Immigration & Mobility Decoded recently sat down with Greg Liegel, the former vice president of product at Envoy Global, to chat on Envoy Global’s Immigration & Global Mobility podcast. The conversation offers a fascinating intersection of AI and immigration and the evolving landscape of global mobility.
From his unexpected foray into tech during the first dot-com boom to navigating the challenges of immigration law and technology in a changing world, Greg’s career trajectory is marked by adaptability and a commitment to innovation. His insights shed light on the transformative potential of technology in streamlining immigration processes and enhancing the employee experience.
Throughout the episode, Greg delves into how AI can help improve immigration technology by creating new avenues for predicting visa renewals, creating proactive mobility policy approaches and more. As Envoy Global continues to pave the way for a more seamless and efficient immigration experience, the conversation serves as a testament to the transformative potential of technology in shaping the future of work and mobility.
This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Erik: Greg, you’re VP of product at Envoy Global, and you oversee product management, design, learning and development. You’re responsible for setting the product vision, strategy, and roadmap for Envoy Global. You also help the internal teams within the company, the affiliated law firm and clients improve their skills to get the most out of the Envoy platform. Anything I missed?
No, I think that sums it up. I think one of the fun things about the job for me, from a product and design standpoint, is obviously, building a software that our clients use, whether our clients are our own teams, our customers, or whether they’re the law firms that actually use our software on the backend to prepare petitions and so on and so forth.
But seeing the light bulbs go off when they start using the platform shows how bringing technology and service together creates a different experience than a traditional law firm. And I think bringing those two things together, you have the customer side of things, and then making sure that they have the support through the learning and development through that training piece, I think is really, really powerful.
Erik: You have an awesome background that combines these things so well. You hold a PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago and your research focused on how technology impacts organizations, work processes and labor markets. What drew you to those areas of study and how have you applied those to your career and your current roles?
I think I have what’s called a non-traditional background, a non-traditional career path, if you will. The short answer is, I was interested in those areas because I didn’t want to be super poor. After I graduated from college, I was working over in Europe doing labor market research. I was a, and still am, a total geek. I was doing a bunch of labor market research and really wanted to stay in Europe. And I’m going to be dating myself by saying this, but it was at the time right around the first dot-com boom where things just exploded and things were taken off. I think there was some tendency to be like, “Oh, you’re American, you must know something about computers.” Which, of course, was not at all true, but it was a way for me to actually stay in Europe.
So, that’s how I got into tech in the first place. I wanted to stay in Europe, and working in software was a way for me to do that, which is probably not what most people want to hear. But the day before I was supposed to fly back to the States, but that Friday I got a call from a friend who was working at a startup, a smaller company at the time. It was a company called Yahoo – anyone who’s a little bit older may have heard of it. But they were thinking about how they were going to roll out e-commerce products across Europe, and so they were looking to hire in that area. I gave the woman who was hiring a call and said, “Hey, super interested.” And she was like, “When can you come down for an interview?” And I said, “Monday morning.” I hung up the phone, called my parents, and said, “Don’t pick me up tomorrow. I’ll call you when I figure stuff out.” And that’s how I ended up in tech.
What was really interesting is that after the tragedy of 9/11, the government came down pretty hard on H-1B and visa programs. And many of our developers sitting in Europe were folks who couldn’t get their visas renewed in the US. So, we had this amazing talent that couldn’t be employed in the U.S. for a time. Obviously, the company didn’t want to lose them, and so they parked them overseas. In fact, we see companies doing that right now where if they can’t get somebody on an H-1B, they might park them up in Canada for a couple of years, or months or whatever it might be. And these were people who really helped develop foundational technologies, FDP, SSL and things we use daily.
At some point, I kind of got to the point in my career at Yahoo where I was like, “All right, I either move to California or I move and do something else.” At that point, I decided to just do something else, and that’s what brought me to Chicago. I think anytime you have those career transitions, you’re always looking for ways to build bridges and explain why you took an eight-year break to go do something else in between roles or whatnot. I was really interested in this whole idea of, once again, thinking back to those software developers, these are just amazingly talented people that our country doesn’t want. Why is that? That’s how I got interested in the labor market and technology strategy because they fold together. Does that make sense?
