You’ve been a software engineer for years, and you feel it’s now time to take a step forward. But you’re wondering: What comes next? Where do I go from here?
What catches your attention is that other software engineers are going for an MBA. As a result, they’re getting promotions and enjoying fatter paychecks. But is this the road you want to take? How will earning an MBA increase your chances of climbing the software engineer career ladder?
If this is you, we understand. We know it can be difficult to decide on the next step in your career. That’s why we’ve put together this guide specifically for you. In it we cover:
The career ladder of a software engineer (from bottom to top)
How an MBA can help you climb that ladder
The different types of MBAs, and how to choose one to match your needs
When you finish reading this, you’ll know exactly where you want to go next in your career and whether or not an MBA will help you get there. Let’s dive in!
Understanding the Software Engineer Career Path
To know where you want to go on the software engineer career path, you first need to decide what your biggest priority is. Is it to gain a bigger salary? Or is it to keep doing what you love, but on a larger scale?
Think of it like this. The higher you move up on the career ladder, the less you’ll be getting your hands dirty doing the work of actual programming. Some are happy with a lifetime of writing code and fixing bugs. Others want to go into managing complex software systems, and others want to manage teams.
To make a good decision on where you want to go, it’s important to go into detail on the typical software engineer’s career path.
The Software Engineer Career Ladder
You start as a software engineer, but it’s not uncommon for you to move to the top with a C-suite job.
Here’s what the career ladder of a software engineer looks like. We’ll start with the first rung on the ladder, junior software engineer, and go all the way to the highest rung, CTO. In between, you’ll see the different steps in the ladder and how each one requires its own set of more complex skills and responsibilities.
Junior Software Engineer
Junior software engineers are mainly responsible for building quality software. This includes writing code, fixing small bugs, and working closely with senior developers on pair programming.
The junior software engineer role is an entry-level position. The skills required are what you already have: knowledge of programming languages, operating systems, and databases. As you gain experience, you’ll start handling larger projects and working more independently.
Senior Software Engineer
Senior software engineers still write code, but this time with an eye on the bigger picture of a project. They’re in charge of designing and developing software solutions, plus coaching other developers. This is an excellent position for those who love programming but don’t like the idea of leading a team.
The skills needed for this position are basic software architecture, advanced code design, and coaching.
Lead developers still write code while coordinating work and implementing decisions. Other programmers usually look to them for direction. This position is seen as a transition into a mid-level management role.
Technical architects rarely write code. Their main responsibilities lie in designing complex systems that other developers create. Going for the technical architect position is the biggest leap you can make as a software engineer without going into leadership and management roles.
Development Team Lead or Software Development Manager
Mid-level managers are in charge of overseeing either projects or teams. Depending on their leadership skills, their job can include:
Managing complex projects
Coordinating between higher management and development teams
Hiring and firing developers
Besides the technical skills required for this position, mid-level managers need excellent people skills.
Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Chief Technology Officer (or CTO) is the highest-ranking position in the IT business. The role of a CTO is to oversee all of the company’s technological needs. CTOs have executive powers they can use to make decisions and investments for the advancement of the company.
The Career Path for a Software Engineer After Earning an MBA
How far up you want to go on the software engineer career ladder is up to you. Some professionals stay at the senior engineer level their whole lives (and love it!) while others progress to CTO. It all depends on what you love doing most, whether that’s writing code, managing projects, or handling relationships between people.
If your dream is to get into leadership and management roles, getting an MBA makes sense. Here’s why.
MBA for IT Professionals: Why It Makes Sense
Of course, strong technical skills are a must if you want to climb the software engineer career ladder. However, they aren’t enough to get you to the position of CTO. This is because companies today are looking to hire executive officers who have both excellent technical skills plus strong business acumen.
Think of yourself in the position of hiring a new CTO for your company. The first applicant has strong technical IT skills and years of experience as a software engineer. The second one has all these, plus the ability to see the bigger picture and understand how technical decisions will impact the company’s finances and business outlook. Who do you think you will hire?
If you already have years of experience developing software and the next logical step for you is to go into C-level management, an MBA can help you acquire the skills to fit into this position.
Is an MBA for Information Technology Worth It?
Earning an MBA can cost upwards of $200,000. If you stop working while pursuing your studies, this amount can rise up to $400,000.
To determine if an MBA is worth the cost, you first need to ask yourself some important questions.
What do you plan to do with your MBA?
Where do you see yourself five years after completing your MBA?
How long will it take you to achieve significant ROI from your MBA?
Why Do Software Engineers Pursue an MBA?
Here are six reasons software engineers pursue an MBA despite the heavy cost.
Respect from business-side teams
Promotion to management roles
Salary increase (up to $44,000 per year)
Better chances of being hired as CTO in a new company
Greater confidence working in managerial positions
Career satisfaction from being able to climb the corporate ladder
MBA Software Engineer Salary Statistics
In general, professionals with an MBA earn more than those without one. In the U.S., MBA holders earn an average of $102,100. That’s higher than the national average of $74,378.
But it gets even better for IT professionals with an MBA. According to U.S. News, technology is one of the top three fields that pay the highest salaries for MBA holders.
According to PayScale, a software engineer with an MBA earns an average of $119,438. That’s $44,906 larger than the average salary of software engineers, which is $74,532.
An MBA for Software Engineers
Understanding the different types of MBAs is essential for mapping out your career direction. Here are three to consider.
Campus-Based MBA. Requires you to stop working and focus on earning your MBA on campus. Best for new graduates who have the time and financial stability to support themselves in school.
Online MBA. Allows students to continue working while they earn their MBA.
EMBA. Designed for professionals with many years of experience, the executive MBA is for people who want to advance their careers and move into senior leadership positions in their companies.
The Best MBA for Software Engineers
Use this as a guide to select the MBA that’s right for you.
Executive MBA for IT Professionals
If you are an IT professional looking to climb the career ladder into senior leadership, the best program for you would be an executive MBA.
An EMBA is different from an MBA mainly because of its focus. While MBAs are designed for new graduates, EMBAs are for professionals with years’ worth of experience looking to showcase their business credibility and advance their careers.
The qualifications for EMBA are also different from those of a regular MBA. While qualifying for a regular MBA requires top-notch academic scores, getting into an EMBA program requires a look into professional working experience and skills.
MBA Career Network for Tech Professionals
Since 80% of positions are filled through networking, it’s an excellent idea to look into programs that offer exposure to other top-notch professionals. Knowing great people will not only widen your chances of professional growth, but also challenge you to grow and sharpen your skills.
What’s great about joining a career network is that you can connect with thousands of the brightest minds around the world. You get access to current students, alumni, plus the chance to get discovered and hired by excellent tech companies.
MBA Course Curriculum for Software Engineers
Before selecting an MBA program, it’s essential to look into the curriculum to see if it includes these four aspects.
Business. To lead in a C-suite position, it’s important to understand the core concepts of business, finance, and marketing.
Strategy. In a management position, you’ll be in charge of top-level strategy so it’s important to find an MBA that covers this.
Leadership. Since leading a team will be one of your duties, acquiring communication and interpersonal skills is a must.
MBA for Software Engineer Discussions on Reddit
Going through other professionals’ different experiences and opinions will help you weigh out the pros and cons of getting an MBA and make your decision. One great way to do it is to read Reddit threads on the topic.
Believe it or not, Reddit is an open community and discussion forum that’s influential among higher education students. Here you can ask, find specific questions from other software engineers, and get answers and suggestions from those who are in the same field and have earned their MBA.
Summary: Should You Get an MBA?
