For this latest installment of Retail Voices, we sat down with Joe Milone, who heads up product development in our Akron, OH facility. He’s been around since OnQ’s early days, and has played a big role in helping to grow the company to what it is today.
We recently sat down with senior project manager Chelsey Oda. It’s no small feat to usher a project from design sketches all the way to production, but she makes it look easy. Read on for a look behind the scenes at the project management process at OnQ.
Q: Tell us about your role at OnQ.
A: I joined OnQ a little over two years ago as a project manager, and was recently promoted to senior project manager. I quarterback the product development process. Once a client signs off on a design, it’s my job to keep the engineering process on track all the way to the prototyping phase, before finally handing the job off to the production team. I’d say the biggest change that’s happened since taking on the senior project manager role is that I’m more involved in mentoring others on the team, showing them the ropes and making sure the team works as efficiently as possible.
Q: You started your career in sales before moving into the retail space? Why the switch?
A: I’ve been a tinkerer all my life. When I was a kid, I used to love taking things apart and putting them back together again. My fascination with how parts assemble and work together only grew over time, and when I was in sales I really missed having a more hands-on role. Moving into the retail space brought me a lot closer to my passion for designing and building things. There’s so much more than meets the eye with retail displays, and I love that I get to play an important role in making sure that every project we complete for our clients represents our very best work.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of project management at OnQ?
A: The challenge that I love the most is finding the absolute best way to engineer a solution that delivers on what the client is trying to achieve, while keeping to whatever budget and timeline guidance we’re given. Value engineering plays a big role in the process, which means we’re always looking for ways to reduce build costs and bring better efficiency into the mix, without sacrificing performance and function.
I’d say the other challenge is simply keeping everything on track and moving smoothly. This means I’m constantly in touch with our internal sales, engineering, design and production teams. I also manage a long list of outside vendors when we need to procure materials or outsource various elements of production. I sometimes think of myself as a professional plate spinner – keeping everything spinning without crashing down is a huge challenge, but it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Q: What do you like best about working here at OnQ?
A: Definitely the people. Everyone is crazy talented, creative, and very passionate about what they do here. I’ve worked at a lot of companies – big ones like Google, and a number of smaller ones, too – and the vibe here is different. It’s like a big family. We work hard, and we pitch in to help each other out when needed. And don’t get me wrong, we butt heads once in a while, but only because we’re all really driven and passionate about what we do.
Q: What’s surprised you most about your time at OnQ, now that you’ve been here a couple of years?
A: I’m not surprised by this anymore, but when I first joined the company I was struck by how OnQ’s been working with some of the same clients for years and years. Other places I’ve worked, it’s been all about making the sale and moving on to the next. But our sales team has longstanding partnerships with many of the brands and retailers we work with – to the point that they’re viewed as an extension of their team. And this is important, because our clients come to us to help them solve some of their most difficult problems at retail. So having that trust built-in from the beginning is a huge benefit and sets everyone up for success.