Erik: For sure, for sure. How has your background, life experience, dissertation and research applied to your current position at Envoy Global?
So much of my research was on technology adoption and organizations, and my dissertation was more on how professional associations and companies shape economic or government policy. And so on a day-to-day basis, I would say it’s not directly correlated to what I do right now, but I think one of the things that you learn going through a place like the University of Chicago is how to ask questions and you learn how to dig really, really deep to understand what the problem is. And if you can figure out what the problem is, coming up with a solution tends to be easier. Fundamentally, I think understanding the problem is harder.
And so, to that extent, what I learned in grad school is something that I use each day. Certainly, when I started at Envoy, yes, I had a familiarity with what a green card was, or an H-1B visa, or that sort of thing, but I didn’t necessarily have incredibly in-depth knowledge about every single visa type, and what are all the requirements for this visa type or that? Nothing along those lines. But it certainly has been really helpful in broadly understanding the space and then being able to go deep into certain areas where you need to have that kind of depth of knowledge in order to be able to understand the problem and then propose a solution that’s going to meet the needs of our clients.
Erik: Not to date ourselves here, but historically or maybe within the last 10 to 15 years, what have been some of the biggest problems within organizations when it came to managing their immigration or mobility programs?
In some ways, sort of the scary thing is that a lot of it hasn’t changed. It’s fascinating to me, and I think it’s such an area of opportunity that we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to immigration or global mobility technology. I think we’ve made massive changes or improvements over the last several years, but there’s a lot of room to grow and improve compared to many other areas. And I think that’s exciting because now we get to use these new technologies and deploy them in unique ways, but the problems we’re solving are still the core problems we had several years ago. And so, to my mind, when I look at the immigration space, and you know this from doing. At Envoy Global, we do the Immigration Trends Report to learn about these things. For the folks that are listening, maybe you can just talk a little bit about that and then I can bring it back together.
Erik: Yeah, so Envoy Global’s Immigration Trend Survey is an annual report based on a survey of 500 plus HR professionals, mainly based in the US, where we ask them their opinions and thoughts on the current state of immigration in the US, both from a snapshot in time of, do you approve of the administration’s handling of employment-based immigration? On the employment-based side, what are their common challenges? What are their thoughts on proposals from DHS or DOL? And things that they would like to see improvements, if you will, the US government to make to the employment-based immigration process. Typically, it centers around faster processing, more transparency, and just an easier way to do things, as you mentioned the H-1B, but a higher number of H-1B visas to be made available. And we are putting together our 2024 version, which will be out in early Q1 of 2024.
That’s awesome. We also ask them things like, what are your concerns, when you’re standing up a global mobility program, what’s the stuff that you value the most as, say, an HR professional, or that your employees value the most and things like that? And I think we’ve seen that study over study, the results don’t really… they change, but they don’t change dramatically year after year. They still have a lot of the same problems and concerns that folks had a couple of years ago, which makes sense.
For HR professionals, employee experience is top of mind. How they’re able to do things around reporting, how they’re able to get greater insights into their employee population, how they’re able to benchmark against competitors and things like that. So, the thing that I think is really exciting is that you have these fundamental problems that clearly exist, whether it was at ARC, or at SC, RC or any of these other conferences that you go to, you see the same sort of problems coming up over and over again.
We’re in a unique position now, as a company and industry, to start solving some of these problems in meaningful ways. And what I get excited about is how we will solve them. I think we’re finally getting now to a point, and it’s something I think that Envoy candidly has put at the forefront more so than some other solutions out there, is we’re not just building a solution for one audience, we’re trying to build a solution that’s more holistic, so that it meets the needs of HRs, but it also meets the needs of the employees that are impacted. This is such an important part of their process; this is their life’s journey.
The outcome of this is going to determine can they live where they want to live? Can they work where they want to work? Can they raise their family where they want to raise their family? And so on. So employee experience is really, really important. That HR experience is really, really important.
