How do people become Execs or VPs?

UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet?Mod Posts: 4,095 Mod
I want the big bucks.

No seriously, what are some logical steps that one can take to better position ourselves on a path that may lead to becoming a VP or an executive?

Merry Christmas!
Goal: MBA, Jan 2021

Comments

  • EANxEANx Member Posts: 1,078 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Broadly speaking

    1) Become good, but not an expert, in an IT discipline
    2) Learn project management from an IT perspective
    3) Learn the basics of finance, especially return on investment
  • OctalDumpOctalDump Member Posts: 1,722
    Work as IT Manager in a small organisation, work for progressively larger organisations until they start calling the role CIO or CTO or similar. Similar path, join a small organisation which is growing and just stick around long enough.

    The project manager route is also a possibility. Or Service manager. Or certain Information Security paths which are more focussed on governance and management.

    What you really want is to get onto company boards, though. They can pay quite well for the amount of actual work you do.
    2017 Goals - Something Cisco, Something Linux, Agile PM
  • PC509PC509 CISSP, CEH, CCNA: Security/CyberOps, Sec+, CHFI, A+, Proj+, Server+, MCITP Win7, Vista, MCP Server 2 Oregon, USMember Posts: 788 ■■■■■■□□□□
    I'm looking at a kind of similar thing. I never wanted to get into management. Ever. Until I worked at my current job. My boss is exactly the position I am wanting to move to. His boss is too far and what I really wanted to stay away from.

    Manager of IT Operations is where I want to be. A good place where there is still lots of hands on (my boss will do our jobs if it gets real busy, and he's good at it). His boss is the numbers guy but much less technical.

    Project management, the ITIL cert you have will help out. Just learn the management stuff and wait for an opening at your job or look for smaller management openings that may lead to something bigger. Get started in management and it's much easier to climb up from there. It's hard to go from the technical stuff direct to the higher levels of management.
  • hurricane1091hurricane1091 Member Posts: 918 ■■■■□□□□□□
    My boss is a technical manager. Probably makes 150k+ base. Would want to be him.
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,095 Mod
    so in a nutshell, I need to get that first 'manager' position right?

    I always feared that management isn't really a stable career, you're always replaceable and finding another manager position is quite challenging. I guess I have to take that first step and let go of my fears...
    Goal: MBA, Jan 2021
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,095 Mod
    OctalDump wrote: »
    ....

    What you really want is to get onto company boards, though. They can pay quite well for the amount of actual work you do.

    and how do you do that?
    Goal: MBA, Jan 2021
  • OctalDumpOctalDump Member Posts: 1,722
    UnixGuy wrote: »
    and how do you do that?

    Convince the right people that you are good enough ;)

    I've only looked at it really briefly, and it seems like they like people with executive experience. There are unpaid board positions, like for non-profits, where you could more easily get consideration. And I guess from there, take on more serious roles.
    2017 Goals - Something Cisco, Something Linux, Agile PM
  • hurricane1091hurricane1091 Member Posts: 918 ■■■■□□□□□□
    My boss is the Network Engineer Manager. He has a financial degree and at this point 23 years of experience (but he started this position 7 years ago). He has been growing his overall knowledge in preparation of becoming a CTO somewhere. He volunteered to manage another department which is basically the NOC + backup people. So, he's good at his job and landed a technical managerial role, is good with finances and making deals, volunteered to run another department, and is trying to gain some knowledge of all aspects of IT. I'll let ya know if it works out - I am sure it will.
  • tbhoustontbhouston Member Posts: 32 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Sign up for MBA classes online..
  • tmtextmtex Member Posts: 326
    PC509 wrote: »
    Manager of IT Operations is where I want to be. A good place where there is still lots of hands on (my boss will do our jobs if it gets real busy, and he's good at it). His boss is the numbers guy but much less technical.

    yes that's exactly where I want to be. I was almost there and the company was bought out. I cry every day
  • thomas_thomas_ CompTIA N+/S+/L+; CCNA R&S; CCNP R&S Member Posts: 933 ■■■■■■□□□□
    I think board members usually own a large stake in the company. Start a company, exchange your services for a stake in a new company, etc. I've heard there is a financial certification that is the equivalent of a CCIE in the financial world. Supposedly if you pass it that you are a pretty attractive candidate to companies. I think the exam administration fee is several thousands of dollars.
  • UnixGuyUnixGuy Are we having fun yet? Mod Posts: 4,095 Mod
    I believe in the power of education and certification but to be completely honest, I've yet to see this come into play when you're not aiming for a 'technical expert' sort of career (network engineer , senior developer, etc etc).

