A brief Q&A with newly-appointed Executive Vice President of Product Management, Kamil Rodoper
Since its humble beginning, Forto has undergone stratospheric growth. Starting with just seven employees in May 2016 and an inspired idea about building a company to disrupt the supply chain management industry, the company reached the magical 500+ employee milestone in the first quarter of 2021. But while the quantity of employees is a useful figure to gauge the performance of the company, it’s the quality of those people that drive the vision and the business forward. Talented people from a wide variety of backgrounds have found a workplace at Forto where they are appreciated for their drive, hard work and experience. Every employee, or Fortie as they are called internally, is important, whether they are fresh-out-of-university graduates or highly-seasoned professionals.
A case-in-point is Kamil B Rodoper, who recently joined Forto as Executive Vice President of Product Management. Kamil is a veteran of the technology sector, having spent almost twenty years at various senior roles at high-profile US companies including Lyft, Glassdoor and Microsoft. Kamil now brings his track record of accomplishments to Europe. Rather than telling his story second hand, let’s hear it from Kamil himself via this brief but highly informative Q&A.
What would you say is your career highlight so far?
I joined Lyft to lead the product for its B2B investments when the company had around 10% market share in the US rideshare industry. We were competing against a behemoth that had deeper pockets, larger teams and bigger tech investments. Despite the odds against the underdog–Lyft in this case–my team and I out-maneuvered the competition in expanding Lyft rideshare into B2B segments, such as healthcare, business travel, transit and hospitality services, and led the adoption of this new mode of transportation in the service sector. That resulted in one of the biggest incremental revenue unlocks for Lyft in 2017-2018. In two-and-a-half years, Lyft’s B2B products not only became the highest margin contributor to company financials, but also delivered a 40X revenue growth.
What specifically attracted you to Forto?
Overall I think Forto is an amazing company and I’m very excited about the opportunity that was offered to me. Specifically, there were three considerations that drew me to Forto.
First, there is the leadership team. Forto has a mission-driven, energetic and passionate executive team, including the founders and the recent executive hires. Each leader I’ve met has an impressive set of accomplishments under their belts and brings a diverse and complementary set of skills and experiences to the table that sets up Forto for a very bright future.
I also took into account the strategy. Forto has a transformative perspective about the future of the global supply chain, aiming to elevate the overall efficiency of the industry through a unified supply chain platform. While doing that, Forto aims to offer climate-neutral and environmentally-responsible solutions to the industry.
The third consideration that shaped my decision to join Forto is its impressive track record. For such a young company it already has a strong brand and track record within the German startup ecosystem, attracting world class talent and strengthening Berlin’s position as a powerhouse within the global startup tech scene.
Can you outline what your new position at Forto involves?
In the past years, Forto has already accomplished strong commercial success, growing within the industry while establishing customer trust for the Forto services. The company has also developed exceptional operational capabilities on the ground across the regions where its services are offered. The phase that needs to follow Forto’s current commercial success requires tech investments that will unlock scalable growth and enhance already strong unit economics.
My role at Forto is to set the strategic direction for the entire product ecosystem and lead the tech investments, while defining the company’s product management practice. This will involve leading and defining Forto’s product mission, strategy and management practices at the leadership and business level. Forto has already built a world-class tech team, and in this role, I will take over the responsibility of leading and expanding the product, design and data science organizations.
Is there anything specific about this market that appeals to you?
Current day consumers expect and demand higher levels of efficiencies in the availability and the delivery of the goods and services. The developments of the past ten years in last-mile delivery and gig-based on-demand access to services and goods have reshaped consumer behaviour and expectations, forcing every company to adopt higher service levels.
In light of these shifts in the marketplace and consumer behaviour, global trade and e-commerce continue to expand year-on-year. This has added a considerable strain to the overall supply chain and the available shipping capacity that is the main conduit of goods from suppliers to company warehouses, distribution and fulfillment centers, as well as to physical store locations. Therefore the industry needs to adopt new technologies that enable it to get the most out of the existing freight capacity and find new and better ways for customers to trade off time and money for their supply chain needs.
Forto operates at the forefront of these trends in global trade with the promise of offering the much needed technological advancements that the industry has been craving for.
What, in your opinion, are the key skills and attributes you are bringing to Forto?
Product management as a tech discipline is primarily based on an apprenticeship model. Most skills required to do the job right are gained on the job and learned from other product managers. With that in mind, I have always kept an open mind about continuously learning and skills development. I feel those skills, coupled with my experience, will be particularly relevant to Forto, considering where the company is now and where we want it to go.
First and foremost, I join Forto with battle-proof product leadership from B2B and B2B2C companies where accomplishing strategic alignment across tech, sales and operations streamlined decision making and unlocked commercial expansion.
Secondly, in my last role at Lyft, as the General Manager for Express Drive, which is an operations-heavy transportation and vehicle rental program, I had the opportunity to develop as a strong business operator. That experience, I believe, has direct parallels to Forto’s existing service offerings.
At both Glassdoor and Lyft, I was lucky enough to build, grow and lead tech teams during the hyper-growth phases of these companies. I am confident that the learnings from these periods of my career will be invaluable given Forto’s hyper-growth trajectory.
I also believe my track record of building and scaling new revenue-generating product lines under subscription, pay-per-use and flat rate pricing models is highly relevant to Forto, as is my experience of bringing in best practices in product management and product lifecycle management.
What are your short-term and longer-term goals at Forto?
I’ve got two immediate, short-term goals. First, supporting the accelerating growth of Forto’s business expansion through purpose-driven tech investments. Second, investing in the growth and the culture of the tech organization and attracting the best talent in the region to Forto.
Over the longer term I’ve set my sights on three goals. The primary long-term goal is to establish Forto as the global leader in the digitization of freight forwarding. Then we’ll be aiming to establish Forto as the industry-leading supply chain management platform in global freight. And lastly, I’ll be working hard with my team to spearhead the transformation of the industry in adopting climate-neutral shipping options in supply chain and freight management.
Forto is on a hiring spree and attracting many talented people from diverse backgrounds. What would you say to anyone reading this who is thinking about applying to the company?
To accomplish Forto’s mission, we’ll need to solve a diverse and complex set of technological and operational problems. We will be challenged by the practices and the beliefs of an industry that has not seen its fair share of digital disruption and transformation yet. We will need to think globally and at scale every time we are presented with a local problem. We will brutally prioritize offering the best-in-class software platform and tooling to our internal and external customers.
The work ahead will challenge each one of us to stretch our existing muscles and build new ones and we’ll need to feel comfortable operating at high pace to achieve a bold mission. While we grow Forto’s business, we’ll invest in our best asset, our people, to ensure development and success at every level. If this sounds exciting and meaningful, Forto is the right company to join.
At Forto, the world’s best experts and talents shape the future of the logistics industry. Don’t hesitate to join our journey – so head over to our careers page to see all our open positions. We’re looking forward to your application.