Getting an MBA is not for everyone. To determine whether it’s right for you, you first need to consider your priorities and where you want to go on the software engineering path.
If writing code is what you want to do all your life and you have no interest in managing a team, getting an MBA might not be the best fit for your needs. However, if you have your sights set on mid-level management or even CTO, earning one will give you the knowledge and credentials to get there.
As a business analyst (BA) prospect, you will face stiff competition from others who have all the same skills and qualifications. The only difference will be your ability to convince Human Resource (HR) managers why you are better.
On the opposite end of the interview desk, HR managers face their own struggles. They need to align potential employees with organizational goals and overall vision. Human capital holds the potential to make or break any business so making the right decision is crucial.
The decision to move an interviewee along the line depends on your ability to judge their skills based on a few minutes of conversation.
We have just the solution for both interviewees and interviewers. Take a look at our comprehensive list of business analyst interview questions and answers.
Business Analyst Interview Preparation
Before even setting foot in the interview room, you will need to make the cut with an exemplary BA CV. Analysts have very specific job descriptions and these need to be reflected.
You could spend hours sending out your CV, and never receive any response. What is the solution? Joining a career network is probably your best option. This will give you the opportunity to apply to exclusive positions.
Combined with professional qualifications, you can propel your career to the next level. This will save you precious time and give you access to the ideal employer.
For HR managers, sourcing these CVs is the 1st step in finding qualified candidates. The best, (and easiest) place is through an outstanding Talent Acquisition Network.
Talent acquisition has a more strategic approach compared to recruitment. So where do you find such talent, and how do you ensure they are of the caliber you require?
An interview does not begin when you walk through the door. Rather, you need to be as prepared as you would be for a test.
Here are a few tips to become adept at passing any interview:
Do your research:
Before walking into an interview, you must know who is interviewing you. You need to know the company you are looking to work for. This will let you tailor your answers to their specific requirements.
Know your future job:
Thorough knowledge of your future job is an easy way to highlight your specific capabilities in line with the job requirements.
Re-learn your skills:
Invest some time in refreshing your memory on the key skills involved in a BA position. Make sure you can do what you say in your CV.
Study interview questions:
A job interview is similar to a test in which you do not know the questions. Lucky for you, you have the chance to study as many interview questions as possible.
Prepare your own questions:
Interviewers usually ask you if you have any questions of your own at the end of the interview. Ask a few questions regarding the opening, the job duties, and what is expected of you. Ask questions about the future plans of the company and their vision for BAs in the organization. The aim is to leave a lasting impression before you leave the room.
Junior vs. Senior Level Business Analyst Interview Questions
As a BA, your level of education, as well as experience, determines how far up the ladder you can go. Most analysts require a basic business or tech educational background. Success in an interview will then depend on additional skills.
A great way to accelerate your career is to complete an MBA or EMBA degree and give yourself an extra leg up.
Junior analysts generally have less experience and may have recently graduated. One option to accelerate your career as a junior analyst is an MBA program. The traditional MBA program usually requires 2 years of full-time study. It equips you with the business skills to grow in your career.
But how about an MBA that takes only 10 months? You may think this would be a sub-standard program and you would be wrong. The Quantic MBA is a fast-paced, personalized program, taught online, giving you the advantage of earning while you work. With an MBA in your pocket, you will be better prepared to answer these junior analyst interview questions.
Junior Level Analyst Interview Questions
1. How do you propose to compensate for your lack of experience?
This question is key for junior analysts as it is an opportunity to show that you can use your education as a basis to learn new tasks. Explain what experience you do have. The point is to show that you are capable of assimilating new information.
2. How do you think you would fit this position as a junior analyst?
Your research into the company will come in handy when answering this question. Look at the company philosophy and working methods. Be ready to explain how you would adapt to perform in the new role.
3. How do you deal with giving difficult feedback, especially in a junior role?
This is a test of your communication skills. Show that you can be tactful and thoughtful when giving negative feedback. It shows you are capable of working in a team, or in a future managerial position.
4. Can you name two diagrams used by a business analyst?
You will need to remember what you have learned when answering these types of questions. Be sure to mention and elaborate on:
5. What steps are required before converting an idea into a product?
Explain the different types such as SWOT, gap, market, and competitor analyses.
6. Can you name the initial steps in project development?
This is another question that will test your theoretical capabilities. If possible, give examples of these steps in action.
Initial steps include:
Identifying the strategic vision
7. What are the key phases of business development?
There are four key phases, namely: forming, storming, norming, and performing.
8. What are the exceptions?
These are unexpected errors that occur when you run an application.
Senior Level Analyst Interview Questions
Senior analysts generally have more experience and a higher level of education. If you are looking to move up from junior to senior analyst, an EMBA may be the best move for your career.
You probably have an impressive resume with relevant experience. Adding an EMBA allows you to move into a more senior role.
Here are some questions to expect during your interview:
9. Can you explain the key roles and responsibilities of a business analyst?
You may not be able to list all the ‘textbook’ capabilities, so tailor these to your experience. Some may include:
Creating detailed analyses
Defining business requirements
Communicating with stakeholders
Planning and monitoring projects
10. What is a flow chart and how do you use it?
A flowchart shows the flow of systems using diagrams and signs. Mention how you have used one to make systems understandable for stakeholders.
11. What tools do you typically use as a business analyst?
Refer to common tools such as Rational tools, Microsoft Office, and ERP systems. Demonstrate working knowledge of how you have used them in the past.
12. What is project management in BA and how have you used it in your experience?
Define project management as the process used to attain desired goals as a BA. Explain how you have used it to identify glitches and the goals you have achieved. These could be solutions such as better functionality, lower costs, etc.
13. Tell me about a suggestion you have made that has benefited an organization you’ve worked for?
Take this as an opportunity to show what you are capable of. Prepare an example that was accepted and had a positive impact. Try to relate it to the position you are applying for.
14. What measures do you take to increase your team’s productivity?
As a senior analyst, you will be expected to be a proficient leader. This question gives you the chance to show that you are able to motivate a team. Answer with a ‘team-mindset’ in mind. Explain how you would use managerial skills to help team members achieve organizational goals. Include practical examples such as mentoring or having an ‘open-door’ policy.
“Tell Me About Yourself” Business Analyst Questions
These are usually open-ended questions that give you the opportunity to explain yourself and your passion for the job. Some of the personal questions include:
15. Why do you want to work as a business analyst?
You can explain the story of how you started your journey into business analytics. Give details as to why you are interested in pursuing a career in the field. Tell the interviewer what inspires you to do your day-to-day job.
16. What do you hope to achieve as an analyst?
Employers will ask this to determine if the job fits into your career aspirations. Explain your future goals in line with the position you are applying for. You can touch on ambitions such as attaining a leadership position.
17. What would you say are your strengths as a BA?
Personalize your answer to this question. Be sure to show you understand the skills necessary to succeed in the job role. Discuss both soft and hard skills. Prepare three strengths using the below formula:
Awards: Name prizes you have won.
Accolades: Mention special honors you have achieved due to your strengths.
Anecdotes: Tell a story that demonstrates how you used your strengths.
Acknowledgments: Name special recognitions you have received.
18. What would you say are your weaknesses as an analyst?
Do not try to downplay this question. Answering honestly and taking responsibility shows you are aware of the areas you should work on.
Technical Business Analyst Interview Questions
A technical business analyst focuses on using software and hardware to provide analysis that can be used to improve business systems. With that in mind, interview questions will focus both on business and technical skills. Take a look at some questions that are specific to technical BAs:
19. Can you describe your SQL skills?
As a technical business analyst, SQL is key in performing any job function. The HR team will be looking for someone with practical skills such as data manipulation, navigation, and the ability to write queries. If the interviewer is part of a technical team, you can wow them with technical lingo. This will help them understand the scope of your skills.
