Published in Notion HQ

Introducing Madhu Muthukumar & Bertie Thomson, our new Chief Product Officer and Chief Communications and Creative Officer

Ivan Zhao
Co-founder & CEO
7 min read

It’s often said that you're on average as good as the people around you. At Notion, this is much more than a saying. We’re on a difficult mission to make toolmaking ubiquitous. Which is why I’m so excited to introduce two new leaders who will be uniquely helpful in making this mission come true: Madhu Muthukumar, our new Chief Product Officer, and Roberta (Bertie) Thomson, our new Chief Communications and Creative Officer.

Madhu comes from Robinhood, where he scaled the product organization 10x, helping the company go public in mid-2021. He’ll focus on the next evolution of our product, making it possible for every team and person to build tools that fit their exact needs. And Bertie joins us from Meta, where she spent 7 years building out multiple communication functions. She’ll lead our comms and creative teams to keep building Notion into a ubiquitous, enduring brand. Together, they’ll weave our product and storytelling, growing both efforts and doubling down on the things people love about Notion today.

To usher Bertie and Madhu in, I asked them to speak to some of the most important topics that they’ll be tackling and where they see Notion headed in the future.

What made you decide to join Notion? What do you find inspiring about the company?

Bertie: I studied Classics at university and have always been fascinated by ancient civilizations and prehistory, where toolmaking was one of humankind’s first and most enduring obsessions. So the idea of making tools available to everyone, and telling that story, is really appealing. I’ve also used so many workplace tools over my career that caused more pain than productivity, so I’m deeply grateful to be building the tools that the next generation will actually want to use, and in ways we can’t even dream of yet. What about you, Madhu?

Madhu: I’ve always been inspired by Notion’s simplicity and elegance. It’s a tool that I’ve been using daily for the past few years because it’s such a pleasure to work in. It’s clear to me that Notion cares about maintaining a high level of craft for the people using the product. And I think Notion users recognize that too — the passion I see in the community excites me so much.

Was there a lightbulb moment in your journey with Notion?

Madhu: As the pandemic settled in, I kept wondering why I had less time — even though I wasn’t commuting and, theoretically, it was easier to spend time with my kids. I started exploring a bunch of productivity and collaboration tools, both at work and at home. I showed Notion to my wife, and we started using it for our recipe book. That’s how it began. Then we started trip planning in it, and sharing recommendations for friends. We realized that by putting a little investment into organizing our personal projects and info, we got so much time back.

I can only imagine the new level of productivity and alignment created for whole companies using this tool. I’ve seen how that’s the case now for so many of our customers. And that’s the special part about Notion — the fact that you can use it for both a simple to-do list and to run a 60-person product team if you want. You can build any tool of any size.

Bertie: For me, it was the painful experience over many years of trying to manage projects and collaborate with other people, and how I wasted so much time going from one tool to another. Then the realization, finally, that a tool like Notion allows you to do everything in one place, which is huge.

Is there anything you’ve learned from your time at Meta and Robinhood that you're excited to bring to Notion?

Bertie: The work I'm proudest of over the past 15 years is helping companies build their character and reputation through culture and values — then communicating it in a way that's transparent, truthful, and meaningful. The best companies build a brand that stands the test of time. So I’m excited to come and do that here and help Notion become a once-in-a-generation company.

Madhu: At Robinhood, I saw firsthand how work is changing for everyone and the new ways in which we need to collaborate. We transitioned from being entirely in-office to remote, and grew tremendously despite that. Applying some of that knowledge and empathy to build a tool that helps with in-person and remote collaboration is going to be so fun.

Are you nervous about anything?

Bertie: I’m more excited than nervous! I’ve worked at many different sizes of companies, and they each have their pros and cons. At a really big company, you often have more resources available. You can try out different jobs. But at Notion’s size right now, there’s so much opportunity to build. We can all step outside of our lanes and contribute in cross-disciplinary ways. It’s even more exciting because we get to do this with a set of incredibly smart and humble leaders.

Madhu: I feel the same way. The only thing that makes me nervous is maintaining the incredible trajectory that the team has accomplished so far. But other than that, the mission and values alignment is really high. Everyone here is low ego, super smart, and wants to do anything they can to help our customers.

What are your top priorities going to be as our new Chief Product Officer and Chief Communications and Creative Officer? What are you excited to build here at Notion?

Bertie: My priority is to build on the incredible work that everyone here has done so far to create Notion’s brand and reputation. Put simply, I’m here to make sure that the entire world knows about Notion’s product and vision.

Internally, it’s also a crucial part of my job to make sure everyone on the team is aligned about our mission, vision, and goals so they can do their best work. All of those pieces are necessary to ensure we can accomplish what we’ve set out to do.

Madhu: Priority number one is to keep the momentum, and preserve the core spirit that fuels this team. My second priority is to live up to the expectations that our customers have. People think Notion is much bigger than it is. We have to keep listening to our customers first. For teams, we need to make sure the product is secure and can scale with you. For individual users, let’s make this thing delightful and your favorite tool, period.

Building the product alongside the story is really important for Notion. How do you both think about doing that together? How do these two things connect?

Madhu: People choose what tools they use based on what makes them feel the best. And that feeling comes from trust — in the product and the humans who are behind it. I’m excited to work with you, Bertie, on showing people that they should be using Notion not just because the product is great, but because they believe in and know what we stand for. We’re in the early innings of our story and what we’re going to build.

Bertie: That's exactly right. You mentioned the word “human” very early on in your answer. I've been doing product communications for years, and you realize that you're not communicating about the product — you're communicating stories about people, and how products can meaningfully improve people’s lives. So I'm super excited as well to get to work together and tell some awesome stories.

Can you speak more about the work it takes to build that long-term story, Bertie? How do you approach storytelling for a generational company, and what excites you about the Notion story?

Bertie: Good communication is about transparency and trust. And trust is something you can't just speak into existence. You gain trust from behaving in a way that's consistent over a long period of time. At the core of Notion’s story is the community. It’s not about us. So I want to harness that passion, support the community, and strengthen that trust even more — by telling more stories around the amazing creators and economy springing up around the product, and the meaningful ways in which people are using Notion.

Thanks for sharing, Madhu and Bertie! We’re so glad to have you join this journey with us. And keep an eye out, reader — lots more to come this year.

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