The process of bringing a cybersecurity product to market can be long and tedious, but Kiran Kumar, Product Director at Webroot, loves to oversee all the moving parts. It keeps him on his toes and immersed in the ever-changing world of security technology.
We sat down to chat with Kumar about his #LifeAtWebroot, heard how he got to where he is today, and why he’s loved every minute of his journey.
Tell us about your role as a Product Director.
I’m the product director for our network portfolio of products. This includes Webroot DNS Protection, FlowScape, and our next-gen security solution. I’m also responsible for the overall solutions platform, the next-gen solution we are working on.
What does a typical week look like for you?
My typical week ranges from working with customers on concept validation or case studies, to presenting at events. I’ll help customers with damage control, provide assurance of the product, or pitch Webroot solutions. I would say that at least 40-50% of my job is working with the engineering team on the next product release. The key is to stay on top of everything and keep my eyes and ears open because it’s the product director’s responsibility to make things happen. You must be able to collect information from different stakeholders, bring it all together, and prioritize. Sometimes no one reports to you, but you still have to bridge the gaps and constantly negotiate, make decisive tradeoff decisions, get buy-ins, etc. That’s the key to being a strong Product Manager. I spend time with a lot of people both inside and outside: marketing, sales, sales engineering, customer success, public relations, analyst relations, you name it. It’s a matter of constantly juggling and prioritizing.
What is your favorite part of working as a Product Director?
I enjoy being able to make a difference. Also, the satisfaction of building relationships with all these different groups of people and rallying them to achieve a common goal is really satisfying. You have to take everyone else’s opinion, along with your own, and figure out the best the direction to move in. All of that starts with the product. It’s a key part of every organization. I love seeing all the work that goes into bringing a product to market. The ability to make an impact and visibility into projects is tremendous.
What have you learned in this role?
I think one of the biggest pieces of advice that I can give, and that I’m continuing to work on myself, is that building relationships is absolutely critical to success. You have to use negotiation skills, persuasion tactics, and figure out how to rally the whole troop. I’d say that’s critical in many areas of business. Also, you need to constantly have a sense of curiosity and willingness to challenge yourself. Good enough is not good enough. Ask questions and take ownership of things. One great thing about Webroot is that everyone is open to questions and collaborating to find answers.
What is the hardest thing about being a Product Director?
The most challenging thing about the job is staying levelheaded. Every day you need to be flexible and willing to adapt because a hundred different things will be thrown your way and you need to be prepared to handle it. You can’t be flustered. Another challenge is figuring out how to work quickly. One of the hardest things is working through problems and getting them solved in the time that I want — quickly.
Is this what you expected to be doing in your career?
After graduating from college, I never expected that I would be a product manager, but I was at the right place at the right time. I started at a technology consulting company and was placed at a security company. I started doing business analysis, and that’s still a part of my job, but product management is more inclusive of business analysis, product management, market research – everything this position entails. I didn’t like programming as much. I couldn’t sit behind a computer all day – that’s just not my personality. Now I’ve been in the industry about 16 years, and I have to say I have had the best time working at Webroot.
What makes working at Webroot so amazing?
One benefit to being located in our smaller San Diego office, besides the weather, beach, and beer, is I’ve been able to see it grow. We have about 90 people in this office and I know everyone. The people at Webroot are really friendly and helpful, so it’s easy to feel welcomed. The Webroot culture is very open and not hierarchical. Since I’ve been here I’ve been able to talk to anyone, including any executive. I am super passionate about the products I support and the audiences we help – SMB/MSP.
Best career advice you’ve received? How have you seen that advice playing out in your own career?
For someone who’s starting fresh and getting into product management, I would say to be open, be flexible, and constantly seek to challenge yourself. Soak in as much as you can. For people more senior, I would say to continue with relationship building and be mindful of how you can make the biggest impact. This position isn’t about having an MBA and writing up numbers. It is very technology focused and it’s all about being able to adapt and able to provide solutions, not just numbers.
What’s your favorite patio? (Place to go when it’s nice outside, place to get a drink.)
There’s a really nice brewery close to the office called Ballast Point. The team goes there a lot. But my favorite food is Mexican and I love hole-in-the-wall places. There’s one restaurant in the Torrey Pines area called Berto’s that’s awesome. It’s not fancy, but their veggie burrito keeps me coming back.
To learn more about life at Webroot, visit https://www.webroot.com/blog/category/life-at-webroot/.