. It’s awesome to be on here.

Joel
You bet. So I’m curious about sort of your backstory and your mindset of self directed learning. I understand you were homeschooled, is that right? And you started, I imagine, cultivating that sort of mindset of, I’m going to forge my own path. I’m going to create projects on my own. Tell us about that sort of overall mindset of building through your own initiative.

Hunter
Yeah, so pretty much ever since first grade, I’ve been homeschooled and unschooled. So it’s kind of just been like a mix of two different types of schooling. And it really pushed me to just explore the things that I really was interested in. And, and not, you know, delve really deep into all of these other subjects that I just, I just really had no interest in at all.

So just the way that my mind works, because I’m really, really ADHD. I can’t put a lot of effort and time into something that I don’t see beneficial to my to my own self. And so that’s just kind of how I’ve had placed one mindset and position my mindset throughout my whole life. And now, you know, that I have to get a job and everything.

I was like, Oh, no, like, how am I going to apply this mindset, you know, to the job and the career space. And, you know, that was where Praxis really stepped in. They They showed me that, you know, I really can market my existing skills, like, just just incredibly and, and really show my true worth to a company. And so, you know, yeah, yeah, that’s all I gotta say about it.

Joel
Yeah, yeah. I’d be curious to hear more. If you’re open to in terms of like, what what interests did you have growing up? Obviously, you had some sort of gymnastics training with the flipping off the trampoline?

Like, obviously, a lot of what we’re preaching at Crash is to go do what makes you come alive to go follow your curiosities, order to figure out gain that self knowledge about what types of companies you’re interested in, what types of role types, but that you talk about, like that concept of curiosity?

I mean, what how did that? How did you follow that grown up with it? Were there any particular interests that you grabbing it gravitated towards?

Hunter
Yeah, totally. So like stuff like gymnastics and stuff like that, I always just was really drawn to that just because I was super into just like, the exhilarating aspect of life just going fast doing flips, like, whatever. But professionally, my dad works at Microsoft currently. So ever since I was, you know, like nine or 10, however old. You know, I’ve been working on computers and working with computers and always just been super, super interested in technology.

So that really just drove my, my career path. Really, I was like, this is something that I’m super interested in. This is a really hot topic right now. It just works perfect. So that was really how I got into the company now. And then that’s how I’ve moved to the product manager role, because I’ve applied those technical skills in that way.

Joel
Awesome. Yeah. And you mentioned Praxis, which is our sister company and one year apprenticeship program boot camp program to launch your career outside of college. And as when you applied to Praxis was, were those computer skills, something that you you mentioned in your application process? And did you already have sort of a portfolio of computer projects?

Hunter
Yeah, 100%. I already had a GitHub repository that contains like the majority of the stuff that I do. And so far, and then Praxis really helped me play to those strengths. And then, you know, Good United was looking for someone who was very technical, who could work with, you know, different applications and, you know, make them connect to each other and integrate, because we really do a lot of, you know, third party integrations.

So yeah, they were looking for somebody who was super technical. And because I really displayed those skills, and I really played to my strengths. I really believe that that was what you know, got me the job.

Joel
Yeah, that’s awesome, all about about showing not telling and, and creating those projects to really give tangible evidence of what you can do. So am I correct that you were also doing some Customer Success type work? With Good United?

Hunter
Yeah, I would say so. I mean, just because I joined good united whenever they were at, I think it was six or seven employees. So basically, I’ve done pretty much like every aspect from sales, customer success, Product Management, that type of stuff. So yeah, I definitely do have a little bit of customer success, knowledge, just because I hopped in on the calls, but that’s not my primary thing.

Joel
Yeah, that makes sense that with a small company, you’re wearing different hats. And, and I’m sure that when you sent that video with the trampoline, in particular, you could that that there was signaling such power with your soft skills, you know, with enthusiasm and, and Nick Black did mention that.

