Why product managers can make great CEOs (2023)

In recent years, we have witnessed product management professionals rising to C-suite levels across the globe. A McKinsey report stated that product management is emerging as the new training ground for future tech CEOs.

It is no wonder that Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Google, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!, and Susan Wojcicki of YouTube were product managers before they progressed in their careers to become CEOs of global tech majors.

The product manager role has a perfect combination of hard and soft skills that prepare one to emerge as an industry leader.

A CEO from a product management background can see the bigger picture, has defined objectives, easily understands the problems, and empathises with people. Some even view product management as a stepping-stone to the C-suite. Let's examine how this transition happens.

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Many hats at a time

A product manager is a jack of all trades. They are involved throughout the product life cycle that enables them to understand various aspects of a business.

From business development to marketing to technological expertise, they don different hats during the product development stage. At every step of the way, product managers gain many skills - communication, interpersonal, leadership, problem-solving, sales, marketing, and more. All these make them the perfect fit for top jobs.

Data-driven decisions

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As guardians of products, product management professionals gather data from clients, analyse it, and effectively communicate them to respective teams and leaders.

Data is used to drive decisions about resource allocation, marketing strategy, troubleshooting, release timelines, and other processes. Today, most decisions in organisations are taken based on data, and top leaders are expected to have a data-driven outlook. Data skills will ease the journey of a product manager to a CXO post.

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An inspiring collaborator

Product managers translate the technical perspectives to business and vice versa. They represent the company in client meetings, represent the customer in the product development huddles, and communicate the requirements and progress to each stakeholder from time to time.

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Conducting customer interviews and user testing, performing market assessments, preparing roadmaps, coordinating with development teams, and providing feedback are the core competencies of a product manager.

Continuous collaboration and synergy are needed between diverse teams each step of the way. By motivating everyone in the project, product management professionals try to deliver the best outcome on time.

It is similar to the role of an executive leader, who influences and motivates their people for the company's growth.

Customer-centric approach

As stated above, product managers represent the end-user in the development process. Like CEOs, product managers focus on customer needs, revenue, and the development team.

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With data and feedback, they find a big picture of the end user's life and the potential significance of their product on customers' daily life.

The growing influence of design thinking principles in product development underlines the importance of the customer-centric approach and its role in business growth. With hands-on experience in this approach, a product manager can prosper in an executive leadership position.

In sum, product managers play a crucial role in product development and acquire the right skills that will help them flourish in their career and ascend to the CEO post. Though the experience and skills vary from industry to industry, the core competencies remain the same.

A dynamic talent in product management will have a quick career progression in any industry. The onus remains on professionals to showcase their agility and skills at the appropriate time and find the path to success.

(The author is CEO, UNext.)

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Why do product managers become CEOs? ›

It's common for Product Managers to transition to CEO in this way, because they've already been playing the role of leader. As the company grows, it's natural that the keeper of the product vision, becomes the keeper of the company vision.

Do product managers make good founders? ›

The short answer is (probably) yes, product managers are well equipped to transition to startup founders. The strong entrepreneurial spirit inherent in many product managers has a lot to do with it, and many product managers actually aspire to launch or lead a company of their own.

Do product managers become executives? ›

With hands-on experience in this approach, a product manager can prosper in an executive leadership position. In sum, product managers play a crucial role in product development and acquire the right skills that will help them flourish in their career and ascend to the CEO post.

Are product managers mini CEOs? ›

The product manager is also known as the mini-CEO and that's because, like the CEO, they need to be multidisciplinary and sit within the centre of all activity. They're like the glue that sticks products to customers and customers to products.

Why are product managers paid so high? ›

The market for these professionals is booming, and many organizations are willing to pay top dollar for them. That is one of the main reasons why product manager salaries in India are so high. The never-ending demand for a product manager is also one of the reasons the salaries are so high.

What position do most CEOs come from? ›

The C-suite roles that lead to CEO

Spencer Stuart found that over the past 20 years, 85 percent of S&P 500 CEOs come from four roles: CFO, COO, Divisional CEO and what the firm refers to as leapfrog leaders, or people promoted from a level of management below the C-suite.

