I currently work at GoDaddy as a Director of Product Management. I live in Massachusetts on Cape Cod ⛵

Gabriel Mays

About me 📙

  • Grew up & attended college in California
  • Joined Marine Corps as an officer after college, served for 8 years
  • Spent 2 years between Iraq and Afghanistan on combat deployments
  • Left Marine Corps as a Captain to found a startup
  • Have B.A., M.S., and M.B.A. degrees
  • Worked on fully remote teams for the last 10 years
  • My wife flew F/A-18 fighter jets in the Marine Corps
  • My wife was #8 on the Blue Angels
  • My wife now owns a retail gift shop & dress boutique on Cape Cod
  • We’ve been married 12 years & have two kids
  • I’m a mix of Black (50%), Native American (25%), and Mexican (25%)
  • Open source fan
  • Real estate investor
  • Enjoy coding, but I’m not very good, so I stick to Product 😉

How I got into tech

I didn’t start working in tech until my late 20’s. I’ve always been interested in it, doing everything from building websites to building computers to get the edge in computer games as a kid in the 90’s. But my tech career didn’t start until late into my military career after college.

College

My college experience was a speed run. I focused on graduating quickly to get out in the world. I was fortunate to have two public institutions near my house to live at home and save money.

I started at a local community college, Modesto Junior College (MJC). I finished my two years of prerequisites in one year by loading up on classes and attending Summer/Winter sessions. I then transferred to the local state college, California State University Stanislaus, to finish the rest of my degree in a little over a year.

The great thing was that full-time tuition was the same no matter how many classes you took, so I loaded up on classes plus took Summer/Winter semesters. The result was completing my Bachelor’s degree with honors in a little over two years for under $6,000.

I was considering grad school but wandered into a job fair on campus that changed the course of my life. I saw a Marine Officer recruiter booth and walked towards it for some reason. A short time later, I was on the phone with my mom telling her I would be a Marine.

Marine Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, VA, is the crucible you must endure, and it’s physically demanding. So I joined the college track team’s practice squad to get in shape, graduated OCS the following summer (the youngest in my class), and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps once I graduated.

Marine Corps

While in the Marine Corps, I spent two years between Iraq and Afghanistan.

One year in Iraq

My first deployment was to Iraq for 12 months with an MTT (military transition team) attached to an Iraqi Army QRF (quick reaction force). We started in Fallujah and made our way around the country to other hot spots the QRF was deployed to.

We lived with the local forces outside the wire instead of on a large base where most troops were. This means we didn’t have the amenities of a large base, so in your free time, you were either working out, playing cards or watching movies. I saw these 1-year deployments as opportunities to grow.

I wanted to go to grad school, but the deployment put those plans on hold. Or did it? I got the curriculum for the M.S. program I was looking at and ordered all the books to read while deployed.

Studying at a LZ (landing zone) during Iraq deployment while waiting for a helo for wherever we were going next.
Studying at a LZ (landing zone) during Iraq deployment while waiting for a helo for wherever we were going next.

When I returned from deployment, I finished the graduate program at an accelerated pace while still on active duty, thanks to my studying while deployed over the past year.

My technology interest reignited while working on my M.S. thesis, for which I built a website application. It was rudimentary, but it worked (and it’s still around today).

One year in Afghanistan

My next deployment was to Afghanistan for another 12 months, but this time as part of a military transition team embedded with the Afghan Border Patrol in Helmand province (southern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border).

I went further in teaching myself to code with a project that solved a bigger problem for this deployment, so that’s how Just Add Content started. The premise was twofold: 1) automatically create SMB websites (they just had to add their content) and 2) leverage the website as a hub to automate their business. Think Wix meets Zapier. Though Just Add Content was only marginally financially successful and the code was atrocious, it worked, and I was proud of what I’d built.

While building Just Add Content, I fell in love with building products. It unlocked a creative part of me that the military never did. It didn’t matter where I was or how bad things were. When I got lost in the product, everything else fell away.

In Afghanistan, I had a $300 duct-taped laptop on a makeshift desk with a piece of plywood across two plastic bins and a lawn chair in our hot, miserable tent. And it was amazing. Whenever we had downtime after an operation or convoy run, that’s where I’d be.