But then there’s also the law firm experience. How do we make that experience as robust, rich and seamless for them as possible, so they can provide the type of amazing service they want to provide? We’ve made some really amazing strides over the last several years, but there’s a lot we can still do, which is super exciting.
Erik: What has traditionally been the weakest area of the employee experience side, and how has immigration technology, such as Envoy, helped bridge that gap and improve the employee experience?
So, back when I was in grad school, immigration was a pen-and-paper type business – as I think many firms still are. You might get a questionnaire that was in a Word document or an Excel file. You would get an email where they’re asking you for certain information, you respond to it. Super, super clunky, super old-fashioned.
For anyone who’s ever done their own taxes, it’s the exact same type of experience. It’s awful. Nobody likes doing their taxes. Nobody likes filling out long questionnaires where it’s like, you ever get a PDF where you’re trying to fill out that PDF and for the love of God, they didn’t make that one field an input box? So, you try to type it in and it either cuts off the letters, it doesn’t let you enter the information that you need, you get so frustrated and you want to pull your hair out. And as you can see, I can’t afford that. And so I think when we think about what the employee experience should be, it’s about that. Think about all the consumer technology that you use on a daily basis, whether it’s Gmail, Insta, Snap, TikTok, or any of these other tools out there, they’re super easy to use, they’re really, really intuitive.
I have two kids, and I was sitting there with one of them last night, and my wife asked, “Well, how do I do X, Y and Z in my phone?” And my daughter just grabbed it and was like, da, da, da and handed it over and was done. There wasn’t a telephone book manual that she had to read to understand how to do that, she just knew how to do it because it was that easy to figure out on your own. When we think about what the employee experience should be, it’s providing for both the employee and the employer, that type of ease of use when it comes to these processes that are complex, opaque, and not particularly transparent, and so on and so forth. And there’s no reason why we can’t do that, right?
Erik: Right. I guess why do you think that is that immigration and maybe some, historically, other platforms, or et cetera, that they’ve been these clunky things, like you mentioned, comparing it to taxes, where it’s kind of lagged? I love the comparison to some consumer brands or B2C, and it kind of makes me think that, is there an aspect where some B2B, historically, it was just the lag behind because it’s always been done this way? Do you think it’s reflective of that, or because immigration, particularly within the US, do you have to go through the government for a lot of it? And when it comes to immigration, historically, they’ve been slow to adopt new digital technologies.
Yeah. I think that’s certainly part of it. I think part of it’s a question of investment. Building really good products is not easy and it’s certainly not cheap. Having the capital at your disposal to be able to build something like that is really, really important, and I think a lot of your typical mom-and-pop immigration law firms aren’t going to have access to capital to be able to make that type of investment. We’re really fortunate that we can do that. At the same time, I do think that there’s a lot of B2B software out there that historically were just like, yeah, it sucks, but it works, right? It gets the job done. It doesn’t do it in an easy way.
In fact, there certainly are examples from the history of software development where most of those companies weren’t making their money off the software, they were making their money off the implementation, the maintenance, the training and all that kind of stuff that you need to keep that software up and running and upgraded. So, I think you’ve seen a shift over the last several years. On the HRIS side of things, I think Workday was one of the bigger ones that initiated that shift, where yes, there’s always been human capital management type software, payroll management type software, all that kind of stuff, but how do we make it more intuitive? How do we make it more user-friendly? How do we make it easier, simply, to use for people? And so, I think there is this shift in the B2B space, recognizing that we can take these business processes and we can “consumerize” them by making them more intuitive.
Are they going to be as flexible and easy to use as TikTok? I don’t know. That should be the goal. And I think, for example, going back to the tax example, Intuit’s done an amazing job at that. If you’ve ever pulled up TurboTax recently and you had previously used TurboTax, they’re not asking you to go through and fill out, give us all your information over the last 10 years again, it’s like, “Hey, let’s see what’s changed. Let’s see what’s changed in your tax situation since the last time we did your taxes. This is the information we have on file about you. What do we need to update?” And so, there’s ways of just building that where you’re reducing that friction. Reducing that friction isn’t just a better experience, it also produces better outcomes because the data quality is better, there’s less escalations. There are many good business reasons to build that way, as opposed to what we might’ve done in the past.
