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Meet Quentin Montalto – Who Made a Successful Journey from Support Engineer to COO

Published on September 2, 2021 - Content Updated on

10 Min Read
Quentin-Montalto-Interview

ShipperHQ COO Quentin Montalto has long been known as the backbone of the eCommerce shipping industry, with a wealth of experience leading and managing sales, growth, partnerships, customer service, marketing, and operations. His customers achieve their technical and business objectives through innovative solutions that drive success. And of course, ShipperHQ also supports the efforts to implement those solutions. 

I’m really excited about interviewing Quentin. Let’s hear what he has to say to our readers!

Ashmal: Hi Quentin, it’s lovely to have you with us! Why don’t you start by telling our readers about your background?

Quentin: Thank you so much for having me in the series, I’m honored to be featured among such great names! 

My background is going to be different from most people here – I was not, and if you ask some of our devs, I am still not a techie. I fell in love with technology after I started at ShipperHQ. 

Growing up, I played every sport I could and was active in the Student Senate. I had no idea what I wanted to do and changed my major in college a few times.

Finally, I landed on an Engineering/Technology hybrid degree because one of my best friends was in the program, and it was more fun than Electrical Engineering. This was and is my first official “job” out of school, so my background is shipping!

Ashmal: As COO at ShipperHQ, how would you differentiate your services from others?

Quentin: There are a lot of companies with ‘Ship’ in their name, but only one ShipperHQ. Above all, we are a technology company – we just happen to have focused on shipping since 2008. Our CEO’s husband was a merchant, and she built her first shipping extension on maternity leave to solve a real-life problem he was facing.

Our philosophy is to use technology to solve actual merchant problems. We’re definitely not a think tank or a VC-backed “Unicorn”. We’re a bootstrapped company that focuses on making merchants’ lives easier, and helping them give a curated checkout experience that rivals Amazon. Long story short, we’re the PayPal of Shipping.

Ashmal: ShipperHQ is the trusted partner for Adobe Magento and enables significant support for shipment modules. What’s the process behind it, and what’s your plan to make it more innovative?

Quentin: Our plan is pretty simple: continue to focus on what customers actually need and make that happen. One of the great things about our company is that our product does exactly what it says on the can. We also take merchant feedback very seriously and as a result, we have invested heavily in our staff and our product, so we can continue to iterate on our offering and constantly increase value for our customers.

Ashmal: Your journey with ShipperHQ starts from a support engineer to now COO. So far, how has the journey been?

Quentin: I can lie and say it was “all part of the plan”, but really it’s been just as much luck as skill. When I started in 2015, our team was smaller than 10. You had to wear a lot of hats, and there weren’t really dedicated job roles. Basically, if someone spent a few minutes on the phone with me and then said they wanted to talk to sales, I would just say I’d transfer them, put them on hold for 15 seconds, then pick up again and say “Thanks for holding, how can I help?” 

As we grew we needed people directing traffic, so I helped shape our Sales, Support, Account Management, and Partnerships teams. I used to also be allowed on the company Twitter handle, but that privilege has been replaced with a fantastic social team.

Ashmal: During this journey, what were your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?

Quentin: One of the biggest challenges that a bootstrapped company faces is imposter syndrome. This is something that we’ve had a million conversations on over the years. When you’re leading from the front, and you’re the focal point, it’s hard to think that you’re doing it right. It can seem like there’s always someone better for the job or something that you’re just doing completely wrong. We made the decision to bring in experienced executives into C-Level roles over the years, and they just didn’t click with us. We had already done everything they were introducing, built off that, and adapted to how we work.

Ultimately the biggest way we overcame things was by failing (and still do sometimes), but we always fail fast. We have the autonomy to run a special or tweak the processes as we see fit. If it doesn’t work, you take learning from it and move on to the next. We’re a big, “what does your gut say?” company.

Ashmal: Before joining ShipperHQ, you were at Oliveto Italian Bistro. So how and why did you change direction?

Quentin: Restaurants will always be my first love – I spent a decade of my life doing the random madness that a restaurant requires. By the time I graduated college I was sitting in a pretty solid role and was looking at franchise expansion options. However, I knew I needed to do something with the Industrial Technology degree that I had, so I started applying to jobs in San Antonio and Austin. I had a lot of interviews but not a lot of traction, and it was a relatively tough job market for a fresh grad.