What is the average age of a product manager? ›

The average age of an employed product manager is 39 years old.

Who gets paid more Product Owner or product manager? ›

One thing that can come into the equation when deciding who a company needs is salary. That can affect annual budgets and profit margins. A product owner makes on average $110K US per year and the product manager starts at $112K US. Learn more about product manager roles and salaries in this guide.

Is product manager a high level role? ›

Product managers are mid-level roles. While you don't necessarily have to have a direct product management background, you should have professional experience and demonstrable skills in communication, leadership, and strategy. Product managers are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and features of a product.

Who is higher than product manager? ›

However, in a large organization, a chief product officer is the most senior product expert responsible for the product teams, processes, and delivery of tasks. They manage multiple product managers and oversee product strategy, product architecture, and end-to-end product execution.

Whats the most a product manager can make? ›

Also on the list of top-paying companies for product managers are Block, Google, Workday, Walmart, and Amazon, with salaries ranging from $151,000 to $156,000.

Is Steve Jobs a product manager? ›

As Apple CEO, Steve Jobs involved himself as a de facto product manager by having a hand in the design, direction, vision, and messaging of its most important products, including the iPod.

Do product managers make millions? ›

Read below to learn the different salaries for product managers based on their level of experience. Entry-level product managers earn an average salary of $74,620 annually. Mid-level product managers can earn an average of $113,000 annually. Senior-level product managers see an average salary of $208,000 annually.

What personality fits product manager? ›

Product managers are enterprising and investigative

They also tend to be investigative, which means that they are quite inquisitive and curious people that often like to spend time alone with their thoughts. If you are one or both of these archetypes, you may be well suited to be a product manager.

Can a Product Manager become rich? ›

State of Product Management in 2022

According to Jobted, the average salary for a product manager is around 246% higher than the national average salary in India. Knowing that there aren't many highly-skilled professionals available in the market, companies do not mind paying high salaries to product managers.

What is the salary of Google Play Product Manager? ›

Google Product Manager salary in India ranges between ₹ 17.9 Lakhs to ₹ 100.0 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 50.0 Lakhs.

What is the salary of a VP of product management? ›

Vice President Product Management salary in India ranges between ₹ 25.5 Lakhs to ₹ 101.0 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 51.0 Lakhs.

Which job is best for becoming a CEO? ›

Unless you are a founder, getting to the top is a rarity without a relevant degree and Master's in Business Administration (MBA). Over half the Fortune 100 CEOs have a degree in engineering, accounting, or economics.

What is a CEOs top priority? ›

A study by IBM, meanwhile, found that CEOs of more successful companies are highly focused on finding new ways to grow, including new products or services, new business models, deeper customer relationships, pursuing innovation as a long-term strategy, geographic expansion, and deeper ecosystems.

What is the best first job to become CEO? ›

Business development is far and away the most common first job function. It's about twice as common as sales, the second-most common function, which is followed quickly by engineering. Business development jobs require a strong mix of sales, strategy, and communication skills—all crucial to the role of CEO.

Is product management prestigious? ›

Product Management is a very hot role right now, as it was listed as the #4 best job in America earlier this year. It's the perfect blend of technical knowhow, creativity, and leadership, making it perfect for those who want to build great products without necessarily having a CS degree or coding expertise.

Is it stressful to be a product manager? ›

Product management can be quite stressful due to the level of autonomy and responsibility given. Learning to balance the expectations of the role with the ambiguity that surrounds it is key to a successful and healthy career as a product manager.

Do product managers have a future? ›

Thus, for aspiring and existing product managers who are planning to climb further ahead in the domain, the future is as bright as the sun, if not brighter. All that they need is the right training and mentorship.

What major produces the most CEOs? ›

Economics, business administration, and engineering are the most popular subjects studied by top CEOs. 34.6% of top CEOs have a master's or doctorate degree. 22.3% of top CEOs have an MBA (Master of Business Administration)

Can a product manager become COO? ›

Product managers make great CEOs, GMs, and COOs because they're used to working across the entire company to move projects forward.” You'll make budgeting decisions not just across one department but across the entire organization.