Erik: Definitely. TurboTax is such a great example. I think depending on who you ask, anyone’s going to have an opinion on TurboTax versus H&R Block versus, I think, Credit Karma now or another one. But to your point, it is very nice that come that time of year when you log in, it has all your information and asks you questions, and depending on your financial background or background, you could be done with your taxes in an hour or so. And to your point, yeah, why can’t immigration be like that in some ways? Moving to the HR side of things, when you’re speaking with either current Envoy clients or fellow industry leaders, what are they looking for and what are their challenges when it comes to immigration technology or global mobility technologies?
I think for everyone in our space, the last year and a half, two years, have been hard. There’s no way around it. Whether it’s the layoffs, the state of the economy, or the political climate when it comes to immigration. It’s been challenging over the last few years, with COVID and so on and so forth. And so, I think the one constant theme I hear from everyone I’m talking to is that we’re being asked to do less with more. And I think as a solution provider and a vendor meeting the needs of those clients, we both have a responsibility, but also an opportunity to figure out how we help our clients do less with more. And that’s where the promise of technology comes in and it gets exciting.
Of course, you could always do it how you’ve always done it, but technology should make your life easier. It should allow you to do things more efficiently and on a better scale. By the way, also then create that space so that the service component can really shine through. And so that less with more is, it’s not just that those companies have laid off folks, they’ve also laid off mobility teams, and those mobility teams are paying a closer eye on their own budgets, and so on and so forth. But now I think that type of pressure can also be an amazing catalyst to create the type of innovation that I think we’re on the cusp of starting to drive here.
Erik: I think maybe that segues into a hot topic within the industry, but also, I guess within tech as a whole, if you’ve been… We have the whole OpenAI thing and just AI in general. So, Greg, before we get into any deeper questions, how would you define AI?
Well, even just taking a step back is another topic. It’s both like, “Hey, we’re strapped here. We must figure out ways to solve these problems and continue providing the service we want at a lower price point. Oh, and what’s AI and how’s that going to impact global mobility? Is it going to take people’s jobs? What’s it going to do?” And so I think all of the regional relocation councils, for people who are in that global mobility space, what’s really exciting is that they’re doing a lot of work and putting on some really fantastic programming around this because it is an important topic for all HRs to understand, and understand how it’s going to impact the work that they do. It’s going to impact how their vendors are operating, and so on and so forth.
But I think one of the conversations I’ve had over the last couple of weeks is, one of the most important parts is to understand AI broadly, what do you actually want to get out of it? What’s your goal, in terms of how you would deploy those types of technologies, and to what ends, and so on? And so I think if you take a little bit of a step back and think about what AI is more broadly, people are like, “Oh my gosh, OpenAI, it’s all new.” And it’s like, “Well, hold on. It’s not.” AI has been around for a very, very long time. And if you think about there are many different flavors of it, and those different flavors are particularly suited to some tasks in one particular situation, and they’re better suited for other tasks using different tools, and so on and so forth. So, I think understanding fundamentally what you as an organization want to accomplish, that’s the more important question. And then it’s about figuring out, what are the tools that are going to help you accomplish those tasks?
Now, some of those may be AI-related, some of them may not be. If you’re going through and you have an enormous amount of back-office work where it’s literally copying this file from this folder to this folder, or from this invoice over into this folder, or whatever. There, you’re going to look at probably something more like robotic process automation or something like that, you don’t necessarily need… It’s not AI, but there are intelligent automation tools out there that can help streamline those processes and make you a hell of a lot more efficient in that regard. There are other situations where you’re going to want to say, “Hey, I need to understand what’s coming down the pipe, in terms of, I need to be able to predict a certain set of information, or outcomes, or things like that.” And that’s like machine learning, and the natural language processing models can be really, really helpful in that type of situation. And then of course, then you have the whole OpenAI, which is the current craze right now.