20. Can you describe the types of SQL statements?
This is another technical question that tests your educational background. You will probably face this in an interview with a manager in the business analytics team. Do not be afraid to explain in-depth your knowledge of SQL. Expand on the types, namely:
21. What is your experience with technical and functional documents?
All BA’s should be able to explain what solutions various systems provide. As a technical analyst, you will be required to discuss how the system will work. Tell the interviewer you would be able to create documents such as Stakeholder Analysis and Scope Statement.
22. How do you convey complex, technical information to non-technical stakeholders?
The way you answer will showcase your communication skills. Show that you can be relatable, able to create simple mockups, and answer questions in an understandable manner.
23. What are the components of UML as you understand them?
There is no set answer to this question as concepts can be derived from many sources. Be sure to mention components for UML:
User Acceptance Testing is the final part of any analyst’s project. Go through these 5 steps and explain how you executed each one.
25. What is PaaS?
PaaS is a cloud computing platform that allows developers to build apps over the Internet. The services are accessible by users via their web browsers.
26. What is SaaS?
Software as a Service is used a third-party to host applications and give access via the Internet.
27. What is IaaS?
This is a form of cloud computing that provides virtual computing resources through the Internet.
28. What is CaaS?
Communications as a Service is a cloud-based solution that is leased from a single vendor over the Internet.
IT Analyst Interview Questions
29. How would you describe the role of an IT analyst in an organization?
This question is aimed at gauging your understanding of the position. Mention the fact that an IT analyst is key in the daily functioning of the organization. They ensure the smooth running of infrastructure and applications.
30. What are your technical certifications?
Have a list ready of your relevant certifications. If you are looking to continue studying, be sure to include these as well.
31. How do you ensure quality in deliverables?
To answer this, refer back to the client requirements that you would have gathered prior to providing a solution. Making sure the client is satisfied is key to measuring the quality of deliverables.
32. After researching a business tool, you come across two possible solutions. One is cloud-based, the other, premises-based. Which one would you recommend and why?
Guide the interviewer through your thought process when deciding on the best option. There is no concrete answer so explore both options. Give examples of when each could apply.
33. Provide examples of how you used data analysis to support your decision-making process.
The interviewer is looking to see if you understand the role of data analysis in decision making. Explain its importance in identifying problems and estimating the impact of possible solutions.
34. Which data visualization tools do you have experience with?
Your answer will show your ability to communicate with non-technical team members and clients. Have experience with at least one visualization technique.
Behavioral Business Analyst Interview Questions and Answers
Behavioral interview questions work on the premise that past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior.
To answer these types of questions, use the S.T.A.R. technique to structure your response.
Plan ahead for such questions with ready examples and remember to keep the tone positive.
Analysts may face the below behavioral interview questions:
35. How do you handle difficult stakeholders?
How you deal with difficult stakeholders will show how successful you are in completing projects. Show that you can be objective, control your emotions as well as reach an amicable resolution.
36. Can you tell me of a mistake you made? How did you handle it?
The key to this answer is honesty. No one can do their job perfectly so do not try to cover up your errors. The interviewer wants to see that you took responsibility and corrected the error.
37. Have you ever had to pitch an idea to a senior employee? How did you handle it?
The interviewer is looking at your communication skills as well as independent thinking. Outline the steps you took to prepare and the results of your pitch. If you have never had such an opportunity, explain how you would handle a pitch if given the chance.
38. Have you experienced conflict with a peer at work? How did you deal with it?
Using the S.T.A.R method, explain how the conflict arose and how you resolved it. Emphasize on communication skills and your conflict resolution strategy. Demonstrate the ability to understand other people and reach an agreeable solution.
39. Tell me of a time when you had to deal with a lot of stress or work under pressure.
This will reflect your ability to deal with pressure in the future. Provide tactics you use, such as adequate preparation, relaxation techniques, and your change of mindset when under pressure.
40. What is the biggest goal you have achieved as an analyst? How did you achieve it?
Prepare by having your proudest goal in mind. The key is to focus on the steps you took to achieve that goal.
41. Tell me of when you had to learn a new skill. How did you master it and how has it helped you in your career?
Using the S.T.A.R method, describe the type of training you underwent in relation to BA and the quantitative results. You want to show that you are open to learning and are capable of putting theory into action.
42. Tell me of a time when you did not achieve a goal.
Respond by showing that you are capable of handling failure. The interviewer wants to see that you learned from the experience, and can do things differently if faced with a similar situation.
Functional Analyst Interview Questions
Functional questions will focus on what an individual can do. They allow the hiring manager to evaluate your skills, education, and have a glimpse at your desired career path.
Some questions include:
43. What is your experience as a business analyst?
There is almost a 100% chance you will have to answer this question. Be prepared to break down your experience, and summarise it all concisely.
44. Why should we hire you?
By understanding the job description, you can link your specific skills and experience with what the company wants. If your skills are not up to par, emphasize passion and commitment.
45. What are your current job responsibilities?
This is to see if your duties match the job requirements and those on your CV. Expand on the points in your resume and give a clear picture of what you currently do.
46 What is your educational background?
This is one of the simpler questions. Give relevant information on your education and how it could be applied to your career as a BA.
47. What does your typical day look like?
There is no ‘typical day’. This is aimed to see how you plan and how efficiently you organize your time.
48. What is most satisfying about your job?
Your answer will reveal what you believe in as an employee. Speak of an element of the job that applies to the job you are interviewing for.
49. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Breakdown your job and decide which challenges you face, but focus on the ones that can be solved. Choose a skill area that won’t affect your core tasks but can be improved.
50. Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years time?
HR will want to know if you plan on being with them in the long-run. Even if you do not have a concrete plan, show a sense of ambition and a desire to grow.
Analytical Interview Questions
Analytical questions are aimed at assessing your critical thinking. It is a chance to showcase your problem-solving skills and use of data to analyze processes in the organization.
51. How does analytical reporting provide value? Does it have any shortcomings?
Prove you understand the importance of analytical reporting. Do not, however, make it the ‘end -all’ of all decisions. Be sure to include the fact that other factors may not be well represented in data, yet they will influence the decision.
52. In your professional opinion, what does requirement analysis entail?
Requirement analysis needs you to analyze, document, validate, and manage software. Use this definition and the ‘SMART’ technique to show how you have used it in your previous experience.
53. Can you describe the requirements analysis process?
The process involves 4 steps, namely:
54. What is the most important aspect of analysis reporting?
Explain the impact that analytical reporting has had in your previous roles. Show how you have used tools to provide value. This is a chance to show analytical and critical thinking skills.
55. Have you ever encountered conflicting data during analysis? How did you deal with it?
Show your problem-solving skills. Describe your process (e.g.: how you found the source of the problem and escalated the issue).
56. Can you describe the difference between design models and analysis models?
This theoretical question will test your working knowledge. Design involves raw data collection, planning, and creation. The analysis is the execution, fixing, and reporting of the model.
Marketing Performance Analyst Interview Questions
A marketing performance analyst provides solutions based on insights around marketing performance. They investigate marketing trends that can influence organizational tactics and strategies.
57. How would you build a predictive model? Can you describe it and the process you would go through?
You will need to demonstrate your ability to forecast future trends and probabilities from historical data. Use your past experiences to give an example of where you used a logical thought process to create a model.
