Optoro is made up of a diverse collection of individuals who have come together to achieve a single mission–to transform the reverse logistics industry by finding homes for used and excess goods. We want to highlight that diversity with our Employee Spotlight blog series, during which we will sit down with a new employee every month to hear a little bit about the people who make the Optoro culture so distinctive. This week, we sat down with Kenneth Lim. Read below how his background in grassroots organizing, through the Peace Corps, led to an interest in business, corporate responsibility and creating sustainable supply chains.
1. How would you describe yourself in 10 keywords or fewer?
Spontaneous + Strategic, Business Practical + Peace Corps Idealistic,
Mountains + Beach = Jamaica enthusiast.
2. What is your role at Optoro, and what do you do?
I look for ways to meet clients’ unique reverse logistics needs as seamlessly and cost-effectively as possible. This includes identifying product customization requirements and work with internal teams to scope out the most scalable way to meet those requirements. Officially, my title is, Sr. Director of Solution Strategy, which in regular English means I work with our Business Development team to bring winning (often creative!) solutions for a complex selling environment.
Also, I organize our team’s monthly volunteering efforts with Martha’s Table, a local NGO that sponsors, amongst other missions, healthy eating habits amongst low income families in DC Elementary school communities.
3. What did you do before Optoro, and why did you choose to work here?
I am an entrepreneur at heart and was drawn to Optoro’s dynamic, close-knit, and scrappy culture. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, teaching environmental responsibility and stewardship to elementary students, I realized that the private sector is a powerful agent in social responsibility and change. How companies manage overstock, returns, and remarketing (liquidation) is the difference between adding to landfills and finding savings for their bottom line and our environment. I’ve worked in the reverse logistics space for 7 years and prior to that in supply chain research/consulting. I enjoy operating in this largely ignored end of the supply chain and chose Optoro specifically because of the innovative and smart, software-driven solution the company brings to this space.
4. How does your public sector experience inform your business perspective at Optoro?
As a Peace Corps volunteer, I was technically a US government employee but I didn’t feel like a part of the “public sector” when I was helping communities find sustainable solutions for basics like literacy and clean water. Those grassroots experiences are an integral part of how I interpret and keep perspective on business decisions and private sector activity. Amidst the pressures of driving growth and profits, I find it inspiring to work for a company whose mission and organizational culture includes a sensitivity to society as a whole –whether that is cultivating our in-kind donations or quantifying environmental benefits for clients.
5. What appeals to you about working in retail and technology?
There’s a fascinating book called “The Travels of a T-shirt in a Global Economy” by one of my former grad school professors, Pietra Rivoli. She documents the humble beginnings of a t-shirt from raw cotton all the way through its end of life where it’s stripped down to rags after being resold in a crowded open-air market in Nairobi, Kenya. I read this book several years before I entered the reverse logistics industry and it always stuck with me. I think I enjoy working in this largely forgotten end of the retail supply chain because there is an element of the double bottom line. That is, breathing new life into otherwise potentially discarded (landfilled) items and leveraging our technology to find the most efficient way to revive consumer value into these products. In our case, trying to maintain usefulness and value to an item long before it ends up shredded to pieces in a landfill or degraded, sold, and shipped to far-flung places.
6. What is the best part of working at Optoro?
We’re curious and driven. Being part of an early entrepreneurial culture means that the margin for error is slim even as we have to make swift decisions. Yet, we are unafraid of the rounds of iteration it takes to get to a final answer. Though we have come a long way from our founders’ early days, we are a company where the biggest and best phase of our growth is still ahead of us
Ken and his family love to spend time in the outdoors!
7. What would you most likely be doing on a normal Saturday afternoon in your free time?
As a parent, I treasure the time to be not just with my wife and our daughter but to also see the world through our toddler’s eyes. She loves the outdoors as much as I do and the biggest green space near our house is the National Arboretum. For her, the walk from the parking lot to pond in the azalea garden is a long hike. We sit down at the edge of a small pond and look for frogs and goldfish and dragonflies. The rustling in the bushes could be a squirrel or a giant troll. She teaches me that frogs do not say “ribbit”. Our Zen Saturday.