Erik: I guess what’s the current state of AI? Can it predict renewals or when HRs need to take certain actions?
Yeah. Fortunately, immigration is an incredibly data-driven process in business. And even without AI, you don’t need AI to be able to discern, “Hey, when’s Greg’s H-1B going to require an extension, or a renewal, or whatnot?” It is, however, one of the big advantages of having technology. So if you’re working with a traditional law firm who does everything on pen and paper and maybe tracks the stuff in a spreadsheet, they may be able to tell you when my H-1B is going to expire, but it’s going to be harder for them to be able to do that proactively, and to manage all that data, and so on and so forth. That’s one of the advantages we have is, “Hey, Erik’s H-1B is expiring on December 30th.” Greg’s is expiring on February 1st.” And so on.
We can automatically surface that in our application and then prompt people to take the necessary action in a timely fashion to make sure that you don’t fall out of status and that the business isn’t impacted in any sort of way. You don’t need AI for that, but there are other things I get excited about. How do we provide better service to clients? And how do we prevent some of those questions that typically would come in? How do we prevent those types of questions from happening in the first place? And if we have all the data, and if we can crunch that data and we can say, “All right, we know that, for example, Greg’s case is going to get filed in five business days.” And we can tell you that. I can tell you with a high, high, high degree of certainty that your case is going to get filed in five days. That’s really powerful. That’s not looking backwards, that’s looking forward and telling you this is what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen, right?
And then, if you do that correctly, you start to build trust with that person. Oh my God, he said my case was going to be filed in five days and guess what? It was. There are also things you can do like send them an analysis of where I go through and I look at all your communications to me, and I can tell when you’re really upset. I can tell when you’re happy, I can tell when you’re upset, and you can use sentiment analysis and tools like that to, once again, provide better service for those individuals who are terrified, or upset, or whatever it may be, that something’s going on, something that could potentially negatively impact their career, or their family, or whatever that might be.
And so, you can provide better service. But once again, it comes back to that point I was trying to make a couple of minutes ago: what is your goal, and why are you trying to deploy these tools? Don’t deploy a tool just to deploy one; have a clear goal in mind about what you want to accomplish that, and then find the right set of tools that help you do that effectively.
Erik: So, Greg, just looking ahead, we are recording this, as we mentioned, post-Thanksgiving, at that time of the year when we’re looking ahead to the new year. How do you see AI’s influence on immigration programs and global mobility programs continuing to play out in 2024?
I think it’s going to play out in many different areas. Once again, my personal goal with it is to determine how we can make our internal teams more efficient. And by making them more efficient, how can we provide better service to our clients, on both the legal side, the HR side, and the employee side of things? And there’s a whole bunch of different tools that we’re looking at that we’re going to hopefully deploy in different ways to accomplish that broader service goal. If we can do that, we can be more efficient and provide quicker answers. That’s one way that we can use AI. It’s amazing right now. You referenced OpenAI or ChatGPT a few moments ago. It’s fantastic, obviously, at summarizing information. That can allow us to provide a quicker, better answer. Now, obviously, it’s subject to oversight, reviewing it thoroughly and making sure that it’s accurate.
But I think there are tools like that where it’s going to facilitate communication, it’s going to facilitate writing. An example might be something along the lines of, how do we use AI to provide better help text across our application? Machine translation, I was actually in the elevator on the way up today, it has one of those little TVs in the elevator, and of course, you stare at it as you’re going up to the 27th floor here. And there was something about how Amazon’s deploying this new tool around machine translation in a hundred different languages, and they promise an accuracy of 98% or whatever it was. But I think those are things where you can take those tools and think about the experience you can provide.
If someone’s coming in and English isn’t their first language and we’re asking them for, what’s their highest degree of education? That can mean different things in different languages. That might be a bad example, but how do we translate that on the fly for them? So, we’re presenting that in Spanish, or in French, or in German, or Hindi or whatever that may be, and giving that to them, serve it up to them on a silver platter, you have a question about this? Here, we can help you answer that.