58. What is the most surprising finding you have come across? How did it affect your work?
As a marketing analyst, you should be able to put preconceived notions aside when interpreting data. Showing your ability to be unbiased and open to new ideas could be the difference between you and the next candidate.
59. What type of CRM and analysis software have you worked with?
Be ready with an explanation of the different software programs you have used and how they have helped you as a BA.
60. What recommendations have you used that have increased sales?
Use work experience to show your ability to use data to add value. If you have no prior experience, give a scenario that you would implement in your future job.
Taking the Next Step
Start preparing to ace your next interview and land your perfect job with these questions. By ensuring you have the credentials required and a healthy amount of confidence, you will be well-equipped to level-up your career.
Wondering how to win the top position in the marketing world? Imagine waking up every day to a fast-paced, prestigious job that leverages everything you ever learned about marketing (and pays to reflect that!)
Becoming a Chief Marketing Officer takes planning and dedication to your profession. But this dynamic, high-powered role is completely within reach for master marketers with the right experience and business expertise. We’ll show you how.
We’ll examine what a CMO does and why your professional experience matters so much. You’ll also get clear advice on what education to pursue, and insights on the types of MBAs available for you. You’ll discover common pitfalls to avoid, plus inspiration and wisdom from CMOs at some of the top companies.
By the end, you’ll know exactly where you stand and what steps to take as you advance to the boardroom.
You bring the passion for marketing – we’ll provide the answers to all your questions about becoming a CMO in this handy guide. Ready? Let’s go!
A Day in the Life of a Chief Marketing Officer
Imagine this: it’s Monday morning, and you’re perusing your email over the rim of your coffee. You’ve got emails from the:
Head of Sales: a product’s performance
Marketing Department: an interesting brand mention on Facebook
CEO: some ideas about expanding into a new market
It’s only Monday morning, and you’ve already got your hands full with product performance reviews, social media response management, market research, strategizing, a meeting with the CEO – that’s only a small part of what a CMO does.
Oh, and that meeting with the CEO? You can even expect to throw in a meeting or three with the COO and CFO to discuss some of those strategies later this week. They’ll impact the company’s budget and operations, so other board members will need to be kept in the loop.
Career Outlook: Your Experience and Education Matter
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the field of marketing managers broadly is experiencing a growth rate of 8 percent per year. That’s 50 percent faster than related management positions, such as those in sales-related fields (growing at 5 percent per year).
CMOs play an especially direct role in maximizing a company’s revenue, and you can expect to be well-paid as a result. In 2020, PayScale estimated that CMOs make $174,192 annually on average. LinkedIn agrees, noting that the median annual earnings for the CMO hover around $180,000.
However, that compensation is heavily dependent on how long you’ve been a CMO overall. PayScale notes that CMOs with only one year of experience in the role may earn as little as $99,000 per year, while those with over 20 years of experience will earn $197,000 per year.
Speaking of Experience…
According to PayScale, some 49 percent of CMOs have identified themselves as “late-career” individuals possessing more than 20 years of experience as a CMO. Another 35 percent identified themselves as “experienced,” with at least 10 years of experience in the role before seeking their current position.
In other words, it’s a role that people tend to stay in for a very long time. That can make it difficult for you to break into a position unless you’re experienced and educated. In other words, unless you can demonstrate the same years of experience, or you’ve got an advanced degree to make up for it.
LinkedIn also notes that education plays a large role in what you can expect to earn. CMOs with a bachelor’s degree can expect their earnings to peak at $175,000 per year. In contrast, an MBA may allow you to earn as much as $225,000 per year – and 55 percent of LinkedIn’s survey respondents hold one.
Skills and Competencies: 5 Things You’ll Need to Know How to Do
Working with many different departments and handling such a wide variety of marketing-related responsibilities means you’ll need a combination of technical expertise and soft skills. CMOs are generally expected to master:
1. The fundamentals of marketing and digital marketing. From social media campaigns to effective marketing at events, you’ll need to know almost everything related to marketing in the physical world and marketing online.
2.Pricing strategy. Pricing strategy gets overlooked a lot, but it’s an underrated skill that can set you apart in the world of marketers. You should know how to tie pricing to value. That’s what helps your marketing strategies maximize profits.
3. Business and corporate strategy. Marketing directly impacts revenue and business growth. Therefore, you will need to understand how your efforts connect with and support broader business and corporate strategies.
4. Data analytics for marketing. Much of marketing is data-driven these days, with metrics letting us know exactly how a campaign is performing. That makes it critical to understand things like one-variable statistics and A/B testing.
5. Leadership. You’ll lead teams and manage people almost every day. To do so effectively, you’ll need to understand organizational behavior.
CMO Education Requirements
If you want to become a CMO, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. LinkedIn, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale all agree that a four-year degree is the minimum you’ll need to achieve due to the number of technical skills you’ll have to develop. The most common degrees are business-related, but LinkedIn also notes some interesting alternative majors:
Since your competition will have a bachelor’s degree, it might have occurred to you to seek out an advanced degree to set yourself apart. That would be a great idea, especially if your bachelor’s degree wasn’t in business.
When you’re looking into going further, you’ve got three options:
Certifications. Organizations like the American Marketing Association offer certifications for marketers and marketing managers. You may also want to consider industry-specific certifications to deepen your insight. Alone, these will only be enough with your bachelor’s degree if you’ve already got significant professional experience.
Master’s degree. It may be tempting to pursue a master’s degree in marketing or a similar field. If you choose this route, round out your studies with plenty of elective courses in business-related topics.
MBA. Most job sites, including LinkedIn and Indeed, indicate that an MBA is the most popular option for advanced degrees. You’ll want to look for an MBA that offers a marketing specialization, or an executive MBA that specifically prepares you for life in the boardroom.
The CMO Career Path: What to Expect
Get ready to double down on achieving professional experience. The CMO is unique among board positions in that your ability as a marketer matters more than your industry experience. Compare that to a role like the CTO, where industry-specific technical experience matters almost as much as your business acumen.
Many CMOs, like Kate Jhaveri of the NBA, have a resume that runs the gamut of digital marketing positions across numerous industries. Others, like David Edelman of Aetna, have worked in a variety of sales, consulting, digital marketing, and business strategy roles.
Of course, if you’ve found an industry that you like, then you’re welcome to remain in it. The CMO of Warner Media Entertainment, Chris Spadaccini, has worked in marketing for the entertainment industry for over 15 years.
(By the way, all three professionals have MBAs.)
Can a CMO Become a CEO?
However, it’s not easy. According to Diego Scotti, the CMO of Verizon, it can be difficult for CMOs to progress to CEO. That’s because the position emphasizes expertise in marketing rather than the bigger picture mentality embraced by other C-level positions. In other words, the best CMOs are ultra-competent marketers who might not have the business-mindedness to fulfill the CEO’s role.
If you’re viewing the CMO role as a stepping stone to CEO, take note. It’s one more reason to consider an MBA as it can help broaden your business expertise.
How to Become a CMO
On the road to becoming a CMO, it’s your professional experience in marketing that will set you apart and tip you toward the position. That’s why most CMOs identify themselves as “experienced” or “late-career” professionals.
As you scope out your next steps toward becoming a CMO, here’s what we recommend you do:
1. Earn a degree that lands you a marketing job. You’ve got a little bit of freedom here, but if you’re still deciding on your degree, opt for something either business or marketing related. Otherwise, get yourself into a marketing position as quickly as possible. After you’ve completed your degree, expect to spend between one and three years here.
2. Gain job experience. For the next five to nine years, it’s not necessary to stay at the same company, but you can. Build your resume by taking successively higher-level marketing jobs to help you gain deeper insights into the field and demonstrate your growing experience.
