Working with diverse teams, making ideas into an exciting product, and constantly enhancing and managing products are just a part of the activities of Product Managers. But to prove that work can be fun, not just demanding, we talked with our Product Manager and Team Lead, Shern, who found his role in LotusFlare and its eSIM travel app, Nomad.
Shern, thanks for doing this interview with us. Can you tell us more about your background and what led you to this career path?
I studied engineering in college, was a strategy consultant at Monitor Deloitte for 10 years working with TMT clients, did my MBA at INSEAD and then joined LotusFlare directly in a Product Management role. One of the reasons I joined the LotusFlare and Nomad team is that I wanted to learn how to build a great product in a disruptive space.
What’s your current role in LotusFlare and what are your key responsibilities?
Currently, I lead the product team for Nomad, the eSIM travel app developed by LotusFlare. In addition, I wear several hats including strategy, analytics, commercial, marketing, partnerships and (formerly more) customer support.
Can you tell us more about Nomad and how it came about?
Nomad is a LotusFlare eSIM travel app that aims to make roaming affordable and accessible for everyone. We do this by providing eSIMs with local data rates in over 165 countries. Today most people have options at 2 extremes - on the one hand, you can stick with the roaming offer of your home provider, but typically charge an arm and a leg. On the other end, you can line up and get a physical SIM card at the airport for a low price, but it’s a huge hassle. We try to bridge the gap, giving the convenience of home roaming and as close to the prices of a local SIM card as possible. The product was developed by a very small team of LotusFlare employees before I joined to form the B2C arm of LotusFlare and launch sometime in late 2020/early 2021.
Our vision is a lot bigger than mobile data, though. We’re working on building a kind of “social travel” community that will connect folks and allow them to exchange information and services according to their interests. Some exciting things ahead so stay tuned.
From your point of view, what’s the future looking like for eSIM technology? How does a simplified customer experience factor into the success of eSIM?
Despite being around since 2016, eSIM is still pretty early in its adoption curve. It naturally lends itself to a travel use case so we’ve been seeing tremendous tailwinds with the reopening of borders in late 2022. As I mentioned convenience is a big draw for many users, so a simplified UX is paramount. I believe eSIM is the opposite of chess - it’s not that easy to wrap your head around at first, but once you get it, it’s a no-brainer to use for the rest of your trips. A lot of it is perception, particularly along generational lines - without knowing why, people just “assume” that eSIM is complicated when it is quite the opposite. Because such perceptions create a kind of barrier to adoption for many new users, we’ve seen that even the smallest friction in customer experience can make the difference between acquiring and losing a new adopter. Needless to say, the market is also in a state where we can probably all benefit from more users being more aware that it exists for many phones in the first place.
What has surprised you the most about working on Nomad?
To be honest from a learning point of view, I’m surprised by many small, unexpected things every day. I find that half the time the hypotheses we formulated were proven wrong, which is a great way to learn fast. If I had to pick one, it would be the outsized importance of customer empathy and perspective-taking in building a great product. In Product Management circles you hear a lot about “knowing what the customer wants” but I mean something a little different, more like “knowing what the customers themselves don’t realize they want”. The number of times we’ve gotten feedback about something we took away that meant a lot to a small group of users, or something we added that made things more difficult for someone else - is a good lesson in how to balance and optimize to give as many people as possible the best experience they would like.
What is the best work advice you received and you continue to apply?
Work regularly with at least 1 or 2 people who you know will often disagree with you. Too many and you can’t get anything done, but 1 or 2 regularly contrarian viewpoints are critical to help you see your blindspots so that you can make better decisions.
What do you like about working at LotusFlare?
I like LotusFlare’s down-to-earth culture which translates equally into a very flexible culture as well. We don’t stand on ceremony, we connect when we need to and we just get things done. You can be anywhere in the world working at any time of the day that works best for you and gets the job done. Also, doesn’t mean we’re not friendly (in fact, sometimes perhaps we can be a little too nice), so the environment is pretty amicable.
How would you describe LotusFlare to someone considering joining our team and which advice would you have for them?
In addition to the culture description I gave above, I believe that intentionally or unintentionally the LotusFlare culture strongly favors self-starters. You will get exponentially more done in this organization if you are willing to just grab stuff by the horns and get going. Maybe another way to look at it is that you will be exponentially less effective in your role, compared to other organizations, by waiting to be told what to do. Don’t get me wrong - if you ask for help, you’ll get it, I’ve had great conversations with colleagues across the world on topics outside my area of expertise, but basically, you have to drive how you want to grow here. My advice would be to come in with an idea of what you want to do and then just go for it.