March 8

Head of Product Career Path & How To Become One

The head of product is a significant career step for product managers. They work cross-functionally across teams and take on more responsibility for the product strategy and team. Becoming a head of product takes a significant amount of work though. By focusing on your career path, product managers may find it easier to transition to higher-ranking job roles.

What is a head of product?

The head of product is an executive-level position within an organization. It involves transitioning from managing a product to managing a group of product managers. While the role is still heavily involved with the entire product suite, the head of product is responsible for empowering product managers in their positions.

Let’s review the head of product management meaning.

Head of product definition

A head of product is in charge of the overall product strategy, managing the product development team, and coordinating with multiple stakeholders and cross-functional teams to ensure a product’s success. They are also responsible for ensuring that the product suite is aligned with the target customers’ desires and business goals.

Head of product career path and 4 tips on how to become one?

A head of product will have several years of experience working in a product management team. Most people who obtain this position will have worked as a product manager and have experience managing teams.

Here are 4 tips on crafting an impressive resume that will impress startups and tech companies.

Gain an education

Most employers are looking for a head of product with at least a bachelor’s degree. A company might have a preference for a degree in business, information technology, or computer science. But it will be more important to demonstrate that a candidate has the necessary skills to succeed in product management.

It’s not necessary to have an advanced degree but having an MBA or other graduate degree may make a product person a more competitive candidate.

Develop and launch successful products

Many employers are looking for at least 5-7 years of experience in product management. They will also want to know that a candidate has successfully participated in developing and launching great products. So it’s important for prospective head of product employees to build a strong portfolio with multiple examples of products.

A product manager will also want to spend this time learning and working in a variety of product lifecycle stages, product marketing, product roadmap, and project management. These are strong skills to learn that will help in the role of a head of product.

Gain management experience

Besides product management experience, employers also want candidates to have at least 3-5 years of experience managing a team. A head of product needs interpersonal skills to ensure that a product organization can work functionally. A head of product can also be responsible for recruiting, interviewing, and hiring product managers. So it’s important to know what to look for in a candidate as it can make or break a product management team.

Choose a specialization

Employers want assurances that a candidate knows and understands their industry. Some examples include finances, digital health, and real estate. If a candidate has past experience in the same industry, employers are likely to believe that the candidate understands the target market, major competitors, business models and revenue sources, and the latest trends. It’s not impossible to break into a new industry when working as a product manager, but it can help make it easier to transition into higher-ranking positions.

What does the head of product do?

What does a head of product do during their day-to-day responsibilities? They look out for their team and ensure that they are on track to meet their goals. This could involve collaborating with team members, removing roadblocks, or participating in meetings with stakeholders.

Head of product job description

The head of product management job description will look similar to this:

The head of product will manage the product vision, strategy, execution of the company’s product suite. They will also be responsible for roadmap development. Excellent communication skills are vital since you will be working with multiple stakeholders across the organization, including product owners, engineers, and product designers.

An ideal candidate will seamlessly manage multiple tasks such as drawing actionable insights from quantitative and qualitative data, day-to-day operations, and communicating with multidisciplinary teams. Candidates are required to have management experience and a strong product portfolio.

3 head of product responsibilities

There are multiple responsibilities that are mentioned in a head of product management job description. Let’s review the 3 most common responsibilities that a head of product can expect in their role, regardless of company size.

Strategy

A head of product is responsible for high-level product strategy and managing the entire product suite. Ultimately, a head of product will rise in a leadership role and support their product team in their decision-making skills. They may help define and align the product vision, strategy, and roadmap. Some other responsibilities could include taking the initiative on product research, establishing KPIs and metrics, and finding strategic partnerships.

Team Development

A head of product should prioritize managing their product team. It’s not enough to just hire talented product managers. They also need motivation, optimism, and empowerment from their product leader. A head of product is responsible for mentoring, developing skills, and guiding career development in the product team. A head of product may also be in charge of hiring product managers and budgeting for the team.

Stakeholder Communication

Excellent communications skills can’t be overemphasized for heads of product. This position will frequently find itself in a position where they need to actively listen, communicate priorities, and resolve conflicts. A head of product will need to develop stronger partnerships with engineering, sales, operations, and marketing teams to ensure success. They may also need to communicate with external stakeholders about the progress of product development.

5 most important head of product skills

The head of product will need multiple skills to succeed in their role. Some of the most important skills include:

Leadership

As product people move into a more senior-level position, they will spend more time managing product managers than directly managing a product. Leadership skills will be critical to succeeding as a head of product. This role will need to guide product managers as they make new product decisions and conduct product planning.

Technical

Understanding technical tools and engineering is necessary to ensure that a head of product knows what kind of problems or solutions a certain team can solve. Data analysis is also an important skill set since many employers want testing, data, and user research to drive decision-making.

Communication

A head of product will talk with cross-functional teams to ensure they understand the product vision, expectations for their role, and are meeting goals. This role involves effective communication and aligning the entire company on the product strategy. 

Strategic thinking

Thinking strategically is another important skill for a head of product. Prioritizing and quick thinking will help move the roadmap forward. Flexibility is needed for this role since problems can arise at any moment. By strategically thinking, a head of product can remove roadblocks and ensure an efficient workflow.

Business

As a head of product, business knowledge is important. This will help you communicate to different stakeholders by understanding their priorities. A head of product should have a strong grasp on marketing, business revenue, and cash flow.

Key takeaways 

Becoming a head of product may be the first step for a product manager to move into an executive role. But first, they will need to develop a strong product portfolio, build a robust skillset, and learn how to effectively manage a team. 

It’s important for a product manager to evaluate their current situation and assess where they may need to improve to move forward in product management. This could involve taking on larger projects in your current role or networking with industry experts to learn about the latest trends. Proactively building your resume and relationships will help you with your career path.

FAQs

Is the head of product a VP?

Head of product is often interchangeable with other product leaders like the VP of product or chief product officer (CPO). Regardless of the title, head of product is an executive-level within an organization. The role focuses strongly on maintaining the product management structure and creating a high-level strategy.

Is the head of product higher than the director?

In larger companies, the head of product may be beneath the director of product management or even the VP of product. Smaller companies may not have those roles which would make the head of product the top product management role. Generally speaking, if there is a product director within a company, the head of product isn’t in a higher position than them.

Who reports to the head of product?

Product managers report to the head of product. This can include senior product managers and even junior products managers. Often the head of product is responsible for hiring, training, and maintaining a relationship with product managers. This helps ensure strong team development and promotes a positive work environment.

Who does the head of product report to?

The answer will depend on the company structure of product leadership. Large companies may have the head of product report to the product director or VP of product. However, in smaller companies, the head of product may be the most senior role in the product management division. In this case, the head of product may report directly to the CEO. 

How much does a head of product make?

The average salary for a U.S.-based head of product is $144,790. The salary can range from $79,000 to $192,000. This is only the base salary, and it doesn’t include benefits and bonuses. How much a head of product will make depends on their education, experience, skillset, and company size.

saranguyen

About the author

Sara J. Nguyen is a freelance content writer for B2B SaaS, telehealth, and marketing industries.


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