3. Earn an advanced degree. We recommend choosing an MBA with a marketing specialization as it will amplify your effectiveness in your career while giving you the business skills you’ll need at the executive level. You can go for it at any point after you’ve completed your undergrad. Keep in mind that most CMOs have between ten and twenty years of experience before seeking the role.
4. Grow your professional network. Like other C-level positions, your ability to become a CMO will hinge on who you know. This may take a year or longer, but doing this while in an MBA program with a strong professional network can accelerate this process.
5. Look for CMO roles that match your experience and interests. You may already have an industry in which you’re interested and settled in, but if you don’t, that’s okay. Keep your eye out for positions that interest you and match your background. This process can take over a year, but it can also happen quickly if you’ve got a strong network.
Choosing an MBA Program to Become a CMO
An MBA is an invaluable asset if you’re gunning for the top role in the marketing world. However, not all MBAs are created equal. You’ve got options to consider … three main ones, actually:
Traditional MBA. Well-regarded and rigorous, a traditional MBA program at a major school can put you in touch with high-caliber contacts in your field. It might also require you to stop working and can get expensive.
Online MBA. Online MBAs are ideal for people who want the flexibility to take courses while they work, or who don’t want to relocate to attend a specific school. Many don’t offer career networks, which can hinder your ability to connect with other business professionals. Others, like Quantic’s program, do. That’s something to consider when investigating this route. (Here are some more thoughts on traditional versus online MBAs.)
Executive MBA. A specialized type of MBA, it’s geared toward professionals with considerable experience who are taking steps toward the boardroom. Consider this route if you’ve got your targets locked on becoming a CMO, as it’ll prepare you for the challenges of serving on a board. We’ve covered the differences between an EMBA and MBA right here.
Summary: How to Become a CMO
There you have it – how to become a CMO! The CMO is an interesting position in the boardroom because of its emphasis on marketing expertise – according to Diego Scotti, sometimes at the expense of being able to focus on the bigger picture. Hopefully, we’ve given you a few ideas on how to avoid that pitfall.
We’ve looked at the hard and soft skills you’ll need, the types of career paths that are common when becoming a CMO, and what you should consider when pursuing an MBA. By rounding out your professional experience with solid business credentials and education, you can attain that wider focus and become a more effective corporate professional all around.
Want to discover more about why our online MBA works?
Love product planning, product launches, and everything in between? The Chief Product Officer role is for you! This dynamic, well-paid position is the hottest position in the boardroom right now.
We’re going to tell you exactly what you need to do to land it.
Becoming a CPO requires a few particular things:
In-depth knowledge of the entire product lifecycle
A strong grasp on your industry
The right degrees, skills, and levels of experience.
We cover all of that and more right here. By the time you’re through, you’ll know exactly where you stand and what moves you need to make next.
What Is a Chief Product Officer?
The CPO is the executive who oversees the product portfolio of a company. In other words, you’re the one leading all of the activities that help your company build and maintain great products. You’ll oversee activities such as discovery and conceptualization all the way to post-launch performance reviews.
CPOs are sometimes called by a few different names. In a smaller company or a startup, you might find the title labeled:
VP of Product
Head of Product (Management)
Director of Product (Management)
Director of Product Strategy
Product Design VP
In a larger company, however, these usually refer to different positions within the product management hierarchy. (Officially, the CPO isn’t a product manager, although product management may encompass some of your responsibilities.) We’ll look at this in detail below.
The CPO vs. CTO
Like we explored in our section on how to become a CTO, the CTO is responsible for making sure a company’s technology aligns with a company’s overall goals and mission.
What happens when a company’s product is technology?
The line between product and technology is blurry. This is especially true when you start thinking about things like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), but you’ll come across it anywhere companies use technology to enhance the customer experience. Think about it:
Cars feature sophisticated interfaces to aid in navigation and driving
Athletic clothing uses engineered synthetic fabrics to aid moisture wicking
Banks develop online services that let people invest their money themselves
In each case, the how, what, and why of a product have become intertwined. It’s not possible to separate the technology from the product. In these cases, the company has one of two choices:
The CPO works alongside the CTO to address the technological aspects of a product.
Become a CPO and Secure a High-Powered, High-Earning Future
The CPO is zooming toward popularity as more companies realize the value of having on board an expert in products and customer experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals are experiencing a job growth rate of 20 percent (compared to just six percent of other top executives).
Several major companies have hired their first CPOs recently. Overstock brought on a CPO in March 2020. A couple of months later, The Economist hired Deep Bagchee – the former VP of Product and Technology for CNBC.
Even the U.S. government is brought on a CPO for its Department of Health and Human Services.
If you’re thinking about making the jump to CPO, now’s a perfect time.
Here’s What You’ll Earn
According to Payscale, CPOs earn, on average, $183,724 per year, with the ability to earn as much as $291,000 for those with over twenty years of experience at the job. Glassdoor bumps those numbers a bit higher, noting an average of $193,636 annually, with top earners bringing in around $312,00 per year.
Payscale notes that it’s mostly experience that will impact your salary. Expect your salary to rise dramatically at about 10 years of experience at being a CPO. Likewise, 78 percent of your competition for the role will have 10 years of experience or more
What Does a Chief Product Officer Do?
Ever wonder why large brands ax seemingly popular products, or suddenly bring on new features for their services that you didn’t expect? Decisions like that are the result of the CPO’s work.
As a CPO, you’ll be responsible for making sure that every product a company has on the market is serving the overall company mission. If it’s not, you’ll be the one to identify what changes need to be made and implement a strategy to change them.
You might have your hands on a lot of different roles. On any given day, expect to find yourself:
Leading and supervising project management teams
Meeting with department heads or other top-level managers
Interviewing, recruiting, and supervising product employees or teams
Creating strategies, timelines, and processes for meeting product goals
Working with the COO or the CFO to streamline operations and budgets
Spearheading product development strategy
Conducting market or product research and analysis
Advising on marketing strategies
Understanding Product Team Organizational Structure
As a CPO, you’ll constitute the head of your company’s product team. Depending on your company’s specific hierarchy, that often means working with a series of professionals who lead the product and project management processes themselves.
In a large company with extensive hierarchy, you’ll take on more of a guidance and advisory role to help teams understand how a product aligns with a company’s missions. Directly reporting to you will include positions such as the:
Director of Product Management
Director of User Experience
Head of Product Analytics
Head of Marketing
However, many smaller companies don’t use super hierarchical structures for their product development. Instead, they opt for a structure where a product manager heads smaller teams of developers. This boosts the overall autonomy of the team and makes it easier for the company to respond to rapid market changes. In this case, you’ll primarily interface with the product managers, who relay essential information to their developers.
How to Become a CPO: Skills, Education, Career Path
If you want to become a chief product officer, you’ll need to think carefully about the education you acquire and the career choices you make. The good news is that you have more freedom regarding things like the choice of your undergraduate degree. However, the actual career path for a CPO is a bit more well-defined than other executives.
There are certain things you absolutely need to do. We’ll look at that next.
What Skills Do I Need to Become a CPO?
The skills you need to excel at this role fall into five distinct categories:
Leadership. Get used to leading teams because you’ll consistently do it. People will look to you for guidance and direction. We strongly recommend taking a course in Leadership Fundamentals if you haven’t already.
Data analytics. Product analytics will guide many of the decisions you make regarding a company’s product portfolio. You’ll need to know how to research the right information to make informed decisions. Specific skills understanding one-variable statistics will aid you with this.