Who is the boss of a product manager? ›

CPO / Chief Product Officer

A Chief Product Officer (CPO) is the most senior product person in an organisation. They usually manage more than one team of product managers and represent product in the C-suite or management team.

Do product managers make more than doctors? ›

The average salary for a Product Manager is $102,226 per year in United States, which is 32% lower than the average Doctor on Demand salary of $151,326 per year for this job.

Who earns more Product Manager or Scrum Master? ›

Higher Earning Power

According to a salary survey by the Scrum Alliance, a Scrum team member typically earns around $88,000 per year. A Scrum Master, on the other hand, earns an average annual base salary of around $95,000.

Do Product Manager earn more than engineers? ›

Depending on who you ask, product managers earn more than software engineers and vice versa. Keep in mind that experience, tenure, and industry all impact whether one role makes more money than another and vice versa.

What is the next position after Product Manager? ›

Senior product manager. Director of product. VP of product. Chief product officer (CPO)

How old are senior product managers? ›

The average age of an employed senior product manager is 39 years old.

What is the salary for a Product Manager career path? ›

Average Product Manager Salary:

The average product manager's salary is around $112,000/year. Although, some product management positions pay as low as $80,000/year. This is a significant increase in the salary of most associate product manager roles.

What level is product manager at Amazon? ›

A principal product manager at Amazon is a level 7.

It is sometimes referred to as a senior manager PM. Amazon's product managers typically range from L5 to L8. Product managers moving into director roles or VP product manager roles are considered levels 8 & 10.

Why product manager is not a CEO? ›

Unlike CEOs, product managers also don't have any authority over things that impact their products, such as marketing, sales, resources, and research. So the role of the PM is to make the best decisions within their realm, ideally with the full support of their team.

What position is below a product manager? ›

An associate product manager (APM) is an entry-level position, usually reporting to a product manager (PM) or group product manager. This is often a mentorship position secured at the start of a product manager's career.

How much does JP Morgan Chase pay VP Product Manager? ›

$344,613. The estimated total pay for a VP Product Manager at J.P. Morgan is $344,613 per year. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated base pay is $204,274 per year.

How much does a Product Manager 2 at Microsoft make? ›

The typical Microsoft Product Manager salary is ₹28,40,306 per year. Product Manager salaries at Microsoft can range from ₹3,06,278 - ₹61,10,940 per year.

How much does a Product Manager at JP Morgan Chase make? ›

Average JPMorgan Chase & Co Product Manager yearly pay in the United States is approximately $109,727, which meets the national average.

Are product managers happy? ›

Product managers are happy at work (for the most part)

And this happiness isn't limited to their current work of the moment or specific role. Looking into the future, 92% of product managers are happy and want to stick with the field in their next job as well.

Is product manager an IT role? ›

A complex, cross-functional role in IT. Product management is a complex role that requires a balance of soft and hard skills to manage requirements and to deliver quality products that align with the business' goals.

Are product managers entrepreneurs? ›

While there are undoubtedly many different perspectives on what makes a great product manager, those with an entrepreneurial mindset tend to be the most successful. In many ways, a great product manager essentially is an internal entrepreneur, relentlessly championing product ideas, and creating value from inspiration.

Is product management a tough career? ›

Product management (PM) is a challenging career. It's high stakes. It's demanding. It can make you want to tear your hair out.

What is the salary of Product Manager in Silicon Valley? ›

The average salary for Product Manager is US$159,426 per year in the San Jose, CA, United States.

How much does a Product Manager earn in NYC startup? ›

The average salary for a Product Manager in New York is $131,735. The average additional cash compensation for a Product Manager in New York is $20,599. The average total compensation for a Product Manager in New York is $152,334.