That when he received the quote, that when he received the the video, he we quoted him saying that like it was just the enthusiasm, the hunger to learn that really struck him.

So tell us about that. Like you were you were pitching different companies to land an apprenticeship. And what what sort of inspired you were prompted you to do something as creative as jumped off the trampoline?

Hunter
Dude, I was honestly like, contemplating what I was going to do. And then I was like, these people get 1000s and 1000s of applications. I mean, they’re getting pitch videos from other people. I was like, What is the best way I can stand out? Then I was like, What if I just like, do a flip? Like, that’s something cool. I can do. You know?

So I was like, Okay, how can I incorporate that into the pitch video? And then, you know, I was thinking, is it gonna make people think that I am, you know, just, like, unprofessional, that I don’t care about, you know, what I’m doing? And then I thought about it really hard.

And I was like, do I really want to work with a company that’s going to have that, you know, like, mindset already. And so, you know, I was like, this is going to be good for me. And it’s going to show that, you know, I’m trying to do something out of the ordinary. And I was like, just a win win. So that’s why I went with it.

Joel
Yeah, that’s interesting comment about like, being professional, that’s such a sort of almost, it’s the water in which we swim sort of, in our culture, we’re kind of taught that be professional. And we have this concept of what that means. And it’s sort of this is like a guardedness to it, and maybe a lack of authenticity to it. And there’s like this fear that that’s not going to, you’re not going to be showing that you care about creating value.

But I think I think you can have your cake and eat it too. Right? You can, you can be playful and fun and, and authentic and also create true concrete value. And I think you had a good combination of that in the video where, of course first you did this, this trip this trampoline flip. And that was amazing. And then you put a big smile on your face. And you start talking about what you can do and your, your interests in, in computers and the technical side of things. So it was it was a good mixture of both right.

Hunter
Thank you.

Joel
So how many takes was it for that video? I’m curious.

Hunter
Dude, it was a lot like, you know, not running out of breath whenever I like landed and hit the ground and everything. And then you know, if I messed up, I was like, I want to take it in one cut. So yeah, it took probably at least 50 tries or so.

Joel
Oh, 50 Wow.

Hunter
Yeah, it was a lot. Half the time I was like, like, in the middle of talking about all my you know, prerequisites and stuff.

Joel
Yeah, you can definitely tell and the final version that you have that catching your breath. But Wow, wow, I didn’t really I figured it was a few takes, man.

Well, I mean, when you first just talking to the listener right now, like if you’re first starting your your pitch video, it might take a few takes, you know, it’s something that you’re doing doing for the first time, it’s a new skill, so to speak, or even just trying to speak to a camera for one minute straight. That could be a first time you’ve ever done that. And you’re also giving a sort of elevator pitch.

So you know, don’t expect it to be perfect right away. And also, you don’t need to do a flip. I think Hunter is the going above and beyond even even more than you’re already doing by sending a video pitch. But I’m, I’m curious about that sort of mindset. Any advice you have to our audience about the balance between. And you could talk about, like I noted, the 30 day blogging challenge is just the whole concept of shipping creative projects, and not getting caught up in perfection.

How do you find that balance? Because you want to do good quality work, you want to create a good quality pitch, you can do it. Send something that you’re proud of. But you don’t want to get stuck in analysis, paralysis, and trying to polish everything perfectly, because it’s never gonna be perfect. Right. So do you have any words of wisdom about that sort of balance?

Hunter
Yeah, so I mean, for me, personally, at least, I am seriously like, a really big perfectionist. And, you know, I do get caught in that analysis paralysis, like you said. But, you know, as I’ve, as I’ve been exploring these new, like, professional spaces, and you know, all these new things, to me, I’m realizing that I seriously know, like, genuinely nothing.

And the only way that I’m going to, you know, improve is to, but by just continuing to ship a mediocre product, like seriously, like, you just have to do it over and over and over until finally, you know, it’s something that you’re ready to maybe publish online, or maybe you publish all of them online. But yeah, I would say, I would say definitely just keep doing it, and try and get as much feedback as you can, because that’s what’s really gonna help you.

