January 28

VP of Product Management Career Path & How To Become One

The VP of Product is an executive-level position that comes with a lot of responsibility. But it is also an exciting opportunity to become heavily involved in creating and launching new products that could have a significant impact. The role is often seen as the intersection with technology, product strategy, and collaboration.

What is a VP of Product?

To determine what is VP of Product Management is, an overview of product management is necessary. The ultimate goal for product managers is to launch a product that simultaneously meets business objectives while also solving problems for customers. Reaching this goal means communicating with teams across the company, and it can be easy for the vision to get tangled or messages lost.

That’s when the VP of Product comes in. They keep cross-functional teams aligned with the product vision and ensure tasks are delivered on time. They ensure that the strategic and technical vision is executed efficiently while also keeping stakeholders informed about the product development progress.

VP of Product description

The VP of Product is usually the most senior or second most senior product role within an organization. They work with cross-functional teams to ensure efficient communication and collaboration to deliver a product roadmap.

VP of Product career path and 5 tips on how to become one

The VP of Product career path is a long road since this is a top-level role within an organization. People in these positions are highly experienced and have a proven track record of successfully creating and implementing product roadmaps.

If this is a career path you want to follow, then here are 5 tips on how to accomplish it.

Get an education

Some companies may prefer applicants that have a bachelor’s degree in a technical field such as computer science. However, you may still succeed with an undergraduate degree in business administration, communication, or marketing. Many companies are also seeking candidates with an MBA. While it may not be necessary to get an MBA to get a VP of Product role, it does seem that companies highly desire this level of education.

Build your skillset

In pursuit of this career path, you may want to begin researching what type of skills employers are looking for in a product manager. If you find yourself lacking in key skills or want to become a more competitive candidate, then you’ll want to consider building your skillset. This is also a good time to network with your peers and industry leaders. Networking will help you stay in touch with a constantly growing industry and learn what type of skills are needed for future product development.

Work as a product manager

The VP of Product usually begins their career as a junior product manager and then works their way up to higher-level roles within product management. Applying for these positions will help you gain the experience you need to become a senior product manager. This isn’t the only way to begin your career though. Oftentimes, more technical roles like engineering can also be a good way to start your career.

Develop successful products

There is one common thread for all VP of Product job qualifications: Companies want to know that you have successfully managed product development in the past. It’s important to keep track of the metrics surrounding your projects and build a product portfolio. This will be crucial in showing your qualifications to become a VP of Product.

Never stop learning

Even C-level executives continue to learn and grow throughout their careers. Especially in fields like SaaS or software development where technology is continuously changing and new best practices are implemented. Make it a habit to learn frequently by joining new classes or reading articles within your industry.

What does a VP of Product do?

The VP of Product role is responsible for leading the product team and other cross-functional teams to achieve a product roadmap. This often involves creating the product vision, overseeing the product development, and working with other teams to launch and revise the product.

VP of Product job description

The VP of Product job description provides a brief overview of the role and responsibilities. It usually states something similar to the following:

The Vice President (VP) of Product is responsible for our product suite from ideation to launch. You will drive product strategy, delight customers with our products, and drive business impact. You will collaborate with design, engineering, executives, and other internal teams to ensure customers will use our products.

4 VP of Product responsibilities

Responsibilities will vary between different VP of Product roles. However, there are some recurring themes for this job title. The 4 main VP of Product responsibilities include:

Own overall product strategy

The VP of Product owns the overall product strategy including product vision and product planning. They often work in collaboration with other members of the executive team to develop the product strategy.

The VP of Product needs to be intimately involved with the product strategy since they are often in charge of getting internal and external stakeholders to align with this vision. They should be aware of why and how this product strategy will ultimately meet the business objectives and mission.

Build and manage the product roadmap

One of the main responsibilities for the VP of Product is building and launching products from ideation through launch and revision. They are responsible for working closely with cross-functional teams to ensure prompt and high-quality delivery of the roadmap. This also includes recognizing when it’s necessary to pivot and steer the team towards a new direction.

Scale and develop product team

The VP of Product is often responsible for ensuring that their company’s team is filled with amazing product leaders. They may be responsible for the overall structure of the product team and hiring new team members.

The VP of Product is also responsible for creating a collaborative team culture. They often lead by example with their behaviors and subsequently inspire their team members. Creating a positive environment is crucial to scaling and developing a dynamic team.