What is your strongest skill set as a product manager? ›

Soft Skills
  1. Critical Thinking And Analytical Skills. This is a must-have for any PM. ...
  2. Leadership And The Ability To Take Initiative. As with any management position, leadership skills are important for supporting and motivating your team. ...
  3. Flexibility. ...
  4. Problem-Solving. ...
  5. Time Management. ...
  6. Communication Skills.

What are the top 3 things that make a good product manager? ›

Aspiring PMs should consider three primary factors when evaluating a role: core competencies, emotional intelligence (EQ), and company fit. The best PMs I have worked with have mastered the core competencies, have a high EQ, and work for the right company for them.

What three words characterize a great product manager? ›

Characteristics of great product managers
  • Product taste. Product taste means having the insights and intuition to understand customer needs for a product in a given area. ...
  • Ability to prioritize. ...
  • Ability to execute. ...
  • Strategic sensibilities. ...
  • Top 10% communication skills. ...
  • Metrics and data-driven approach.

Do project managers become CEOs? ›

When you demonstrate success in managing enterprise-level projects and organizational resources from a holistic perspective, you should be a viable candidate to move up to a CEO-level position. However, over many years – even decades – I have noticed that CEOs hardly ever come from a project management position.

Why do so many people want to be product managers? ›

In short, a product manager's job is all about solving problems for people. If your life has led you to creative thinking, problem-solving, and curiosity, it's quite possible product management is the perfect career choice and you'd be a perfect fit for a role where you can practice, learn and grow a ton.

What are some reasons to become a CEO of a company? ›

Those who most want the job are motivated by a desire to shape strategy and exert influence beyond the organization. Among the 67% whose responses indicated strong interest in becoming CEO, only half saw it as their next career move.

Why do product managers quit? ›

Lack of opportunity—There aren't too many product managers content to do their existing job forever; they're looking for chances to advance, take on more responsibility, and expand their skill set.

Can project managers become millionaires? ›

Yes, you can become rich as a project manager.

The country in which a project manager is working can impact one's salary. An individual's skills, experience, and specific knowledge of the project's focus also influence salary.

Can project managers make 6 figures? ›

A $100,000 a year project manager salary is not a far-fetched dream. It is totally achievable given the right factors, opportunities and preparation. Of course, it would take years to get to that income level and lots of hard work to prove you are worthy of such compensation.

Do project managers make good executives? ›

Project managers are some of the best candidates to be CEOs, because to carry out their usual work they have to bring together all the disparate aspects of theory, reality, vision, process, finances, value, politics and human nature to create successful outcomes.

Is a product manager a prestigious job? ›

Yes, with $125,317 yearly median salary, product managers are among the top 10 best jobs of 2022 according to Glassdoor.

What is the hardest part of product management? ›

What's the hardest part of product management? Our research shows that the hardest parts of the job for many product managers are organizational comms, managing deadlines, team alignment, and balancing different responsibilities.

What makes you unique as a product manager? ›

The easy answer to this question — “What makes a great product manager?” — would be a list of skills. A long list that would include: subject matter expertise, outstanding communication skills, market knowledge, leadership ability, innovativeness, strong researching skills, the ability to think strategically, etc.

What qualities do you need to be a successful CEO? ›

Findings from a database of 17,000 C-suite assessments reveal that successful CEOs demonstrate four specific behaviors that prove critical to their performance: They're decisive, they engage for impact, they adapt proactively, and they deliver reliably. The chief executive role is a tough one to fill.

How can I become a powerful CEO? ›

Hence, a network of peers and colleagues is an asset you need to develop if you want to become a CEO.
  1. Acquire Leadership Skills. ...
  2. Develop Executive Presence. ...
  3. Expand Your Influence. ...
  4. Self-Reflect and Improve Character. ...
  5. Begin to Create Your Vision. ...
  6. Master People and Team Management Skills. ...
  7. Meet Other Leaders.
Sep 9, 2022

What is the most important thing for a CEO? ›

In short, the single most important role of a CEO is to make absolutely certain that the right CEO is running the company and then do what is necessary to encourage that CEO's effectiveness over the long haul. Strategy, vision, culture, shareholder value … all crucial and all within the scope of the CEO's role …


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