    I'm not trying to start yet another debate of degrees vs mba vs certs. All I'm saying, my observation have been that people who are VPs/Exec didn't become one using credentials...although some CIOs I know do have MBA and have more management/finance sort of background/experience rather than technical.

    I don't know the answer to my question, and that's why I'm asking here. I'm thinking out loud too. I will share two example of two people I personally know who became CIO

    1) A guy with an undergrad (IT) who worked as a Microsoft servers support engineer (2-5 yrs)...then got a position as a 'security manager' (7 yrs) in a research institute. He then got recruited as a CIO for another research institute. His technical experience is beginner to intermediate at best. He knows how to configure Windows servers but that's it. Mediocre communication skills. MCSE. Luck?...

    2) Another guy with a management undergrad degree...worked in the same uni he graduated from for 8 yrs, moved from admin work to managing IT (not sure how it happened to be honest...) then got a job as an IT manager in another uni...joined boards of directors (Don't know how)...then became a CIO in another Uni. (no idea how he did it.). Superior communication skills for sure.


    So....clearly moving to an IT management is a more strategic move than getting more technical certs IF the goal is moving to upper management/Exec sort of roles. I thought moving towards Pre-sales would be a good move too but I think Security management could be a shorter route.


    Any ideas? :)
    Goal: MBA, Jan 2021
  • Dakinggamer87Dakinggamer87 Gaming Tech Expert Silicon Valley, CAMember Posts: 4,016 ■■■■■■■■□□
    My boss is a technical manager. Probably makes 150k+ base. Would want to be him.

    Definitely where I'm looking. :)
    *Associate's of Applied Sciences degree in Information Technology-Network Systems Administration
    *Bachelor's of Science: Information Technology - Security, Master's of Science: Information Technology - Management
    Matthew 6:33 - "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

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  • TheFORCETheFORCE Senior Member Member Posts: 2,297 ■■■■■■■■□□
    UnixGuy wrote: »
    I believe in the power of education and certification but to be completely honest, I've yet to see this come into play when you're not aiming for a 'technical expert' sort of career (network engineer , senior developer, etc etc).

    I'm not trying to start yet another debate of degrees vs mba vs certs. All I'm saying, my observation have been that people who are VPs/Exec didn't become one using credentials...although some CIOs I know do have MBA and have more management/finance sort of background/experience rather than technical.

    I don't know the answer to my question, and that's why I'm asking here. I'm thinking out loud too. I will share two example of two people I personally know who became CIO

    1) A guy with an undergrad (IT) who worked as a Microsoft servers support engineer (2-5 yrs)...then got a position as a 'security manager' (7 yrs) in a research institute. He then got recruited as a CIO for another research institute. His technical experience is beginner to intermediate at best. He knows how to configure Windows servers but that's it. Mediocre communication skills. MCSE. Luck?...

    2) Another guy with a management undergrad degree...worked in the same uni he graduated from for 8 yrs, moved from admin work to managing IT (not sure how it happened to be honest...) then got a job as an IT manager in another uni...joined boards of directors (Don't know how)...then became a CIO in another Uni. (no idea how he did it.). Superior communication skills for sure.


    So....clearly moving to an IT management is a more strategic move than getting more technical certs IF the goal is moving to upper management/Exec sort of roles. I thought moving towards Pre-sales would be a good move too but I think Security management could be a shorter route.