Once again, it helps us then too because then we get better data around it. So, I think there’s, around that customer service part, I think it’s going to do a lot there. You start to see this at work out in Boston too, where companies are looking at AI as a way of extracting data from documents, once again, to reduce that questionnaire burden that folks have, because we need that information to be able to send that petition off to USCIS. But it’s a question of, how do we get that information. I think there are many tools out there that will improve that customer experience, and by improving it, freeing up lawyers, paralegals and other mobility teams to provide better service across the board.
Erik: Is there an element of improving the service, is there may be a gamification element to it where you want to help, but in order to teach models or to glean those insights you need, whether they’re HRs or foreign national employees using the platform or services to complete certain tasks, to do action A, do action B, action C, are those at all related?
We do use some gamification in our application right now. It’s more about providing a richer onboarding experience for folks. People like tasks, they like checklists and they like checking stuff off and seeing that everything is… You get your green check mark. We use some of that mostly to provide a rich onboarding experience for folks. I think anytime you’re transitioning into a new application, whether it’s as a completely new client or that client, an existing client, or hiring somebody new, there’s always going to be a little bit of ramp-up time.
So, how do we reduce that ramp-up time as much as possible, get people oriented and on their way, and feel like they are properly settled, know what they need to do, and know how to do it? We can gamify that experience. At the same time, providing more contextual support around some of those more challenging areas will make sure that they don’t feel like they’re on their own. We can make sure that they feel supported throughout that entire immigration journey. We’re not so much gamifying the data collection piece, as figuring out ways of providing support in meaningful ways that help our clients accomplish what they need to accomplish, while at the same time, making sure that they have the tools to do that successfully. Does that help?
Erik: Yeah, definitely, definitely. It’s awesome and interesting to hear, is I think that kind of ties a little bit back into what we were talking about earlier, where in the old days there was B2B companies under this mindset of like, “Well, that’s just kind of how it always is and it’s how it’s always worked.” But I know hearing some of those elements, incorporating them into the Envoy platform just reminds me of some of these other B2C, either mobile apps, or you’re just kind of borrowing that to really… It’s like, “Yeah, why can’t we do this?”
Yeah. No, totally. And I think that should be the expectation of a client. When they’re looking for a vendor that should be their expectation, that whatever solution that they go with can provide that level of interaction, and support and handholding, and so on and so forth. It’s funny because I was talking to my… My daughter just turned… She’s old enough now, I’m dating myself here, but she’s old enough now to get her learner’s permit for driving, and I was like, “All right, well, if you want to get it, you got to take a…” Apparently only got to take a driving class because her school doesn’t offer that. And I was like, “So Google, figure out where the nearest driving school is, call them up and ask them what you need to do.” And her response was like, “Wait, you want me to talk to somebody? I don’t want to talk to anybody. Why can’t I just text with them or chat with them?”
But her point is, as silly as I found that, she’s right. Certain people want to pick up the phone, certain people want to email, certain people don’t want to have to talk to anybody, they want to be able to watch a video, read a quick article, and get the help and support that they need to move on their way. I think as an organization, we’re trying to meet those users where they are, where they want that support, where they need that help. And if they need to talk to somebody, obviously, we will always provide that to them, but we want to do it in such a way that the more we can reduce the amount of interaction, so for example, our customer experience team is having with those folks. The more time that customer experience team actually has to provide amazing white glove service to those people that really, really need it.
So, if a question comes around something silly like, “How do I reset my password?” Do you really need to talk to a customer experience person to figure that out? No, you shouldn’t have to. How you do it should be intuitive. And if it’s not intuitive, there should be tools that provide that support exactly where you need it to, which is forgot password, click, how do I do that? I think there’s a whole bunch of support infrastructure that we’re going to be able to build out around our application and, more broadly, within this space that provides that type of customer experience that people are really looking for, and candidly, they deserve.
Erik: Yeah, definitely. I will say, I definitely share that sentiment of not wanting to talk to people on the phone.
Come on, just pick up the phone, Erik. Pick it up.