Product strategy. Integral to a successful product includes the ability to identify market and positioning opportunities. Expect to leverage skills like blue ocean strategy, which can help your organization sail into more profitable waters.
Marketing. As the CPO, you’ll market and evangelize products from concept to launch. This includes getting other board members to buy into ideas, discussing product potential with investors, and even exciting employees to turn them into product ambassadors. You may also provide input to the marketing department on campaigns, so make sure you’ve got marketing fundamentals down well.
CPO Education & Degrees: Your Options
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree at the minimum to achieve the position of CPO. However, some 53 percent of CPOs have a master’s degree (another 7 percent have a doctorate), so you should consider going beyond the minimum to secure this job.
We’ve found that CPOs tend to have a broader range of undergraduate degrees than other types of executives. Some options include:
Marketing and advertising
What’s the Best MBA for a CPO?
At the executive level, you’re going to make decisions that directly impact the course and performance of the business. Therefore, if you’re eyeing that advanced degree that over half of all CPOs have, consider an MBA. This will make sure you’ve got the perspective and tools you need to make smart, informed decisions.
There are a few different routes you can take. Here are a few considerations to help identify which is the best option for you:
Traditional MBA. A traditional MBA occurs on campus and typically requires fulltime attendance. You’ll enjoy a rigorous, structured experience that lets you connect and network with peers. Likewise, traditional MBAs are well-regarded in the business world.
Online MBA. Many people turn to online MBAs because of their flexibility. This is ideal for self-motivated, working professionals who can’t or don’t want to stop working. Many online MBA programs have historically lacked the valuable benefits of a traditional MBA, such as the ability to network. However, that’s beginning to change, with more MBAs featuring career networks and other communities.
Executive MBA. An executive MBA is a specialized MBA program that focuses on the skills and knowledge individuals need who are specifically interested in gaining a position on a board. Typically, individuals who opt for this route are mid-career or experienced professionals who may already have some background in business but need to bolster it to be effective in the boardroom.
Becoming a CPO doesn’t just happen overnight. In fact, we recommend that you pursue the job after you’ve got around 10 years of experience in product-related fields. To maximize your success, we recommend that you do two things:
Stay within an industry. While it’s okay to move around between companies, you’ll need to demonstrate industry knowledge. For example, consider Tamar Yehoshua, the current CPO of Slack. She’s worked with cloud services since 1997. Or, Aaron Kissel, the CPO of Politico, who earned his degree in Industrial and Labor Relations in 1993.
Take on many product-related roles. The more knowledge you can demonstrate about the product lifecycle, the stronger candidate you will be. Consider Lisa Collier, the CPO of Under Armour, who has worked every position in clothing retail over the past 36 years.
Beyond that, here’s what your career path should look like:
1. Get a bachelor’s degree. We noted above that you’d got more freedom in this choice. If you already know what industry you want to work within, a technical degree is perfectly acceptable.
2.Get into a product-related role. There’s no substitute for work experience here. You should take on product development, product management, and similar roles. Each successive position should demonstrate more responsibility than the last. Expect this to take five to seven years.
3. Get your MBA. You can start on an MBA as soon as you finish your undergrad if you like. During this time, make a point of connecting with other professionals in your industry.
4. Continue to grow your network and seek additional opportunities. Once you’ve hit about ten years of experience, you’ll start to catch the eye of companies looking for a new CPO. Your professional network will come in handy.
Summary: Next Steps to Becoming a Great CPO
There’s no better time than right now to get started down the path to becoming a Chief Product Officer. This evolving, high-energy role is gaining importance as more companies realize the value of a product expert on the board.
We’ve covered what a CPO does, what sorts of skills they have, and what sort of experienced, educated professionals you’re up against when you start seeking the role. Now you know where you stand and what you can do right now, no matter where you are in your career.
You have done a lot to position yourself for a career in data analysis. But coursework, projects, and prior jobs will only secure a data analyst job if these experiences can be effectively communicated to recruiters.
You might feel lost as you prepare your resume. Do you know what firms look for in a data analyst? Do you know how to describe your education and job history in a way that makes recruiters excited to interview you? How can you tailor your resume for specific data analyst specializations?
To help you prepare a resume that will catch a human resources (HR) recruiter’s eye, we have compiled this guide to build the perfect data analyst resume. We will not address general resume tips. You can always find these online. Instead, we have included ideas for using detailed work experiences to give your resume an edge over generic resumes. We have also listed some keywords that will help you stand out and earn an interview.
By following this guide, you can improve your resume by quickly and clearly communicating your experiences and coursework that qualify you for a data analyst position. We have even included five resume templates to get you started in your search for employment in:
SQL data analysis
Python data analysis
Digital marketing analysis
What Should a Data Analyst Put on Their Resume?
HR recruiters are not necessarily experts in data analysis. To get past the general HR screening, your resume will need to hit on both your general skills and coursework as well as the specific relevant skills for a data analyst resume.
Some of the information HR recruiters look for will be the same regardless of the position. These universal skills, educational experiences, academic achievements, and industry certifications will always be included when you apply for a data analysis position.
However, you should not spend too much time emphasizing the same qualifications that every applicant will have. Rather, think of this section as helping the HR recruiter check off certain boxes so you can pass to the next level of review. Keep in mind that when the candidate pool is crowded, recruiters can only spare a few seconds skimming a resume. Spending too much time on your universal skills will not help you stand out and may make it appear as if you have no specialized skills to offer.
One approach is to provide a specific case explaining how your universal skills were used. For example, every data analyst has studied statistics. But very few data analyst candidates could say that they “collected and analyzed 200,000 data points from a local delivery business to identify missed efficiencies.” Although data collection and analysis are universal skills that every data analyst puts on their resume, this example contains detail that is more likely to catch a recruiter’s eye. It highlights your ability to collect and filter real-world data, provide an analysis of what the data shows, and create concrete business recommendations based on that analysis. This description provides an HR recruiter with context rather than simply stating your ability to “analyze data.”
Remember that you will probably not receive a job offer based solely on your resume. The goal is to pique a recruiter’s interest so you receive a job interview. Providing a detailed application of your skills can provide a talking point for the interview.
Examples of these universal resume builders that everyone should have on a resume, but tailored to a specific application, if possible, include:
Calculating a sample size
Producing data visualizations
Reporting conclusions from the data
In addition to the universal skills that every data analyst will have, you will also want to tailor your resume to the type of analyst position and the level of seniority. These job-specific skills can help you land a job interview in a few ways:
Exhibit knowledge of the company and position: By researching the employer then tailoring your resume to the employer’s business, you will impress the recruiter and potentially move ahead of other job candidates with more generic resumes.
Highlight relevant experience: A deep understanding of the position will help you tailor your resume to highlight experience relevant to the job’s requirements.
Provide discussion points: A resume should not just point out that you are the type of person who would make a good employee, it should also give you material to discuss during an interview that you would fit in as a member of the team.
Data Analyst Resume Templates:
The best way to explain what you should include in a data analyst resume is with examples. Here we provide curated templates that provide the perfect base for a:
As you gain seniority along your career path, recruiters’ expectations about the skills and relevant experience will change. For internships and entry-level positions, recruiters may look for technical mastery through grades and coursework.
However, recruiters looking to fill more senior positions will look for experience managing people and resources. As you use these templates, be sure to include management experience if you are applying for a senior position.
Here are some examples of how to position your experience in your resume to improve your chances of earning an interview.
