Can you please tell us about yourself and your history with Sonim?
I have been in the wireless industry for over 30 years, where I’ve had the opportunity to work on all sides of the equation; from the chipset side with Qualcomm, to the carrier side with Sprint, to the mobile device side with Sonim. While I went to college for engineering, I eventually went back and received my MBA and transitioned into product management, where I was able to leverage my engineering background while interacting with customers and understanding their use cases and requirements.
I’ve been with Sonim since 2010, when I joined the company as Sonim prepared to launch its first products with mobile carriers in North America. In the last 12 years, I’ve held a variety of customer facing roles, from overseeing the Account Management team, to overseeing the Customer Acceptance team, to taking the helm of the entire product organization earlier this year.
So, you’ve been with the company for over a decade and in the mobile industry for over three decades. What changes in the industry and the company have been most exciting in that timeframe?
It has been incredible seeing the constant innovations in the mobile industry space. One of the most impactful is the constant evolution of the “air interface” (e.g. 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) - providing better data speeds and new/enhanced services. This has completely changed the way in which we use the devices that operate on these air interfaces. When I first started, the phone was all about voice and mobility. In fact, texting hadn’t even become a common feature yet. Now, smartphones are like mini super computers in our pockets that have transformed the way in which we do business.
What do you think is going to be the next “big thing” in the mobile industry?
Wow! What a question!? There are many areas that have the potential to be the “next big thing” in the mobile industry. However, I think I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that I can’t predict the “next big thing”. 😊 These are some of the areas that I am paying particular attention to:
- Private Networks – overlaps Sonim’s traditional markets and have unique use cases.
- AR/VR and Sensors
- More bands, higher data speeds, LEO Satellites
- Displays (eg foldable, rollable, stretchable)
- Battery (charging) technologies/chemistries
How do you and your team define rugged? Why do you think that it is so important to your customers?
Rugged means that the device can handle harsh operating conditions and environments without failing. For example, a worker dropping the phone and not having the screen crack. In some use cases, the phones are exposed to harsh chemicals that would likely destroy a non-rugged phone. But rugged isn’t just any single one of these things, instead rugged is a combination of all of these capabilities – in the same device – compared to putting a phone in a case to improve drop survivability or a plastic bag to protect against water exposure/damage. Rugged also manifests in the design of the phone – such as being able to use with gloves, clearly seeing the display when in bright sunlight, and having extensive battery life to continue operating for long periods of time.
Customers depend on rugged devices for many reasons – in some cases, their lives may depend on the device – in other cases, a rugged device is needed to handle their regular work environments. Overall, a rugged device can provide a lower total cost of ownership.
Are there any good stories that you can share about Sonim devices that you’ve gotten from customers over the years?
There are many incredible customer stories, but a few have really stood out over the years. One carrier was testing the phone’s water-proof rating – and threw the phone into a nearby river. The tester spent the next 30 minutes wading around in the river trying to find the phone. Lesson learned – tie a string around the phone before throwing it into the water. This same carrier tested Sonim’s ruggedness by putting a phone through a washer/dryer cycle, freezing the phone in ice, and a 500 foot drop while skydiving.
Another customer soaked Sonim phones in jet fuel. Other devices failed within hours whereas Sonim’s phones continued to operate for days until the battery went dead.
And, of course, the “Will it blend?” video.
You’ve just launched the XP5plus as the successor the XP5s. What goes into the process of designing a new product?
Listening to customers as well as understanding their use cases and market requirements. With the XP5plus, we have two versions – with knobs and without knobs. The XP5plus with knobs is targeting 2-way radio (LMR/PMR) users as they convert to PTT over cellular. They like the knobs and the ability to change channels, volume, and initiate an emergency alert – without looking down at the phone – and taking their eyes off the situation in front of them. Whereas the XP5plus without knobs targets other use cases and also offers an upgrade path to the installed based of XP5 and XP5s users.
What do you think about Sonim’s new strategy to expand from its core market in ultra-rugged mobile devices into the semi-rugged and industrial 5G markets?
I’m excited about expanding Sonim’s roadmap. Sonim can bring our expertise in the ultra-rugged space, into the rugged and (pro)consumer spaces. With carriers moving more of their device portfolios to include 5G, this provides a distinct market opportunity for Sonim to capture market share. I think that we can drive true innovation into Ultra-rugged, rugged, and (pro)consumer – as well as other 5G devices that we are exploring.
Lastly, I hear that you’re an Ironman competitor. That’s pretty impressive. Any learnings that you bring from that, to your work here at Sonim?
I watched Ironman events on TV and was in awe that someone could possibly swim 2.4 miles, then bike for 112 miles, and then run a full marathon (26.2 miles) - all in one day!!! After several years of participating in other (shorter) triathlons, as well as swimming, biking, and running events - I started thinking I could do this and what an awesome goal and accomplishment. I signed up for Ironman Arizona before I could talk myself out of it. From there, it was about establishing my progress goals and working out a plan to get me across the finish line. It was more about the journey – and the event was the final test. Goal setting and planning are important activities that must be implemented within Sonim.