Kie Watanabe

Kie WatanabeShare

Group Product Manager, HubSpot
Product leader at HubSpot. Previously at B2B & B2C startups, Harvard MBA, McKinsey consultant. Passionate about building diverse and inclusive teams that have an outsized impact.
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Kie Watanabe
Kie Watanabe
Group Product Manager, HubSpotOctober 9

This is a two-part question. Let me first articulate how I like coming up with ideas for new opportunities, followed by how I like to make decisions about what to build. Hopefully, you don’t mind that I’m thinking about “opportunities” because it might not always be a feature that’s the right solution.

I should start by saying that there isn’t one right approach to coming up with ideas. In my experience, I’ve had success ensuring that there are:

  1. Insights from the four lenses: Customer, Business, Market, Technology
  2. Effective methods to facilitate ideation

At the core, you have to have a deep understanding of the underlying user pain point you’re trying to solve through a thorough investigation of the Customer by talking to customers and product usage. You might actually learn very quickly that the user problem is around discoverability or activation, not necessarily a feature gap. Ideally, the customer impact is so deep that it translates effectively into Business impact. The Market context is critical to help understand how your user will experience the product within the broader competitive landscape and the direction an industry is headed. Finally, the Technology lens offers insight into what capabilities could be used as part of a solution.

Preferably, these four lenses come together through cross-functional ideation that has the right participants (e.g. PM, UX, Eng, and even folks go-to-market teams). In a hybrid world where we’re working across time zones, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to ideate together synchronously and asynchronously.

In terms of decision-making, the ideation process should lend itself to initial layers of prioritization. I won’t go into prioritization frameworks here, but there are many out there. They do tend to distill back to impact and effort and sequencing. At HubSpot, depending on the type of decision we are trying to make, we may use a “driver, approver, contributor, informed” DACI model used by other companies we admire like Atlassian.

Kie Watanabe
Kie Watanabe
Group Product Manager, HubSpotOctober 9

In my previous answer, re: finding the right opportunities + making decisions - I mentioned four lenses (Customer, Business, Market, and Technology) as key components of coming up with ideas and making decisions. The best advice I have to offer is to be intentional about spending time developing your muscles in those areas. It can be as simple as picking a product or service in your day-to-day life and thinking through what inputs might have contributed to the experience you’re having as a user.

Additionally, a lot of product strategy is about being able to identify the opportunity that will maximize impact. How will you hone in on the right problem and arrive at an excellent solution? I’ve found that strong problem-solving intrinsics and the ability to make effective decisions are very valuable.

Here are two frameworks I’ve always found helpful:

Lastly, communication is essential for being able to get buy-in and execute product strategy. Work on simple, effective communication.

Kie Watanabe
Kie Watanabe
Group Product Manager, HubSpotOctober 9

Going from an IC PM to a manager role was one of the most gratifying transitions in my career. Having been a manager before in a different context prior to becoming a Group Product Manager at HubSpot, I had some prior experience leading teams and operating in an environment with broader scope and complexity that helped ease the transition. That said, I do recall a couple of things:

  • Saying no to your pet rock: As an IC PM, you’re the biggest fan of your own product ideas first and foremost. Given my drive for intellectual honesty, I’ve generally taken pride in my ability to arrive at the best possible answer (even if it’s not originally my own) throughout my career. I do still remember early on as a GPM saying no to ideas I thought were great in the past was a practice of self-restraint. Fortunately, this comes naturally now. Now my role has shifted to ensuring teams are focused on the most impactful work, and having strong empathy for teams when we have to say no to the incredible ideas they harbored.
  • Finding the right cruising altitude: Within the context of HubSpot, there’s a Product Lead player-coach role between PM and GPM. During my time as a Product Lead, I found it challenging and thrilling all at the same time to be at the right cruising altitude depending on the task at hand and who I was communicating with. The way you communicate with the team you’re PM-ing is probably not the same way you would communicate with executive leaders.
  • Finding your people: This is something I recall from shortly after I shifted to GPM. As an individual contributor (IC) PM you develop very deep relationships with the designers and engineers you work with day in and out. You’re in zoom meetings or on slack with them most of the day. Especially in a hybrid world, it took me a moment to shift my mindset to a broader definition of team and intentionally spend more time with the PMs and peers in the product leadership team. Fortunately, I love building new connections and HubSpotters are very warm and eager to meet new folks so this was a fleeting moment.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but these were top of mind.

Kie Watanabe
Kie Watanabe
Group Product Manager, HubSpotOctober 9

Success metrics and voice of the customer. Ideally, at the time of defining a product strategy, you’ve also invested time in thinking about specific Goals that are important to measure progress against it. The goals should be time bound and specific and may include product usage, customer satisfaction, and financial performance. Several product organizations (including HubSpot, Google, Spotify, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Airbnb) like using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework.

Metrics are important, but at the end of the day, the best true north is the voice of your customer. If your customer is happy, the rest will follow.

Kie Watanabe
Kie Watanabe
Group Product Manager, HubSpotOctober 9

Lots of balancing! Balancing effectively summarizes the job of a PM.

Jokes aside...

Balancing user requests v. optimal design

I pay much closer attention to the user's pain (vs. the user's request). Abstracting the problems we’re trying to solve creates room for the team to take in further context (per the four lenses mentioned above) and come up with creative, innovative solutions that can also be validated and iterated on along the way. I also know I am not a design expert. I have been so fortunate to have had excellent UX partners to work with.

Balancing work life with personal life… marathon PR

I learned early on that I was not my best self when I was burnt out. Fortunately, before, during, and after business school, I’ve taken the time to reflect on my values and how I ideally would be allocating my time. Nowadays, I have strong boundaries that help me feel connected with the people I care about and fulfilled in my personal life (whether that be training for my next triathlon or going hiking up to NH for the weekend). Fortunately, I don’t have to try so hard because the leadership team and my colleagues at HubSpot are very supportive and respectful of enabling HubSpotters to be at their best.

My marathon PR is 3:04. Hopefully one day I’ll break 3!

Credentials & Highlights
Group Product Manager at HubSpot
Product Management AMA Contributor
Lives In Dorchester, Massachusetts