While deployed to Afghanistan I had a $300 duct-taped laptop on a makeshift desk with piece of plywood across two plastic bins and a lawn chair in our tent. And it was amazing.
While deployed to Afghanistan I had a $300 duct-taped laptop on a makeshift desk with piece of plywood across two plastic bins and a lawn chair in our tent. And it was amazing.

I’d fallen in love with building products. But I also loved being a Marine. Deciding to leave the Marine Corps for tech was tough. But a few months after returning home from Afghanistan, I left the Marine Corps to launch my fledgling app.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve and what the Marine Corps gave me, everything from the lessons I learned to meeting my wife (a fellow Marine). But leaving the military to start a career in tech has been immensely fulfilling, and I love what I do.


Talks 🎤


Things I’ve made 💡

GymProxy – 2019
A curated site of workout-from-home content, which primarily included VR workouts. I got this idea after getting an Oculus Quest while I was on paternity leave. Unfortunately, I got bored with this project just a couple months before the COVID pandemic started. #timing

GiftMacro – 2019
Give the Perfect Gift in 60 Seconds: Stress-free, hassle-free, time-saving gift giving for every occasion. I built this for fun while on paternity leave as an extension of my wife’s retail store. TL;DR customers could fill out a form describing the person and occasion. Then the staff would use their expertise to put together a gift package. This showed promise, but I lost interest.

Gutenberg Challenge – 2019
A microsite to help WordPress users get educated and confident enough to try Gutenberg, the new WordPress editor/data model.

WordPress Cape Cod – 2018
A local WordPress meetup group on Cape Cod with 300+ members. We met in person until COVID when we switched to Zoom.

WPlnk – 2018
A WordPress-specific URL shortener. Get readable, speakable, sharable WordPress links in seconds. Unsurprisingly it became a spam magnet.

ProfitPress – 2018

Free resources to help current & aspiring WordPress professionals make earn money. TL;DR it’s a collection of articles and other content. I spent so much time reading industry content I decided I might as well start collecting it. I even hired a writer to help summarize articles. It turned out it wasn’t very useful or interesting. The site is still live & monetized with Google Ads.

Ship Yo’ Self – 2017
A fake logistics company for an MBA project. Slogan: Shipping so fast you’ll ship yo’ self. Ship everything, ship everywhere: Ship bricks, ship pants, ship yourself. The professor didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

EasyDocs – 2017
EasyDocs: Simple Documentation Software. The app allows users to create documentation sites in 60 seconds. I built this app over Thanksgiving break to experiment with a few new concepts and technologies.

Cogly – 2016
Small project experimenting with React, Redux, and WP REST API WordPress theme, subscriptions using Memberful and AI autogenerated post summaries. Cogly shared curated articles daily, auto-posting to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Medium, and a Medium Publication.

RealtyMotor – 2014
Automated lead gen platform for real estate professionals with a website builder, CRM & email marketing automation. I joined as CTO/Cofounder and rebuilt the platform, website provisioning system & template engine.

A Smart Kid – 2014
A microsite with curated content to cultivate intellectual curiosity in kids. Slogan: Making Makers.

To Duh – 2014
A simple to-do list extension for Gmail. Because you’re not an entrepreneur until you try to build another to-do list app, amirite?

Room Splitting – 2013
Weekend project app that helps conference attendees save money by finding others to split hotel rooms with.

Just Add Content – 2013
My first ‘real’ startup made it easy for small businesses to create websites and automate parts of their business (think Wix meets Zapier). Getting my first paying customer was magical, but my approach was too broad to be effective. I should have narrowed my focus to a specific industry. Thankfully I was able to repurpose the infrastructure in exchange for equity at my next startup. I’m still embarrassed by how bad the website looks, but I linked it above for your enjoyment.

Mays Financial – 2009
I was working towards becoming a financial advisor to help people make better financial decisions. While studying for my CFP certification, I read dozens of books, learned a lot, and wrote many articles on what I learned. These articles became the foundation of this project. But then I deployed to Afghanistan for 1 year, which put my life on a different course. The site is still live & monetized with Google Ads.