I kept asking teachers “what would you like to achieve?”
My job, as a Product Manager of “StudySapuri” and “StudySapuri forTEACHERS”, involves various tasks such as to set concepts of the product, define functions, manage the development process, check the quality, and propose measurements to promote utilization of the product.
To tell you the truth, I actually said “I would like to participate in creating a product, after having some experiences in sales” in my job interview. As soon as I joined Recruit Marketing Partners as a fresh graduate, I got engaged in a task to introduce and support the utilization of “StudySapuri” as an educational tool in high schools. As a result, I was picked up for the Rookie of the Year Award*1 for my first year, and the Runner-up MVP Award:2 for my third year. *Both *1 and *2 were awarded within Recruit Marketing Partners.
What I bore in mind the most was to always confront “things teachers would like to achieve” and thought about how we could do that together with the teachers.
Teachers are always really busy. Despite their busy schedule, I have found out teachers are still thinking they would like to introduce more attempts to improve each student’s academic ability and help students realize their potential in their future paths. I kept asking “What are the things you wanted to achieve when you aimed to become a teacher?”, and tried to understand their desires, and aimed to help those desires come true.
I also rediscovered the importance of the “system” that utilized everyday’s data in my sales activities. In schools, the paper is still used on many occasions and the analog culture is still dominating. However, when I brought the data reports of students’ learning status to a teacher one day, I received an email with gratitude saying “I could see the students’ learning status at one glance. I, once again, realized how great this system is.”
After that, when we released the first version of our learning management system, I found that teachers were so glad and I was told “This is a revolution!!” by one of them. This made me want to think I would like to create more products that would make teachers pleased.
In 2017, my third year at Recruit Marketing Partners, I submitted a request for transfer to the Product Planning Department at Quipper.
Redefining my own role because ”there are many others who are better at doing something than I am”
However, I was bounced by this huge wall as soon as I got transferred. I did not understand the language the Dev. team was speaking, I did not understand the structure of the system, and no one understood the sales language I was speaking, my mother tongue in the business world. I kept wondering what I should be doing as a Product Manager when it took such a long time to share the prerequisite condition.
In the beginning, I thought I had to become able to deal with everything from top to toe. Nonetheless, just being eager did not take me anywhere, and this was when my line manager told me “you don’t have to do everything on your own”. The incident made me realize how I had understood my “responsibility” was wrong. My responsibility was to create an output that would be useful to our customers. In order to make that happen, I became aware there were many things that should be dealt with by other members, not by me, so I changed my mindset and began to think “who should I ask to get involved with this theme”. During that process, I, then, recognized my role was to hold up our vision, tell it to our team members, and then find out how to form the vision in our products.
This is how we have started the “Vision Meeting”, which is participated by all members. We spend a day discussing “what teachers really want”, “how the market is shifting”, and “what we should do”, and also regularly share our goals within the members.
There are many Dev. Team members who are particularly devoted to the educational field in the first place. Therefore, the discussion has brought me a lot of awareness with suggestions like “if you want to realize this, I think it is better to do that.” and so on and so on.
Convincing everyone “why we should be doing this”
As well as holding up and sharing the vision, I also started bridging the Dev. team and the educational site (and the sales site).
I frequently visit schools even after I have become a Product Manager. I receive the requests from teachers, and talk about what features we should apply within the Dev. team afterward. However, there were occasions when the discussion stopped because no one could imagine specific situations.
I strongly felt that we, as a team, needed to learn about what teachers do, and I planned to cover a teacher’s day closely.
We literally stick to a teacher for one whole day, and learn what his/her daily tasks are.
Many team members said they would like to come by all means, and teachers agreed readily saying they would be happy doing that if this would help to make a better system. 3 of us, at one time, covered a teacher closely for a whole day for 5 times in total.
We followed a teacher from morning to night, and we also asked the background for each behavior. It was such a satisfactory opportunity with some new findings.
I also made more opportunities for a discussion between the Dev. team the sales team by participating in a sales meeting and or event. As a result of bridging three parties, the school, the sales team, and the Dev. team, the quality of our vision meeting has improved because we understand other people’s background better. Each one of us has become aware of one’s own role bearing in mind the whole image at the same time.
I think individual work by each department has its limit. If we get a chemical reaction by collaborating with one and another, I think we can do beyond the limit. Once this has happened, both the quality and speed will be improved, and furthermore, everyone will be convinced of what they are doing. While there are a lot of things we would like to do in this developing situation, I believe it is important to be convinced of “why we should be doing this.”
I would like myself to be always “devoted” to something
I like the word “to devote”. I know what I am dealing with, as a Product Manager, is a “product” but what I am seeing is “something teachers would like to achieve.”
I believe the best way to maximize the value of our output is to keep thinking “what does this teacher want to achieve?” as a team. I think the business will grow as a result of the utilization of our products created in that way. I would thereby like to keep being particular about an “effective” product.
In 2020, there will be an educational reformation in Japan. No one, including those working at the educational site cannot estimate what will happen. However, I would like to keep challenging issues tackling one by one with cross-departmental members in this uncertain situation.
I have not thought about what I would like my career to be because it has been only 2 years since I became a Product Manager. However, there is one thing I am sure; I would always like to be devoted to something.
* The business (including business name and business description), people and titles introduced in the article are those at the time of the interview. It may be different at this time.