As part of our on-going progress with community engagement, it has been brought to our attention that you would like a deeper understanding of the teams behind TenX and our products; We are more than happy to oblige!
The first of these interviews focusses on the product development team, and who better to go first than Andric Tham our Product Manager!
Andric enjoying some free time in Kyoto, Japan
Andric is a Product Manager and designer, and leads the product management of our mobile apps, the TenX iOS and Android wallet. He writes on Medium, codes on Github, and retweets curiosities on Twitter.
What was your profession prior to TenX, and how did you fall into crypto?
You could say that I’m a design generalist. I was working as a user experience designer before TenX. And before that, I co-founded an online film festival that let film lovers discover new films based on their personality — so you can “like” a film, or skip it, and the site recommends more films you’d like. It was on ProductHunt for a bit, and it stoked my interest for designing digital products.
I don’t like to call myself a “designer” or a “product guy”, because the former implies that I only care about design as a narrow field, and the latter implies that I only care about process and results. The truth falls somewhere in between for me.
I’ve been interested in digital products and designing them pretty much since I encountered computers. As a kid, I loved poking into every nook and cranny of my very first computer. I knew every little thing about Windows 95 and what each feature did and how it behaved. I wasn’t a computer nerd, mind you. I didn’t teach myself programming or build my own computer. I just loved digital interfaces.
Growing up, my interest for digital interfaces had grown beyond Windows PCs, to video games, to the web, to touchscreen UIs.
At some point, I realized that if I was going to design websites, or mobile apps, that I was going to have to learn to code. This was 2009 or so, so the iPhone just came out a few years ago, Photoshop was starting to show its age, and HTML5 and CSS3 was starting to become the defacto way to design websites. “Design in the browser” was the mantra.
If I look back, I’m so glad I started learning to design around 2009–2012, because if I picked it up today, I would be stuck deciding between whether to learn UX design, or Sketch.app, or React, or product management.
In some ways, that was the golden age of digital design, when so many designers learned to code.
Eventually, once I’d learned to make my own websites — and I was in school at the time studying Mass Communication — people started reaching out and asked if I could make websites for them, design iPhone apps, or just do plain ol’ graphic design. That’s when I started freelancing and taking on any design job. Whether it’s atoms or pixels, the principles are the same, and this period of growth taught me that fundamentally, design is about communicating.
And so, I’d like to think of my job as a communicator. My chosen medium is digital products, because I feel they’re truly the most powerful way to solve problems at scale.
How did you learn about TenX and join us as Product Manager?
I’m not going to dress this one up, because we’ve all been there. I came to know of TenX while obsessing over the ICOs that came out of the 2017 Ethereum boom. I’d missed the 2013 Bitcoin boom, having went as far as installing the Bitcoin wallet on my Mac, but never bought my first coin. I finally bit the bullet, and you know how that story goes.
At the same time, I’d been searching for my next gig at the time, having done UX consulting for almost 2 years. I wanted to shift my focus back to a singular product that I could really iterate on and improve.
Since I had started investing in crypto at the time, it was a perfect opportunity for me to put my money where my mouth was. If I really thought that cryptocurrency and blockchain were going to change the world, then I’d want to help accelerate that future.
I initially joined TenX as a user experience lead, and we didn’t have a product manager on our team. I worked on many problems related to process: getting the designer-developer handoff right, figuring out how to translate user feedback into insights we can act on, and tracking bugs.
When the company grew — I saw it grow from about 20 people to more than 50 now in just a few short months — it became clear that we needed to solve problems related to scaling.
Eventually, my role evolved into managing the product, where I continue to refine the processes we use to build our products. We’re improving with every iteration now: writing better release notes, planning each release tactically, and incorporating user research into the decisions we make.
All while squashing bugs!
How do you see TenX making cryptocurrencies spendable?
So at the core of TenX (and also a huge part of the crypto community), is this libertarian ideal that money should be free. Not free as in beer, but free as in speech.
I’ve always been quite the libertarian, and so I believe in the non-aggression principle, the virtues of the free market, as little government as possible, and so on, and where I see “making cryptocurrencies spendable”, is this inherent paradox. The paradox being that the very technology that is supposed to free us from government-issued currency is not, itself, free to use.
While you can view “free to use” as fees, bandwidth, or confirmation speed, I like to think of two things that cryptocurrencies are still bad at, compared to fiat. And the reason we care about fiat, is because that’s currently the best solution to the problem money was created to solve, and in order for cryptocurrency to achieve its end-goal, then it needs to be better than fiat money.
These two things are: the freedom to exchange value (what we call “liquidity”), and freedom to use it to do things (what we call “usability”). Spending, while it sounds like a simple idea, is actually the combination of these two things.
Our challenge is, really, to solve the problem of exchanging cryptocurrencies for something more widely-adopted, and the problem of actually using it in real life.
Because, if you cannot exchange your Bitcoin now for a cup of coffee faster than you can exchange Korean Won for something on Amazon, then Bitcoin leaves you worse off. Even if you could easily exchange Bitcoin for things of value, if it’s harder to use than Venmo, or WeChat Pay, or Apple Pay, then it’s not that much better either.
If you think about what we’re doing with the TenX wallet and the TenX card, those are the problems that we’re trying to solve. If we can smoothly exchange one currency for another as freely as you send emails, and make cryptocurrency so simple to use that people want to use it for their everyday financial needs, then we’d have succeeded in our mission.
What are your favourite products out there that have inspired you?
I’m excited about technology that can be used for augmenting human ability and kindness.
There’s of course a group of people who think that technology is good for automating away our humanity, until we resemble the Eloi from H.G. Well’s Time Machine.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there aren’t enough products out there in the world that helps you spend your time more meaningfully.