My aunt was actually the one who told me to look at jobs in a small city, technically outside of Austin, called Lakeway. Sure enough, I saw a job description for a Support Engineer at ShipperHQ. I read the description and was underqualified for everything technical they were looking for but overqualified in some other areas so I applied thinking, “NO WAY they’re going to hire me”. A couple of weeks later I was in for a job interview and sat across from our CEO Karen Baker and one of ShipperHQ’s secret weapons, Daniel Ziegler.

This is funny, the interview started off with me calling Magento MAGNETO. Karen looked at me for a few moments, and I think she was debating if she should keep going on with the interview but she corrected me, and we rolled forward! Overall, I think the interview was technically a failure because I told them that I had no idea what the difference between “frontend and backend” is, and when they asked me about the terminal, I thought they meant a train station since it was a shipping company.

After I walked out of the room, I knew that I had an awesome time talking with them but figured I wouldn’t get the position. The next day I had an interview as an AutoCAD Designer, which for the record I was really good at, so I’m not totally useless with technology. I ended up with a job offer from both companies and ultimately chose to gamble on ShipperHQ. I knew I could get another job offer as a designer, but the opportunity to work alongside the leadership team while ShipperHQ was in Beta was too good to pass up. I was put on a preliminary trial and probably still am almost 6 years later.

Ashmal: Ecommerce has multiple segments, each with its own importance when it comes to storing success. Would you please explain the significance of the shipment strategy in this regard?

Quentin: This is such a great question, Ashmal. When you think about your eCommerce store, you curate EVERYTHING. You’re leading these customers down a purchasing journey that you’ve spent time and money on, so it can’t just stop at the checkout. The last thing between your customer and that ‘Complete Order’ button is shipping. Shipping costs, methods, and dates are the moment of truth before checkout. If you don’t focus on this, you will have a lot of abandoned carts or a lot of customers saying, “I’m going to order this from Amazon, that way I’ll know when it arrives”. 

Because the first tangible thing your customer will likely feel from your brand is the item they ordered, it is crucial to focus on the digital experience that leads up to that. Once you’ve nailed the online customer journey, driving repeat purchases will be easy.

Ashmal: What are the critical factors for developing a successful shipment strategy?

Quentin: This is a loaded question. The first thing you need to know is whether you want shipping to be profitable, a breakeven, or a strategic loss. Depending on what you choose from there, the options change.

The biggest factor to consider is what are your competitors doing? What do you like? What do you not like? Overall, we know that consumers have high expectations for digital buying experiences. Thanks to the standard Amazon set, the majority of online shoppers expect fast, free, and convenient delivery options. They want to shop from brands that provide convenient experiences and put them first. With that in mind, we’ve made it our mission to help brands that don’t quite have the unlimited resources Amazon does, deliver on these high expectations.

Ashmal: What’s your verdict on the importance of good hosting for the success of an eCommerce store?

Quentin: This is an easy one – you want your website up 24/7/365 days a year. If you partner with a platform or provider that doesn’t strive for this as well, then you’re with the wrong partner. This is an area where you definitely don’t want to cut corners. You can’t make sales if your site isn’t working. Don’t host your website from your cousin’s sister’s brother-in-law who’s “in tech”. Do it the right way, and partner with a best-in-breed solution.

Ashmal: What’s the biggest motivation of your life? You can share any success stories that might give our readers goosebumps!

Quentin: My biggest motivation is our staff. I look around and see employees that are buying houses, having babies, and buying their dream cars. Seeing the changes in their lives over the years lights a deep passion in me to strive for more. If you take care of your team, they’ll take care of your clients, and it creates a great environment.

One of the things I’m most proud of is the Customer Service Star Award we won in 2019 at the Magento Partner Awards. This was voted on by our peers, and now is a symbol that sets a high watermark for standards in our company that we continue to try and elevate past.

Karen Baker & Quentin Montalto
Ashmal: What are your thoughts on Headless, PWA, and other related technologies? How are they going to benefit the merchants and ecommerce industry?

