Welcome back to Meet the Innovators where we’ve been highlighting Octo’s thinkers, doers, and makers. Today, we’re pleased to introduce Jay McNallie, Director of Product Development. Jay has been with Octo since 2015 and supports the Chief Technology Officer’s (CTO) organization. A critical part of innovation conducted at Octo’s oLabs™ R&D facility, Jay works to understand customers’ problems and finds solutions that work, including the OctoCX™ suite of products designed to bring 360° situational awareness to users even at the tactical edge.
Jay, thank you for speaking with us today. You seem like the kind of person who is eager to problem solve. What is one challenge you have taken on, and how are you approaching/overcoming it?
At the outset of development of our OctoCX suite of products, we lacked a strong user voice that was informing our roadmap and feature development. We understood some of the general gripes that users had with competing software, but we really needed ongoing collaboration with a representative user community. Ultimately, we formalized a relationship with Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and have had the opportunity to engage with real users on a regular basis to gather feedback that informs how we build our products. This has been a tremendous benefit in creating solutions that do not have the software and product flaws users historically have had to deal with.
How would you describe the tasks you tackle on a daily basis and why?
As Product Developer, I wear a lot of different hats. I engage with customers or potential clients to understand their challenges and how we can bring the solutions we build to solve their problems. Some days, I’m also working closely with the engineering teams as they develop the next big product features. Sometimes I’m working on product materials, responding to Requests for Information, or collaborating with our Business Development arm. It’s an interesting position that allows me to see problems and potential solutions from many sides, which helps us create and hone better, more user-centric products.
When you think of the word “innovation” in terms of your work, what comes to mind and why?
One of the biggest challenges building products for our customers is the acquisition process. All too often, there is a disconnect between what the customer asks for and what the actual end user really wants or needs. Through our Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Marines, we are able to try out new tech and get valuable feedback early in the process and ensure that what we deliver is exactly what the user needs. It’s truly useful innovation in action.
Octo’s tagline is “Jump the technology curve.” How do you help your customer do that?
We’re putting capabilities in the hands of users that they never even dreamed of and then taking their feedback to make those products even better. In my mind, that’s what jumping the technology curve is really all about.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your position?
Cross-train in many different roles and tasks. Work on a proposal, engage with the marketing team to develop collateral, write code, walk the floor at a trade show, talk to your users. Don’t limit yourself. You’d be surprised what you learn by working with people outside your domain and discipline.
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