Erik: Still, something I do. But yeah, no, I hear you on that. Definitely, there are some of those instances where you don’t need to talk to that live person. If you’re able to provide that value, that information upfront. It’s also a level of trust, you’re going to trust that if you provide the answers, that person is going to find it and they’re going to click around and all that.
100%. And I think that the theme of trust is something that’s so, so important, particularly in our space. We deal with medical records, financial records and really intimate details of a person’s entire life history and that of their family, and so we must work every single day to earn and maintain that trust. And I think there’s a lot of ways that you can show that. And that’s everything from the security measures that we put in place. We spend an enormous amount of time and energy on data security. But that’s the right thing to do, given the type of data we’re dealing with, the responsibility we have to the people with whom we work, and so on. But there’s also then the trust and support that what we’re showing you is accurate, timely and correct and that we are providing timely, and contextually relevant answers to the questions you might have.
Those are all different elements of trust, and so bring that all together, if you do that successfully, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when that light bulb goes off and you’ll be like, “Oh my God, this is awesome. I know exactly where I am in the immigration process. I know what I need to do next. I have full confidence that my data is being treated properly and securely. I have full confidence in my legal team that if I have a question, they’re going to pick up the phone or they’re going to hop onto a thread with me and answer my question.” That’s the type of client experience you want to provide. I think there are a lot of industries that do a fantastic job of that, and I think we’re certainly moving strongly in that direction, and hopefully, we will just continue down that road.
Erik: Speaking of roads, what’s ahead for you and the Envoy Global product team in 2024, that you’re able to share?
I can’t tell you that.
Erik: Thought I’d try.
Yeah, no, look, tons of exciting stuff. It’s too early to talk about that in detail. I think the themes we’ve talked a little about here today will be relevant going into next year. For my team, on the training side, we’re rolling out a couple of new features. Well, on the training and support side, we’re rolling out a couple of big features at the end of this week, which I’m super excited about. That is going to provide much, much better support within the application for HRs and for foreign nationals. It’s even going to provide dedicated support for individual companies within that, which will be exciting. So, I’m super excited about that one. Certainly, we’ll be spending more and more time on mobile next year. I don’t think there’s a secret to that. It’s how people are operating right now.
Do you have a scanner at home? Probably not. Maybe you do, but probably not. And yet, if you think about immigration, it’s a really document-heavy business. Well, how do you get those documents if you’re an employee? Maybe you take them to work, but we’re all remote now, so how do you capture a picture of your passport, or a picture of your marriage certificate, or whatever it is? So, I think there are things that we can do in that regard to help streamline that process, the data collection process, and things like that. A lot of the big projects that we have, while I think we’ll be keeping within some of the broader themes that we’ve talked about here today, are about how we improve the client experience for the foreign national. And by improving the foreign national experience, you can also, by the way, it helps improve the HR experience because you don’t have someone knocking on your door.
I was talking with somebody out in LA a couple of weeks ago and they were like, “Every day I go out and it’s awesome. I have my whole day planned and it’s fantastic. I have this time blocked off to work on this project, and this project.” And invariably, someone comes by, and they just knock on my door and they’re like, “Hey, I’m traveling tomorrow, and how is this going to impact my visa status or whatever?” And their day just gets blown up. So, how do we help their day not get blown up? Are there things that we can do to help give them a little bit more clarity around that so that they can just absorb that, and it doesn’t shake them?
We will be doing a lot in that regard, but we’ll get into more details as we get closer when we start rolling that out. My wife was in sales, and I learned the hard way: you never tell a salesperson what you’re going to build before you build it because they’ll go out and sell it. I’m not going to let you do that either.
Erik: No, all good, all good. Yeah, everyone will just have to stay tuned and be sure to check out envoyglobal.com.
There’ll be some cool stuff coming for sure.
Envoy Global is the only immigration services provider to offer dedicated support teams to organizations, regardless of the size of their mobility programs.
