Chris Mendoza is a man of many talents. Have a question about any genre of music, from thrash metal to trap corridos? Ask Chris. Want to build a picnic table from scratch, but aren’t sure where to start? Ask Chris. Thought of a never-before-built cross-border product feature that needs to be built in React? Definitely ask Chris.
All these skills (narrowly led by the last one) are why Forager’s lucky to have Mendoza on its talented and growing team of software engineers. But, it’s Mendoza’s experience, sense of vision, and quiet leadership that have made him a Senior Software Engineer, as well as one of Forager’s most tenured and respected team members.
Deciding to solve puzzles for a living
Mendoza began his software development career about five years ago after he completed a Chicago coding bootcamp. “I’d been working in retail for a while, as well as pursuing music professionally, when I decided I was looking for something a bit more long-term and stable,” he explained. A friend of Mendoza’s suggested software engineering. “I enrolled in a bootcamp and I fell in love with the ability to solve puzzles all day. I thought it was such a cool and fulfilling professional path.”
Listening directly to users…as a developer
In the years following, Mendoza gained experience at a range of companies from start-ups to businesses with 14,000+ employees. One of his first jobs out of school had a big impact on how he thinks about software development now. “The company where I worked built a fitness tracking app that aggregated steps from different APIs. It allowed us to create step challenges we sold to corporate wellness programs. Since it was a start-up though, the first few hours of my day as a developer were actually spent answering customer service requests.” That’s right. One of the most traditionally “behind-the-scenes” positions in a tech company was reviewing tickets, fielding questions, and responding directly to users!
Mendoza laughed as he reflected on the situation. “It wasn’t what I wanted to do long term, I’m a developer, but it was a good experience. It was a start-up, so it was all-hands-on-deck and I liked that. I also got to see the problems I was supporting, which really taught me to keep the end user in mind. Hearing customer feedback helped me to better evolve our code.”
A surprise job offer
As he built more and more internal and external products at companies big and small, Mendoza discovered his professional sweet spot: working at a start-up on problems that mattered. So, when a friend and fellow software engineer reached out about the new company he was working at, Forager, Mendoza was interested. “Right as Forager was getting started, my friend called and said, ‘Hey, I’ve joined this pretty cool team and we’re looking for developers. I think you’d be really great here.’”
A few weeks later, Mendoza met his old coworker and Forager’s Chief Technology Officer Matt Weber to learn more about Forager and the world of cross-border freight. Over lunch they talked supply chains, development, and Mendoza’s goals. “It was a lot of fun and we clicked right away. I gave Weber a few recommendations on how to improve his tech stack, and then right before I left the office, he pulled me aside and said, “Alright, I’m not supposed to do this so informally, but I’d like to give you a job. Do you want to work at Forager?”
Mendoza said “Yes!” and over the past year, he, Weber, and a lot of other Forager team members have continued building a company that sets a new standard for cross-border shipping. Building something from nothing was one of the most exciting facets of the opportunity for Mendoza.
“It’s rare to get to build a product from the ground up, especially if it’s a product that solves an actual problem. So many solutions these days feel like rehashed ideas. They claim, ‘We’re the Uber for food’ or ‘We’re the Uber for alcohol’. Not at Forager. We’re solving a practical issue, and I love that. It gives me a sense of pride because it’s making a true difference in the world.”
The gap in cross-border tech and service
Mendoza and Forager certainly are making a difference for the hundreds of thousands of North American businesses that move freight between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada every day. For such a critical industry that involves three economies, billions of dollars, and countless jobs – cross-border shipping is shockingly analog. It also relies on processes and products originally built for domestic shipping.
Mendoza was surprised and motivated to see this gap in tech and service. “I realized pretty quickly that the TMS solutions out there have taken this approach of ‘What’s the biggest piece of the pie in the logistics space, and how can I go after it?’ That happens to be domestic freight in its various forms, which is why there are so many different solutions and there’s stiff competition.” In the cross-border space though? Not so much. “Before Forager, there wasn’t a custom, tailor-made solution for cross-border freight. Before Forager, businesses with a cross-border supply chain were an afterthought.”
SCOUT by Forager: building software for cross-border shippers…
Forager’s changing the game with cross-border specific expertise, a specialized carrier network, and the first easy-to-use, self-service, and cross-border exclusive shipping portal: SCOUT by Forager. With SCOUT, any business that ships across North America can get a rate, book a load, track its freight, and manage its entire supply chain without a broker, and without any headaches.
Mendoza explains why this is important, not just at an industry level, but for the individual user. “Businesses with cross-border supply chains have been treated like an afterthought. They get domestic solutions, domestic expertise, and are expected to go with it. We’re doing things differently. We’re here for cross-border customers and that’s why we’re building a product where they’re the star.”
… and cross-border carriers!
Forager isn’t just building a one-sided product that only serves shippers. It’s bringing carriers online, too! In the coming month, Forager will release its carrier portal. Cross-border carriers can sign up to join the Forager network, enter their preferred lanes and other relevant details, and review the Forager load board. With shippers and carriers online, SCOUT will be one step closer to a fully digital marketplace. No more brokers, no more delays, just shippers submitting loads and carriers bidding on them.
As Mendoza says, “That’s what’s really going to move the needle and make an impact. We’re changing how we do cross-border business, and truly setting a new standard.”
A year in review
September 23 will be Mendoza’s year anniversary at Forager, and a lot has changed in the past 365(ish) days. “We’ve solidified our processes, we have an HR department, the entire company’s on Slack. Really every change is a big one, but we’re acting and hiring intentionally, so they’re good changes.”
Mendoza is also inspired to see how his fellow Foragers rise to the challenges that come with the pivots, dips, and swerves of a start-up. “I’ve really seen people mature as professionals and mature in their roles. It’s inspiring to see how teammates have taken on new challenges, developed new skills, and grown in the company.”
Leaving breadcrumbs and making the world a better place
Along with continuing to add value for cross-border businesses, Mendoza wants to keep building a diverse and inclusive culture at Forager. “I’ve been one of the only Latino guys in the room at my past few jobs. Forager is one of the few places where that isn’t the case. But we can always do more.”
Beyond co-leading Forager’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, for Mendoza that means, “Trying to leave breadcrumbs behind me. Encouraging other talented people, who may not even be aware of software engineering, that this is a great career. And then taking that next step to build and share a place where they’ll be valued and respected.”
Seems like we should add mentorship, coaching, and professional development to the list of things to ask Chris about! “I don’t know about that,” Mendoza laughed. “I just know I want to bring a positive energy to peoples’ days, to crack jokes while getting work done, and, you know, to make the world a better place.”