So, I’m really grateful for tools that help us think better and feel more truly. There’s a lot of noise in the world right now that prevents us from really stopping and listening. I like apps that help you focus, and get in the zone.
I use technology a lot for reading and writing, so services like Medium and Instapaper are kind of my jazz. I don’t know if websites, podcasts, or games can be considered “products”, but I’m a huge fan of A List Apart, 99% Invisible, and games like Kentucky Route Zero, in that they truly respect your time.
We live in a world where simply living requires contending with a certain level of complexity that would have been unimaginable for humans living in just half a century ago. The bar for survival has risen so high, that it’s no wonder people feel alienated by Internet technologies, instead of feeling empowered.
There is a whole camp of technologists and designers who believe that the trajectory of information technology has gone horribly wrong. If you listen to the cautionary tales put forth by Ted Nelson, Bret Victor, and Peter Thiel, then you know that our ad-driven Internet monoliths have only so much to go before we start moving backwards.
Think about banner ads, spam emails, and Tinder-style dating apps. These things are invented in the spirit of abusing the preciousness of time and the human experience.
That’s why I’m bullish about cryptocurrency and blockchain, and how it will liberate us. That’s the spirit with which the first personal computing revolution was born, led by luminaries such as Doug Engelbart, John Perry Barlow, Ted Nelson, Licklider, Jaron Lanier, Vannevar Bush, and so on.
These people are not “product people”, but they inspire me to do my best work, and they remind me as to why we care about personal computing devices that talk to each other on our behalf.
It’s not about the money, or the promise of automated utopia, but the promise it holds for us to be free. Freedom to access knowledge, create value, and to connect.
As a Product Manager, what is a typical day like for you?
There isn’t a typical day for a Product Manager. Everyday is distinctly different. A common thread between everything I do is our users, my team, and the current focus of our sprint.
Most days, I shuttle between helping the designers in my team with user research, to helping the developers figure out how we should tackle a particular problem. I’m pretty much the go-between for my team, helping to coordinate design and development work.
I don’t get to design or code much, but in my work, I get to learn a great deal from solving hairy design or engineering problems, and I help the team document our learnings and decisions, so we can use it to enable our next effort. We use a tool by Dropbox called Paper, and it’s been a great help for us, since we’re able to embed code snippets and design files in the same document.
We run two-week sprints, which means we try to develop new features and fix bugs every two weeks. Sometimes, those features get released. Other times, they roll over into the next sprint for release.
As the Product Manager, I help decide and prioritise which features and bugs we should focus on every two weeks, by running sprint planning workshops with the team. That’s about an hour and a half session where the designers and developers on the team review the previous sprint, the highest priority items we want to work on next, and help estimate the effort needed to do each piece of work. By the end of each meeting, we’re usually able to break it down and have a good idea of what needs to be done.
All of this goes into JIRA, which we use to manage and track what needs to be done. We have a checklist that makes sure we ship exactly what we set out to ship. Our team uses this to verify bugs and ensure our apps are quality-assured before they go live.
Where do you personally see TenX in 2 years time?
Predicting the future is a dangerous game. You kind of want to assume that everything has its own trajectory, which continues far off into the future, but by doing so, we discount free will.
So I won’t be trying to predict the future, but I can try to give you my version of where the future should be.
When talking about the future, one always needs a big disclaimer. If you preface everything with “if the stars align”, then it starts to make sense. So take my view with a pinch of salt.
So, if the stars align, let’s assume that the adoption of cryptocurrency follows its current trajectory, and the number of people in the world who own cryptocurrencies, and who know how to operate a crypto wallet, grows by one or more orders of magnitude.
Let’s take the view of a pessimist. A pessimist thinks that such a trajectory will likely taper off and “regress to the mean”. Fair enough.
In two years, both views can potentially come to pass. What we want to do, as innovators, is to lock in the version of the future we want, by carefully designing our own trajectory. “Build the future from the tools we have today”, so to speak. Doug Engelbart calls this “bootstrapping”.
The TenX card and wallet is how we bootstrap the eventual outcome of a highly diverse, liquid, and usable cryptocurrency landscape.
In two years, if we succeed at what we do, then TenX will be at the center of a financial revolution. Think about the Gutenberg press and how it obviates the need for hand-copying books, or how the Internet similarly obviates the need for desktop publishing. We’ll start to see a similar awakening in how people think about finance, even if it’s just springing up in a few places in the world.
That future is one in which cryptocurrency is obviously the best way to exchange value, that using anything else just seems archaic and wasteful.
We’re not seeing that yet, even though people think we are. If you conflate BTC the financial asset with Bitcoin the currency, then you might think that Bitcoin, et al. is seeing mass adoption.
But the price of Bitcoin is not the same as the usage of Bitcoin as a currency. This is what people mean when they say the price of Bitcoin is speculative. The exponential price of cryptocurrencies has more to do with the success of crypto exchanges as networks, rather than the currencies themselves.
Cryptocurrency-as-a-legitimate-financial-asset might be the first kindling, but until people start exchanging cryptocurrency amongst themselves like they send emoji to each other, we’re not quite there yet.
So in two years, that’s where all of us at TenX want to be, when we say that cryptocurrencies should be made spendable. We want to spur wider usage of this technology, and we’ll work the hardest we can to make it happen.
Aside from work, what keeps you busy and what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy reading, writing, watching, playing, basically anything to expose myself to new ideas. My go-tos are video games (I like story-based games like Kentucky Route Zero, Broken Age, and Device 6), books, and independent films.
I’m also currently learning React, Redux, and React Native on the side. I’m enrolled in a Udacity nanodegree right now, and learning to build web and mobile user interfaces! There’s nothing more humbling and empowering to be able to build something for yourself!
Thank you very much for your time Andric, and for sharing with us!