Joel
So is that a healthy challenge for you to do the 30 day blogging challenge blogging every day for a month in terms of you write something? And then you gotta you got to press the publish button today?

Hunter
Yeah, 100%, man. Yeah, I think it was super beneficial. And, you know, yeah, no, totally super beneficial.

Joel
Yeah, I can never recommend that enough. To our listeners, do a 30 day blogging challenge changed, my life changed, lots of people’s lives changed. Isaac, our founder’s life.

And it’s really I mentioned this concept of this perfectionist versus shipping balance, because, you know, what we’re talking about with Crash mindset is, is really about creativity. It’s about generating projects, it’s about videos about custom projects for companies.

And we can often get stuck in that preparation mindset, that we that if we did go to conventional school, we often got in that mindset of like getting everything perfect or prepared. And then and then finally presenting it. But there’s a lot of power, like you said, of just shipping, even even a mediocre product, and you kind of keep iterating and that’s why you know, someone who’s who’s hesitant to ship their first /crash pitch, just do it.

Because it’s an investment, right? Where you might not have the best pitch to begin with. But then every single time you pitch, you’re gonna get better and better and better.

So tell us about that process for you. Because I know that you did pitch a solid number of companies, in addition to Good United. Tell us about what you like, what wisdom did you gain from just that process of doing a Crash job hunt?

Hunter
So, you know, I think that the biggest piece of wisdom I learned was, don’t try and fit a box, like, don’t try and fit. Don’t try and check any boxes, right? You are you you are genuinely just your own brand. Like you’re not trying to, you know, suck up or look good to or I mean, you are trying to look good to people, but you’re just naturally going to do it even better if you are you.

And I struggle with that a lot. You know, I was like, What do these people want to see? How do these people want to see it? But I realized that I was getting a lot more, you know, leads whenever I was just much more true to myself. And you know, the way that I wanted to lay it out. So yeah, totally just being true to yourself, I feel like is the easiest way to really just get a job and show authenticity.

Joel
Now, when you were researching different companies, how much time did you put into each one? I know you pitch a fair number of companies. And I think what’s a common roadblock for people is they hear about this Crash mindset. And they think, wow, I gotta put hours and hours and hours and hours of research in to make this big value proposition.

That’s so much effort compared to pressing apply on the job posting, right. I’m curious about, you know, tips on the process of researching a company in order to get enough information to create a personalized pitch.

Hunter
Yeah, so I mean, the way I see it, and the way I hear it from, you know, Nick Black and Jeremy, you know, founders of Good United, is that, you know, there’s people who are applying, like 1000s and 1000s of people, they’re sending in, you know, resumes. Like, that’s literally they’re just taking one click and then sending in a resume, right.

So just by doing the act of, you know, researching for an hour, literally just an hour, and like finding a very small thing, that, you know, oh, this could be updated, or this could be improved, the bunch of website is just, it’s just miles ahead of anyone else. So, you know, if you look at it in that sense, in the comparative sense, then, you know, even just an hour, two hours is plenty.

Joel
Yeah, that’s good advice, because we can get bogged down. We meaning someone in hearing about this mindset for the first time, it’s good to remember that the bar is still low, right? Like you said, still, 99% plus of people are sending the generic resume.

So if you do anything different, just by sending a video pitch is you already standing out. So avoid getting stuck in the molasses, so to speak, with having this ultimate, thorough pitch. I mean, obviously, if you go really deep, then you might get even better results and wow them even more.

But you could even make a little game out of it, right? Like, hey, let’s, let’s, I’m going to do no more than 45 minutes of research. And I set a timer and learn everything, everything I can. And as soon as the timer goes off, that’s it. I got all my information. So it can be kind of playful and not so not so overwhelming. Just get a little bit of information and start pitching.

