This number cruncher’s got a silky jump shot. Before Jeremy Lin lit up New York, there was Kevin Watanabe, a half-Chinese, half-Japanese sensation running the basketball courts of San Jose. Standing 6-foot-1 — “Tall for an Asian,” he says — the shooting guard played competitive hoops around the Bay Area growing up, and he retains his stroke to this day. At a previous job, he had the opportunity to face NBA players Draymond Green and Kent Bazemore in the shooting contest of H-O-R-S-E. Kevin won.
But the talents Kevin brings to OZY go far beyond the court. He still balls — along with hiking, running and golfing — but these days, Kevin also spends his free time cruising YouTube for videos on how to braid his daughter’s hair. He was first-chair clarinet in the San Jose Youth Symphony. He’s handy with a skillet, and his DVR is stocked with Gordon Ramsay’s cooking shows. Don’t be surprised if you see him one day on MasterChef or Hell’s Kitchen, after he gets up the nerve to try out.
Kevin’s winding road to OZY Tribe membership began in a home stocked with cool notepads and pens, emblazoned with drug ads. Kevin’s parents were pharmacists, yet his career role models were his FBI agent cousins. Alas, plans for life as a G-man were foiled by Kevin’s color blindness. (The most popular questions he gets: Do you see only in black and white? How do you know what color a stoplight is? Answers: No, and the placement of colors does not change on stoplights. Duh.)
Color mix-ups are no impediment to crushing spreadsheets, so Kevin went on to a career in numbers. Financial advising didn’t stick, as he hated cold-calling during a summer internship. He ended up in accounting and finance, including eight years at Apple — which he measures as pre-iPhone through Apple Watch. He’s always worked with hardware types, but now Kevin finds himself in Mountain View with a gang of journalists and other creatives. “What I like most about my job is building things from the ground up,” Kevin says. “I like to tell the story based on the numbers, rather than just being a ‘bean counter’ like other typical accounting jobs.” Good thing, because telling stories is what we do.