Quentin: I’m starting to see things like Headless & PWA move away from being buzzwords to technologies that are now in practice. These moves are exciting as long as it fits the unique business needs of a merchant. A great example of leveraging new technologies that make a big impact in our space is Hyva themes. I think that’s a solution that is breathing new life into the Magento Tech stack.

Ashmal: What do you think about the Magento community? How important is it for the growth of the Magento platform?

Quentin: I think the Magento community is unlike any other platform’s community and probably any software ecosystem in the world. Magento brought together a lot of like-minded people in 2008 with a piece of software that allowed others to put their fingerprints anywhere they wanted to. The ability to bend and mold this platform into whatever they wanted to cause a buy-in and investment that I don’t think anyone expected. That passion was a large contributor to Magento being acquired over the years.

Something I think is interesting is that, in my opinion, Adobe never really nailed how to connect the Magento magic into the larger Adobe ecosystem like we thought it would. With the time it’s taken them to attempt to do this, I’ve seen people go to other platforms and start communities there or just disappear from the online community.

Ashmal: We first met at an online event 🙂 What are your thoughts on online Magento events, and which possibilities are you excited about this year?

Quentin: I think they’re a lot better than some of the others out there because of the networking element. I can log on and watch a talk any day of the week, but the ability to chat and mingle digitally with like-minded people, such as yourself, has really elevated the events. I’m really excited for the Adobe Experience Makers event later this year. Re: Imagine was a couple of weeks ago but it didn’t have the same punch as the event that we met at. I’m looking forward to some live talks and hopefully more of the 5-minute networking.

Ashmal & Quentin at Magento Association Conference
Ashmal: How do you think these events improve the Magento experience?

Quentin: It definitely helps people stay connected. The Slack Channels and Twitter can only go so far. The addition of more content to discuss and company milestones help stoke the flame.

Ashmal: Where do you see Magento in the future? Any predictions for 2022?

Quentin: Well it’s already started, it’s Adobe Commerce now, Ashmal :). I think that the Magento product will become more and more ingrained into Adobe. Eventually, it’ll be something like Salesforce where they have their 15 components, and you can choose to use them or not. I think open source will survive 2022, but 2023 would be more interesting.

Ashmal: What’s your preferred mode of work: WFH, office, or hybrid? Would you please share a picture of your workplace?

Quentin: You haven’t met me in person, I am loud and distracting. My colleagues would want to leave me remote, but I really miss the office. Because we are a small company in a pretty big growth phase, it’s really hard to keep momentum remotely. It’s easy to find yourself in a Google hangout. I think the hybrid model will be the winner at ShipperHQ & overall. A couple of days a week in the office and the rest remote is ideal. I’d share a photo but I’m in the process of moving, and if I took a photo you’d think I was a hoarder.

Ashmal: You have been an inspiration to many, including me. Who are the top influencers that inspire you?

Quentin: That’s very nice, so thank you for that. People like our CEO Karen Baker, Rob Long & Rachel C. from PayPal, & Darin Lynch from Irish Titan inspire me daily. I think it’s important to have role models in your space specifically and stay connected with them. Past that, I’m not a fan of people like Gary Vee. I think people like that shout common sense and hinder learning (Gary if you read this, nothing personal).

Ashmal: What does your work-life balance look like? Are there any activities you enjoy in your spare hours? You can share any pictures you like here!

Quentin: I’d say that I have the best work-life balance I’ve ever had here, and it’s allowed me to have a little bit more of a life. My hobbies revolve around collecting and tinkering with vintage watches and chasing around my two french bulldog puppies I got with my partner (she is finally starting to like them). 

Quentin spending quality time with their pets

Quentin spending quality time with their pets
Ashmal: Finally, any quick advice for our readers?

Quentin: Fail and fail often, just do it quickly and take a silver lining out of it.

Ashmal: Thank you so much again, for your precious time 🙂

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Ashmal ur Rehman

Ashmal is the Magento Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves helping out merchants and developers in establishing and maintaining online stores. In addition, he is often busy interacting with the Magento community and figuring out integration tactics for emerging tech. When not working, you could find him playing COD & CS GO. Feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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