Hunter
Totally. Now, even just a little bit goes a long way for sure.

Joel
Now, I’m curious about the any tips you have or experience you had with the follow up process? So you’d send this, you’d send a Crash pitch. And then sometimes I’m guessing you heard back right away, because they’re like, Whoa, this is amazing. Other times, Did you not hear back? And then did you try to follow up with them?

Hunter
Yeah, actually, I did. Didn’t get any hits on the follow ups either for the ones that just didn’t respond. So yeah.

Joel
Yeah, there’s always it’s always a there’s no guarantees in any any of this stuff. You know, it’s a series of games, but definitely, it can be helpful to do that follow up oftentimes. So tell us about good united and your your work there, you started off in one role, and then you’ve evolved into this product manager role.

Tell us about the different hats you’ve worn or different sort of self? Like what’s self knowledge have you gained about what you like to do? You know, as you’ve been, I’ve been there about two years. What we often teach is learn by doing dive in and figure out what you like, by starting just starting in any job that that is curious to you. So tell us about the evolution of the role?

Hunter
Yeah, it’s been, it’s been like nothing short of incredible. Like, it’s been absolutely insane to just join a company where, you know, there’s eight employees, and I get to join in, on, you know, the customer success calls, the sales calls, all these different things. So whenever I first joined, you know, I was joining us, not really any role in particular, actually, I was.

I knew that I was going to do something technical, and I knew I was going to be thrown into something, and I had to figure it out. And that was genuinely what happened. So I got thrown into this really technical role where I was essentially, you know, using third party integrations to try and, you know, use a bunch of different products and make our, you know, single product work.

And so I basically just really, really applied myself in the role, you know, to the point where I got hired on full time as what they call an optimizations analyst, which essentially means I do you know, data analysis, I create new flows, which are essentially just like marketing campaigns. And so I did that for a little while, I was like, Yo, this is really cool, I get to work technicals and marketing campaigns. So it’s like those two types of things mixed.

But I was like, I really, really wants to do something, you know, super, super technical. So I just continue to apply myself and eventually got offered the position as a product manager, which is, you know, kind of what I’m doing now.

So, all throughout the entire process of, you know, working at Good United, we’ve followed something called value proposition design, which essentially means, you know, testing small and testing business ideas to the point where, you know, you can launch something that you’re very confident in.

And so we did that within optimizations and then I you know, obviously already had that skill set and brought it right over its product management. And yeah, that’s basically just been the whole journey from start to finish.

Joel
That’s awesome. I love just watching you light up when you started talking about how much you love your job and and you really got to lean into the creative potential that you have in the in the the curiosities and the interest that you have. And that’s awesome. And that’s what it’s all about.

Go ahead and tell us about, I know Good United’s helping nonprofits with Facebook fundraisers and tell us more about that we’re gonna hear from Nick next week, but um, go ahead and tell us what the mission of the company is about.

Hunter
Yeah, so our company mission is essentially to democratize the nonprofit supporter experience. So our, our company aims to treat you know, someone, for instance, who donates $100,000, to be treated the same as someone who donates $10. We want everybody to feel just as appreciated for donating because they’re donating to, you know, these amazing causes.

So, essentially, we’re doing that through, you know, AI and a lot of different, you know, technology. But basically just being able to understand these nonprofits supporters in a way that’s really, really meaningful. Not only convey that to the nonprofit, but also, you know, within our campaigns and messaging to the actual donors.

Joel
Good stuff. Alright, Hunter, it’s been a blast to hear your story. And so I’m so amazed that he did 50 takes on the trampoline. I’m still baffled by that.

But, uh, thanks again for your time and giving us some wisdom on the Crash job training mentality. And we’ll, let’s keep in touch and thanks so much again.

Hunter
For sure. Thank you, Joel. It’s been awesome.

Isaac
Like what you hear? Go to crash.co and join the career revolution. Do you want to share your own career crash story? Send it directly to me at isaac@crash.co.

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