Senior Data Analyst Resume
A resume for a senior data analyst position will be more likely to earn an interview if it highlights the mastery of technical concepts and relevant management experience. Unless the employer is looking for a lateral hire, the recruiter will probably not expect you to list senior-level management experience. However, the employer will likely expect you to include some prior experience leading a team or managing a project when applying for a senior position.
Entry-Level Data Analyst Resume
At this level, it will be more important to highlight knowledge of technical concepts and skills that make you a good data analyst. Remember to frame your skills in a real-world context and express your passion for problem-solving with data. For example, stating that you did an “undergraduate traffic study” does not provide the eye-catching depth of “studied traffic patterns and police reports to propose changes to traffic light timing to reduce accidents.”
Data Analyst Internship Resume
Applicants for internships are not necessarily expected to have real-world experience. However, you should list coursework and projects relevant to the employer’s business.
To be a strong candidate for a data analytics position, your resume will need to highlight certain skills that all data analysts should possess. Also, think through how you would discuss the application of these skills during an interview.
Some of these skills include:
Basic analytical skills: Basic analytical skills, like distilling large amounts of data, facts, and figures into pivot tables, are needed to produce something useful.
Statistics skills: Statistics skills are needed to make estimates based on data. Recruiters will expect you to know how to use basic tools like Excel to handle one-variable statistics. Moreover, including experience in making data-driven decisions using inferential statistics will show your ability to turn raw data into predictions about the future.
Data collection skills: Data analysts need to be able to collect and cleanse data. Planning a cohort of an appropriate sample size that avoids bias can provide a data analysis that is robust and useful.
Team management skills: As a candidate for a senior role, you will need to highlight your ability to manage other data analysts and supporting team members.
Building a Resume with Education Beyond Undergraduate School
To compete with other job candidates, a data analyst needs well-rounded coursework in handling, cleaning, analyzing, and reporting data. However, going further by earning technical certifications can boost a resume and should be highlighted.
For leadership positions in operations and management, such as a vice president or executive director, recruiters are increasingly including candidates who have both technical knowledge and business acumen. Candidates with an MBA will often have a competitive edge when applying for these positions.
Choosing an MBA or EMBA program will be based on many factors, including:
Career goals: Your program should teach you the skills and connect you with a network that can advance your career.
Time: If you plan to work while enrolled, you might need to find a program that offers flexibility while still providing well-rounded coursework.
Cost: The salary growth of MBA graduates is roughly 22-23%. Choosing a lower-cost program produces a greater ROI.
Keywords that can Make a Data Analyst Resume Stand Out
Unfortunately, HR recruiters can only budget a minute or two (or less) to each candidate’s resume. Consequently, you must use keywords in your resume, so it makes it into the “interview” pile rather than the “file” pile.
Some of the keywords that a recruiter might scan for include:
Show you understand concepts that underlie data analysis.
Warehouse Analytics Model Mine Visualization Forecast
Illustrate your approach to using analytics to advise business units in making real-world decisions.
Report Operations Strategy Action Plan Present Propose Recommend
Highlight your experience and skills in managing resources and people.
Direct Head Lead Investigate Team Members Budget Delegate
Using Online Resources to Boost Your Data Analyst Resume
As with everything today, the Internet can be a valuable resource in building your resume and applying for jobs.
Creating a Resume
Reddit can provide a forum for discussing an issue with a specific group. Users can give you job-seeking advice and feedback on your resume. Just remember to observe cross-posting rules and remove any identifying information from your resume before you post it.
Another resource for creating a resume is LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides resume creation tools and templates to create a professional-looking resume when seeking data analyst jobs.
Distributing Your Resume
You can upload your resume in LinkedIn in four ways:
Resume storage: You can upload and store a resume in your LinkedIn profile for future job applications.
Job applications: You apply for the posted jobs on LinkedIn’s Jobs page and upload your resume after clicking on the “Easy Apply” button.
Networking: LinkedIn can store your resume for sharing across your LinkedIn network.
You can also use your resume to build your LinkedIn profile. Simply use your resume to fill in the profile fields so that your work history, education, and experience in your LinkedIn profile match your resume.
Building the Perfect Data Analyst Resume
Building a data analyst resume can be intimidating for both new and experienced analysts. You might have had a resume for past jobs but did not know how to tailor your resume for a data analysis position. Alternatively, you might have worked in data analysis but were at a loss at updating your resume to apply for senior-level positions.
By using the tips in this guide, you can create a data analyst resume that will dwarf those of your competition. Your resume will catch a recruiter’s attention and earn you an interview if you take the time to:
Tailor your resume for the position.
List, but not overemphasize, your universal skills.
Write interesting descriptions of relevant experiences that stress practical, real-world applications.
Highlight management experience.
Putting Together Your Resume for Management Opportunities
If you are an experienced senior data analyst, you might feel that it is time to set yourself onto the path of becoming a COO or chief executive officer. Seeking an MBA can help you reach that career goal.
Alternatively, you might be fresh out of undergraduate school and have just as much interest in operations and management as you have in data analysis. For younger data analysts, an MBA can open doors that are not always open to entry-level data analysts.
You can learn more about the benefits of an MBA to your career as a data analyst on our site.
So, you’ve got your eye on the Chief Operating Officer position? Way to shoot for the stars! The COO is second-in-command in most companies. It’s a unique position that’s largely considered one of the most challenging positions in the boardroom.
We know you’ve got it in you, and we’re excited for you to take this step. To help you get there, we’ve put together this handy guide on how to become a COO. We’ll take a close look at:
What it’s like to be one
How to determine where you are in your path to becoming one
The skills you should cultivate now in your career
By the time you’re finished, you’ll know exactly what you need to do next to get the second-top job in the boardroom. Let’s go!
What is a COO?
The COO is responsible for the daily business operations of a company. You can think of the role as something similar to a high-powered general manager. You’ll directly report to the CEO and play an integral role in the leadership of the organization.
If the CEO is the visionary leader, then the COO is the one who makes things happen. The CEO strategizes and sets goals for the organization — you’ll be the one to figure out how to make those plans a reality.
For example, if a CEO wants to expand the company by offering a new set of services, it will be your job to lead the discovery team to determine what departments, acquisitions, or investments the company will need to make.
As a result, you might see the COO sometimes called the operating director, managing director, or the “executive vice president of operations.” Whatever your title, you’ll be known as the one who gets things done.
The COO Works Closely with the CEO
As a COO, you’ll forge a close relationship with your counterpart, the CEO of your company. Most companies look for a COO that meets the specific needs of the CEO. That might mean:
Leadership with technical experience. A good COO complements the skills and abilities of the CEO. You’ll find this especially true in startups, where the COO often has more practical experience. Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is one such example.
A successor. As second-in-command, you’ll have unique access and insights to the company. Many organizations reserve this position for successors as a result.
Someone to handle all internal affairs. It’s not uncommon for CEOs to prefer their COOs to handle the internal operations of a company while the CEO functions as the company’s public face.
The Job Outlook for the CEO’s Right-Hand Person
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top executives field on a whole is growing at 6 percent per year – about the same rate as other management positions. However, it’s extremely difficult to measure the position’s growth for three main reasons:
It’s constantly changing. According to EY, the COO role is one of the most rapidly changing roles at the executive level. That’s why it can be difficult to pin down who and what the COO is.
Companies hire or promote from within. When this happens, it’s called an “MVP” COO, someone who is promoted to keep them with the company.
COOs are sometimes cofounders. This is especially true in the case of startups, where the COO was there from the start.
What this means for you: Be prepared to round out your education and experience as much as possible so that you can be flexible when the opportunity arises. The greater your ability to demonstrate leadership, business acumen, and industry insight, the stronger candidate you’ll become.