    Any ideas? :)

    Start volunteering and leading projects, make connections at the work place and I'm not talking about only in the IT department. I am talking about HR, finance, compliance, audit etc etc. So that you can be invited in board meetings or at least to get invited to present projects, hone your communication skills and apply to jobs that have the title you want. It wont happen easy that is for sure.
    There are a lot of factors, timing and luck are important too. My previous manager became the CSIO because the then current CISO left the company for example. On the other hand i became a VP only 5 months ago because my company took a chance on me and thought i'd do a good job and every day i am trying to not let them down, it's a hard work for sure.
    Another way to get those titles is to become lead or senior level employee and to take some supervisory level responsibilities to lead 2-3 employees.
  • jeremywatts2005jeremywatts2005 CySA,S+,A+,N+Cloud+,MSDFS,MSMISSM Member Posts: 341 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Job hop to move into higher positions. Start low and work your way up on positions. I am a senior infosec manager now and I am looking internally right now after a yr to move to the next role to continue to boost my career. Goal is a CTO, CSO or CIO just need to get the opportunity.
  • DatabaseHeadDatabaseHead CSM, ITIL x3, Teradata Assc, MS SQL Server, Project +, Server +, A+, N+, MS Project, CAPM, RMP Member Posts: 2,495 ■■■■■■■■■□
    OP - I would consider seeking an executive coach to help you make that jump assuming you are fairly close, if not save your money....

    A couple of side items that I've seen in regards to this topic.

    One way I have seen executives brought on is through early recruitment from top tier universities. These are generally your highest more sought after executives. MBA from Harvard types, fortune 500's sprinkle these types throughout the company (usually in revenue driven departments, sales, supply chain, finance).

    The next set of candidates from my experience is the salty dog veterans. High aptitude knowledge experts who continue through the system. Manager > GM > VP etc.... They usually cap eventually, don't we all?

    One other Jeremy mentioned is another way. I've seen talented people who couldn't get the opportunity so they take risky moves like joining start ups for an increased role, to end up parlaying that back into a large organization or at least mid sized and then continue ascending through the ranks.

    There are other exceptions but generally you have these two from my perspective.
  • marzillomarzillo Registered Users Posts: 4 ■□□□□□□□□□
    I think the first thing you need to ask yourself is why you want to be an Executive or VP. Is it the money, prestige, control, recognition, etc.? In addition, I think it's helpful to define what the differences, beyond the obvious, are between a VP, a Director, and a Manager.

    Typically, a VP is responsible for determining strategic direction of an organization or some part of it. They have to know the business and the market and understand what direction will ultimately lead to the success of the business. They are like the Generals in a war who understand what areas of land they must conquer in order to win the war. They understand that taking hill x, y, and z will result in a favorable outcome and have the best chance at winning the war while taking hill a, b, and c will accomplish nothing.

    The Director is responsible for the execution if that strategy. Their focus leans more towards the tactical aspect rather than strategic. It's their job to bring the right people in and determine the plan to solve the problems that will make the vision a reality. In the war time analogy they are the ones who figure out how to take the hill rather than deciding which hill to take. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of their teams and take action by making adjustments ensure their team has what is needed to be successful.

    The Manager is like the Director but on a smaller scale. They typically have one or at most a few teams where the director may have many. In essence, the manager is responsible for making things happen down in the trenches.

    The above can have lots of gray area and very often a VP in a small company is filling all three of these roles.

    Regarding the OP's original question. My best advice is to be a leader. Anyone can be a leader regardless of the position you are in and the amount of money you make. You want to be the one who is thought of when the most difficult challenges come up. You want to be the one who gets things done. More often than not, you must climb up the ladder of management before someone is going to trust you to be a VP. Once you get there your past experiences should have prepared you to succeed. If not, you will likely fail fast either by being fired or by making a decision that leads to the failure of the company.

    Steps to becoming a VP:

    a. Get an education with a focus on the subject matter you are looking to specialize in but also in business, finances, etc.
    b. Start from the bottom (or wherever you are at today) and work your way up.
    c. Strive to be at the top of the list in terms of value you bring to the organization.
    d. Be a teacher and always help others be successful even if you are not getting credit for it.
    e. Be a leader regardless of your position. Leadership cam come from anywhere.
    f. Be selective in the roles you take and promotions you accept. Make sure the fit goes both ways and that you are not taking more than you chew.
    g. Never complain but rather look for the positives. Always think about what it will take to be successful rather than why it will fail.
    h. Get a mentor and learn from them. At the same time, be a mentor to others.
    i. Learn the business inside and out.
    j. Do not be afraid of failure, take risks and learn from your mistakes.
    k. Have fun! If you do not enjoy what you do you will likely never be very good at it.
  • techfiendtechfiend Member Posts: 1,481 ■■■■□□□□□□
    If you are really serious about it and need an extra push to get there I'd suggest this after reading about others success stories:

    1. Gather a bunch of money, $200k+
    2. Spend a year in Paris studying an MBA at INSEAD (highest percentage of graduates are C-suites in the world)
    3. Experience management of prospective companies swoon over your MBA and get the position you want

    Alternative to 2 is study MBA at Harvard business. Bigger risk, lower reward but in a familiar land.
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  • OctalDumpOctalDump Member Posts: 1,722
    techfiend wrote: »
    Alternative to 2 is study MBA at Harvard business. Bigger risk, lower reward but in a familiar land.