Manage and collaborate with cross-functional teams

The entire team needs to be successful and managing cross-team dynamics is one way to ensure meeting business goals. This often involves partnering with leads to ensure a team of PMs, designers, and engineers are operating effectively. The VP of Product may also create processes that will promote collaboration across teams.

5 most important VP of Product Management skills

Building products that meet business KPIs and resolve a customer’s need takes a lot of effort and work. VP of Product Management often needs a robust skill set to meet their job responsibilities. Here are 5 of the most important skills.

Management skills

Management experience is non-negotiable for a VP of Product Management. Companies often want applicants to have at least 5-10 years of experience as a product leader. They also demand that applicants have experience managing other product managers since this is a core job responsibility.

They will need to be comfortable with managing multiple product management teams and working cross-functionally with stakeholders. This can include working with business partners and product marketing to create a great product.

The VP of Product Management is also in charge of developing a team culture that encourages innovation and creativity. They should care about each team member in the product organization and lead by example.

Technical skills

A VP of Product Management needs to feel comfortable working with engineering leadership and understand the technical complexities of your product areas. This may mean that you’ll have to learn and become familiar with technologies like workflow, messaging, APIs, data warehouses, and business intelligence.

Data analytics

The ability to analyze data and derive meaningful insights from it is a critical technical skill. Data can help you construct a narrative that will help drive the decision-making process.

The VP of Product Development may want to investigate product analytics to understand how customers are using the features and how they are engaging with them.

This may mean that a VP of Product will need a good grasp of experiment design, statistical analysis, and multivariate testing. They may also need to have skills to use data to set OKRs, create dashboards to monitor products, review analyses from across the company and develop basic models.

Communication

A vice president needs strong communication skills, both written and verbal. Since the VP of Product functions as the main point of contact for cross-functional teams, it’s important to convey ideas clearly. This may mean learning how to work with different types of personalities and explaining complex concepts in a way that anyone can understand.

The VP of Product will also communicate the product strategy with all stakeholders, including c-level executives and board members. Creating presentations, flowcharts, wireframes, and decks may become a critical part of your job to effectively communicate the product roadmap to stakeholders.

On top of that, the VP of Product will also need to regularly engage with customers and prospects to understand their needs and problems. Then they can leverage the expertise of customers and internal teams to identify product opportunities and translate those to tactical requirements.

Problem solver

The VP of Product needs to have excellent problem-solving skills. There will always be some type of issue that needs to be addressed and having key agile skills will help you adapt to shifting initiatives. Everything from determining pricing to new product ideas will fall into the VP of Products purview. VP of Products should keep a customer-centric mindset during the product development process.

Key takeaways

It takes at least 5-10 years of experience to gain enough expertise to qualify for a VP of Product role. You need to demonstrate strong management skills as well as a successful track record for developing and launching products. If this is a role that you want to pursue, be mindful of the skills you need to succeed and ensure that you have the capability to grow and develop a product team.

FAQs

What does a VP of Product do in a startup?

A VP of Product in a startup will be in charge of creating, building, and launching a core product. The core product is the company’s primary product that all other services and future features will be based on. The VP of Product will also be responsible for collaborating with internal and external stakeholders to ensure the core product meets customer needs while matching the business mission.

Who reports to the VP of Product?

Many roles report to the VP of Product Development, including the director of product management, UX director, head of product analytics, and product managers. Depending on the company organization structure, the CTO and chief marketing officer (CMO) are usually viewed as peers to the VP of Product.

Who does the VP of Product report to?

The VP of Product reports directly to the CEO. In larger companies, the Chief Product Officer (CPO) is considered the highest-ranking product manager. In this case, the VP of Product reports to the CPO.

Why do you need a VP of Product?

The VP of Product acts as a cross-functional leader and ensures that multiple teams are working on the same vision. The VP of Product is the main communicator between teams and informs them of how their work affects the overall product vision and roadmap. Without a VP of Product, a CEO may find themselves overwhelmed by multiple tasks which could affect business performance.

How much does a VP of Product make?

The median salary for a VP of Product Management in the United States is $251,203. The bottom 10% earn less than $194,845 and the top 10% make more than $306,033. The salary can range based on your experience, education, and additional skills.

saranguyen

About the author

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


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