Wolt’s Product team acts as the voice of our customers, making sure we build outstanding products, consistently. Our product leaders embody our product vision and bring our teams together to build world-class products for all our customer groups. We interviewed Kent, our Vice President in Product’s Merchant group to hear a bit more about working at Wolt.
Kent relocated to Helsinki from Tokyo with his family in August 2021. He initially started his Wolt journey as Product Director for Wolt Market and has since supported the growth and led various sides of our product organization. Currently, he's Vice President for Product in our Merchant Group, which strives to make Wolt an integral part of our merchant partners' daily business. This means building products that help them to be successful and providing them with Wolt’s self-service tools and automation that makes their lives easier.
Hello 👋 Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Wolt?
My background is in Product Tech, E-commerce operations, and IT. In my career, I’ve done everything from development to design, product, and leading teams, so I’ve worn quite a few hats in that sense! Just before Wolt, I held several roles in Amazon including leading Japan Retail Systems, Amazon Business Product Tech, and Global Product Imaging where I had over 350 team members across ten different countries. Before my time at Amazon, I was leading APAC IT for Dassault Systems in Tokyo, Japan. And way back in time when I started my career, I worked as a developer for a start-up web services company in Los Angeles.
Now, I’m working as a VP for our Product in the Merchant Group. We work on making a world-class experience for the Merchants we partner with through self-service tools, integrations, and automation, helping their businesses to grow and successfully thrive. In this role, my work is heavily focused on enabling cross-team collaboration. One team alone is not anymore able to meet the increasing demands, but to be able to deliver a world-class product, we need smooth internal collaboration. Currently, I’m working on finding ways on how to optimally align cross-team and group initiatives, without losing the autonomy within the teams. This contradiction between cross-functional collaboration and autonomy is a challenge, but once nailed, it lays the groundwork for the success in the upcoming years.
That sounds really interesting. So why did you decide to join Wolt? 🤗
Wolt represented a very refreshing approach to building things. The story of how Wolt started from the Nordics, successfully expanded into quite tricky markets, and built this platform service seemed very interesting. In my previous role I was in a company working at a huge scale, operating in big countries. Wolt seemed like an intriguing contrast of how to scale the product and expand locally, ground-up through smaller markets.
Also, the flat culture at Wolt was fascinating to me — here everyone has a voice. It’s very unique and so far I’ve been impressed to see how down-to-earth everyone is. Before joining I talked with people from the leadership team like our CEO Miki, CPO Vincent, and CTO Niilo and I really got a feeling like I can trust them, which was a really big thing for me.
You've been a part of leading Product in Wolt Market, Retail and B2B and Merchant teams at Wolt. How has this journey been for you?
Overall, these transitions and the journey reflects Wolt’s growth pretty well — with hyper-growth things change quickly and business needs and teams need to adapt to these changes quickly. The changing environment has given me the opportunity to explore various business areas and take on roles where I can best impact the business growth. The transition has every time felt very natural. For instance moving from Wolt Market to Retail made sense, as it was jumping from the ins and outs of how we run our Wolt Markets into leading the big picture of how we run our Retail side of the business as a whole.
All this time, the high-level mission has just made sense as we need to adjust to the changing environments. With every transition, the scope has increased for the team. What has been one of the most important things for me throughout these changes is that my team feels good and empowered with the increasing scope. In the end, increased scope can always be an opportunity.
What’s been the most interesting project so far? 👀
There have been so many fascinating projects in Retail. Many of our projects are interesting because of the complexity of managing retail across different marketplaces and industries. We are currently operating in 25 countries, and all of those countries have different ways of operating business.
Delivering pharmaceutical products is a good example. There are many different requirements and regulations that need to be considered in our product, to keep consumers safe. However, the focus is completely different in different countries.
Another example is sales receipts in online retail, and the multiple variations of handling them in different countries. Some countries have particular rules for recognizing sales receipts; in some countries they need to be printed in paper and in other countries they can be digital. Again, very different regulations across different marketplaces that we need to take into account also in product development to ensure we do everything by the book.
These examples illustrate the variety of challenges we need to tackle to be able to do business in different countries. With 25 different countries there are so many interesting challenges for our teams to solve! I think that operating in different markets and industries is ultimately an advantage to us: it helps us to further improve our software and make the magic happen.✨
What’s been your biggest learning at Wolt?
The power of making sure everyone is heard. It’s easy to say that at Wolt everyone has a voice, but ensuring this happens in practice can be challenging, especially back during the pandemic when most people worked remotely. I’ve made a conscious effort to make listening to and learning from each other a part of the weekly and daily rituals. I’ve really learnt that the best ideas can come from anywhere — it’s not about who speaks the most or loudest, but the ‘aha’ moments might be the ones from the last person talking.
So as a leader I’ve learnt to listen and facilitate many minds at the same time, always aiming to give everyone space to voice their thoughts.
You moved from Tokyo 🇯🇵 to Helsinki 🇫🇮 to join Wolt, how has that been?
I relocated with my wife and our little one and I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. There are lots of interesting things to explore — interesting small shops, great food places, and I keep learning about so many interesting things about the culture. I love the sense of outdoorsiness in Finland, there’s nature everywhere. It’s also very safe, you can walk anywhere any time really, this is a big thing especially as someone with a family. 💙
And yes, during the winter it got a bit cold.❄️ Being originally from Los Angeles I never thought I could live in a country where it gets to below zero degrees outside! But when you live in a cold country, you learn how to dress up much warmer — it’s all about layers!
What are you the most inspired by?
I’m inspired to see others grow. Most of the time we work with a blank canvas — with totally new problems that there aren’t answers to and we have to figure things out from scratch. It’s inspiring to see when our people face a new challenge, have no idea how to get started, put their heads together and work together to make things happen and overcome obstacles on the way. Seeing my team members realize their potential gives me a lot of energy and makes me happy in my role as a lead.
Wolt has been one of the highlights of my career. Within the growth of the company, I have been lucky to witness and experience amazing success stories. The energy and drive people have is infectious. 🚀
And to wrap things up… what’s the most random thing you’ve ordered with Wolt?
So many random things. When I arrived, I ordered myself a muffler and a hat that said Finland, as I was so excited to be here and became an instant Super Fan. Also things like Kalevala jewelry for my wife, pate, light bulbs, shovel for snow, so many random things — it’s really a lifestyle now!