Erik: Awesome. Glad to hear, glad to hear. Well, Greg, I’ve had a great time chatting with you, more about this space, AI, and other technology, but I wanted to wrap things up to just talk a little bit more about how you, as an industry leader, operate in your day-to-day, and also, just throughout your career. You build the product roadmaps, you oversee it, and a lot of the focus today has been on AI, just using that term generally, but as you know, some technologies pop up that are the hot new thing. Not saying you’re always going to incorporate them in immigration, but if we think about a few years back, everyone was talking about crypto, or Web 3.0 and now no one talks about those. How do you balance things of interest, hot interest, they’re always in the news, you’re just seeing them everywhere, how do you balance those with the unknowns when building a product roadmap? You have your goals and objectives, but you know a lot of people are talking about the hot new thing.
Yeah. I think it’s a great question, Erik. I think it comes back to going out and talking to people, understanding their problems and why they have them. Obviously, it’s critical to stay current on new tech being rolled out, how people are using it, what your competitors are using it and why. I think your earlier point about AI being the current buzzword or flavor of the month is true. It’s not to say that it’s not going to fundamentally change things; I think it clearly is, and it already has in a lot of ways. But I will stand fast by that comment about it earlier. What are the problems that you’re fundamentally trying to solve? And then figure out tools that solve those problems. Now, many tools that solve those problems don’t need to be the shiniest new object on the block.
There are a lot of problems that can be solved, a lot of low-hanging fruit that can be addressed by long-existing technology out there. I think, too, that it’s about looking across into other industries under other spaces and seeing how people have solved similar problems in different domains. And I think from a product perspective, product managers tend to do well when they go out and talk to customers. If they don’t, they probably shouldn’t be in product management.
Understand your clients, understand what their problems are and why they have those problems. And understanding not just, “Hey, why do you do X, Y, and Z?” But really understand, five times, ask that. There’s this whole framework around the five whys. Ask why five times and then you’ll finally get an answer that’s kind of interesting.
But the more you start peeling back that onion, the more you really get into what that core problem is. How you solve that core problem is a different question. Maybe you need RPA for that. Maybe you need generative AI for that. Maybe you need natural language processing, or optical character recognition or some tech out there that is going to go ahead and help you address that problem. But the technology isn’t the problem, the technology is a way of helping solve the problem in the first place… And so, it’s a little bit different, you got to be able to understand what’s out there, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to use the newest, best thing out on the market to solve what’s potentially a pretty easy problem if you just understand it really thoroughly.
Erik: Got it. Definitely. Any advice for folks trying to grow their careers as product managers?
Once again, I have an unorthodox career path, so I don’t know if I’m the best one on these types of things. I think the same advice I would give on almost anything is to be curious, be willing to go deep, but try also to be able to step back and see the forest through the trees. Those are types of skill sets that I think are never going to go out of style and serve you well regardless of what you end up doing. I think you must be interested in the domain to be successful.
If it’s a domain space that you’re like, “Eh, I could sort of take it or leave it.” Are you going to really be able to, and interested and willing to put the time in to really fundamentally solve or understand the problem at a really deep level? And I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to have a whole bunch of those, whether it’s e-commerce, whether it’s online marketing, whether it’s immigration now and mobility more broadly. Those are all things that I’m just deeply interested in. These are industries that have really interesting problems, and so I’m super, super fortunate to be able to try to solve some small part of those. Oh, and just work with really smart people.
Erik: Love it. Love it. Well, Greg, any final thoughts that we didn’t get into? Anything you’d like to plug? Where can listeners find you, interact with you, and things like that?
Not huge on social media, I’m on LinkedIn. So, if anyone wants to connect on LinkedIn and anyone has any questions, obviously, delighted to talk. I could geek out about this stuff all day long, as you know, unfortunately. We’ve had enough webinars together where you’re like, “Oh my God, stop talking.” But more than happy, if folks do have questions or ideas, would love to hear from people. But it’s been awesome talking.
Erik: Love it. There you go. Awesome. Well, Greg, thank you so much for the time today. Have a good rest of your day and we’ll talk soon.
Thanks, Erik. Appreciate it. Take care.
Erik: You too.
Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., or another qualified professional of your choosing. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult your Envoy representative, or another qualified representative of your choosing.