    OP is from Australia, so US or France would both be big moves.

    However, I would say that in Australia MBAs are probably one of the degrees where it matters most where you get it from - the Australian university system tends to be flatter than the US system, and people don't care a lot (a little bit, but not a lot) about where your degree is from in general. It's probably a combination of the reputation of the program, plus the networking you do whilst studying (most people doing MBA are also working), plus some of the "Oh, I went there, too!".
    2017 Goals - Something Cisco, Something Linux, Agile PM
  • YFZbluYFZblu Member Posts: 1,462 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Work at a bank, where VP's are often as common as grains of sand on the beach. Seriously though, depending on the environment, "VP" is just a pay grade more than anything. It's even possible to be a purely technical VP with no managerial duties from a personnel standpoint; moreso akin to Technical Director.

    In terms of how to get there, my own path was via the relationship with my immediate manager. We trust each other and have the same goals. I've never been a manager - I'm in a purely technical role.

    Edit: I should also mention, I got in at the "ground level" of an Infosec department being created. My co-workers and I had the unique opportunity to stand up incident response and monitoring from nothing. So here's where we're at: timing, management buy-in, etc...all the things you'd probably expect to hear.
  • ImYourOnlyDJImYourOnlyDJ Member Posts: 180
    YFZblu wrote: »
    Work at a bank, where VP's are often as common as grains of sand on the beach. Seriously though, depending on the environment, "VP" is just a pay grade more than anything
    Haha this is so true its not even funny. I've worked in enviroments where about 1/4 of employees were VPs. We had an inside joke that once you reached your salary cap they just gave you a VP title to keep you happy. See below for Goldman Sachs.

    https://www.quora.com/How-come-Goldman-Sachs-has-12-000-VPs
  • apr911apr911 Member Posts: 380 ■■■■□□□□□□
    UnixGuy wrote: »
    All I'm saying, my observation have been that people who are VPs/Exec didn't become one using credentials...although some CIOs I know do have MBA and have more management/finance sort of background/experience rather than technical.

    I think you've hit the root of the issue.

    When you get to the VP/Exec level you aren't really trading on your credentials anymore; they're still somewhat vital to have but only in so far as they check the box that says "required." Most are trading on their relationships and their past successes and even failures.

    Another issue at play is the minimally qualified candidate and the divergence of a technical decision from a business decision.

    One of my favorite articles that covers some of these intricacies is "The Unspoken Truth About Managing Geeks." It was published on ComputerWorld and is going on 8 years old now but I still find it to be a good reference. For more reading on the difference between the "logical" and "business" decision, I'd recommend reading Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat by Archibald Putt (Pseudonym).

    Ultimately, there's some luck involved (being in the right place at the right time) but there's a lot more politics involved as well. I know several people (and I include myself in this category) that would likely make excellent managers, IT managers in particular, but they haven't made it in management yet for the same reason that they would make excellent managers: they dont play the office politics.

    YFZblu wrote: »
    Work at a bank, where VP's are often as common as grains of sand on the beach. Seriously though, depending on the environment, "VP" is just a pay grade more than anything. It's even possible to be a purely technical VP with no managerial duties from a personnel standpoint; moreso akin to Technical Director.

    Very true. Financial Institutions in particular tie title to pay before responsibilities whereas most places tie title to responsibilities before pay. In some ways I prefer the Financial Institutions way of doing things because it made it easier to pursue a comparable position. I was offered VP positions at several financial institutions as an individual contributor on a team in various locations with various responsibilities and each time the salary was within a comparable range. I wish I could say the same thing about the offers I received for the title "Senior Network Engineer" with salaries ranging from paltry to acceptable depending on the location and responsibilities.
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