A Day in the Life of a COO
Officially, anything that involves the business or administrative functions of your company will fall under your responsibility. However, the COO’s role means different things to different people and organizations. Therefore, no two roles are ever quite the same. On any given day, expect to find yourself:
Managing people or departments. You’ll take an active role in department operations, but you’ll also manage people directly. That may mean coaching employees to help them develop professionally or strategically promoting talent to retain them.
Leading projects or initiatives. You’ll constantly look for ways to improve the company’s operations, making them more efficient, cost-effective, and performing better.
Communicating strategy and policy to employees. COOs increasingly spend a lot of time managing the company’s overall culture. You’ll create policies, incentives, and an environment that fosters the desired culture.
Supporting your CEO. As the right-hand person, you may find yourself showing the ropes to a new CEO, providing insight or perspective on ideas, or even being a partner on initiatives where the CEO can’t take on everything alone.
Undertaking industry-specific responsibilities. If you’re in healthcare, you may find yourself responsible for identifying new ways to deliver critical services to a demographic of patients. Likewise, if you’re serving an insurance company, the CEO may tap you for advice on creating strategies that address major current events as they unfold.
Overseeing any business-related operations. In an interview of the COOs of Stripe, Infor, and Instagram, all three mentioned that they routinely oversee business functions as wide-ranging as marketing, advertising, and human resources, plus things like subscription revenues or services.
Working very long hours. Excited to check your email at 6:30 AM? That’s the reality for Vera Quinn, the COO of Cydcor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that half of all COOs report working more than 40 hours per week — all the more reason to make sure you love what you do!
Who Does the COO Work With Each Day?
Since all internal operations will fall under your responsibility, expect to have a lot of contact with people. In a small company or a startup, you may form relationships with all employees. In a larger corporation, you may primarily work with department heads and other executives.
Salary Statistics: What You Can Expect to Earn
According to PayScale, the median salary for a COO in 2020 is $142,735. Aggregated data from Glassdoor indicates a similar average: $143,336 annually.
Of course, all of that depends on your company size, industry, and education level. According to research by LinkedIn, companies with more than 200 employees tend to pay over $135,000 per year. Likewise, the Energy and Finance sectors yield the highest compensation, averaging at $190,000 and $175,000 respectively.
If you’re not in one of those two industries, however, fear not. LinkedIn notes that COOs with MBAs make on average $185,000 annually in 2020.
The Winding Career Path to Become a COO
If you spend any time reading the thoughtful responses on Quora, you’ll quickly discover that there’s no one path to becoming a COO. Some people start at the bottom of the corporate ladder and work their way up, while others walk into the position after decades of experience in an industry. Here’s our best insight:
It Takes About 10 to 15 Years to Become a COO
Interviews around the web with current and former COOs indicate that it takes around 10 to 15 years of experience in a specific industry (but not always at the same job).
COOs appear to share a passion for their industry. That’s crucial because you’ll need to have very deep knowledge of your industry to adequately guide a company. Consider Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook who knew from the start she wanted to get involved in a tech company.
So, if you’re planning out your path to the COO role, pay special attention to what industries you’re interested in and go from there.
The Path from Project Manager to COO
If you’re a project manager, you’re in a great position to step into a COO role down the line. You’ll already have many of the skills that you’ll use every day as a COO. If this is you, you’ll want to round out your skills with some solid business admin skills. A free, online MBA can give you exactly what you need to fill this knowledge gab.
You’ll Need a Bachelor’s Degree
Speaking of courses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a four-year degree is essential to any top-level executive. The COO is about as close to the top as you can get! Since you’ll be overseeing business operations, we strongly recommend you consider a bachelor’s degree in business.
If you’ve already got a degree and it’s not in business, you’re certainly not out of luck. Some COOs do have degrees that have nothing to do with business, such as technical degrees. However, if this is your case, you’ll want to look into developing your business knowledge as you prepare. Consider supplementing your next steps in education with free courses in strategy or leadership.
What Can Further Education Do for You?
Advanced degrees are common in the board room, especially MBAs. As a COO, the position of CEO will lie within reach – and some 40 percent of the top CEOs have MBAs.
Having an MBA not only improves your chances of commanding a higher salary, but it also puts into your hands the skills you need to competently lead the operations of a company. We very strongly recommend that you consider one, especially if your bachelor’s degree isn’t already in business.
However, there are two specific reasons why an MBA is particularly necessary for a future COO:
1. Your Professional Connections Matter
Your ability to rise to the C-level broadly hinges on who you know. That’s especially true with positions like the COO, where you’ll be chosen based on how well your personality and specific skills complement the CEO’s.
If you’re looking into upgrading your business skills (such as getting an MBA), pay attention to what sort of networking opportunities exist alongside your education. A developed career network will prove tremendously valuable.
2. It Can Set You Apart from the Competition
An executive MBA can also set you apart from the competition. It still gives you the business knowledge you’ll need for the role, but it focuses more on the leadership skills that you’ll also need. That’s a smart move if you’re specifically pursuing the role of COO, which is a very leadership-oriented position.
Of course, an MBA does more than just give you the professional connections and business skills you’ll need. It’ll also help you develop an array of hard and soft skills that will amplify your effectiveness in the role. You’ll need:
Leadership skills. From leading cross-department teams to working on small, special initiatives, you’ll be a leader at all times. Make sure you develop the fundamentals of leadership so you’re ready.
People management skills. Understanding the ins and outs of organizational behavior will help you manage people, encouraging them to become their best.
Project management skills. You’ll have projects, and lots of them. Make sure you’re ready to manage all of it with your stellar project management abilities.
Strategy skills. You’ll need to understand the components of business strategy to execute those created by the board or the CEO. Learning Blue Ocean Strategy is a fantastic way to cultivate that understanding.
What Makes a Great Chief Operating Officer?
There are plenty of ways to become a COO. This challenging, high-powered position requires a combination of business acumen, leadership skills, and dedication to your industry. It’s a tough road, but no matter where you are in your career, you can take steps toward the boardroom today.
We’ve laid out the degrees, business expertise, and soft skills that you’ll need to develop. In many cases, earning an online MBA can accelerate your trajectory without disrupting your current career. A competitive, rigorous program with a robust career network can help you put the top jobs of the business world within reach.
Ready to take that leap into one of the hottest roles in the boardroom? No matter your industry, opportunities abound for aspiring chief financial officers. This fast-paced, forward-thinking, and well-paid position will challenge and thrill you every single day.
We’ve got the ultimate guide on how to become a CFO right here.
Like all executive positions, becoming a CFO requires a commitment to the long-haul and careful planning along the way. We’ll help you figure out where you stand and what you need to do to accelerate your path forward while avoiding common pitfalls by making smart choices about your education and career experience.
By the time you’re through, you’ll have the foundations for your strategy to secure that coveted executive position. Let’s get started!
CFOs Are in Demand: A Sunny, Competitive Career
If you’re envisioning your future as a CFO, make it a bright one.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers at every level have experienced a 16 percent growth rate in their job outlook since 2018, with that rate projected to stay steady through 2028. That’s four times the national average of similar careers, such as sales managers (5 percent) or even other executive roles (6 percent).
What does a highly skilled executive like the CFO earn? According to Indeed, the average salary is $138,374 per year (plus benefits). However, it’s possible to earn closer to $200,000 per year if you’re located in an area like New York City, where demand for CFOs is particularly high.
What Is a CFO? Responsibilities and Role
A CFO is the senior financial manager responsible for overseeing and managing the financial actions of a company. Like a treasurer or financial controller, CFOs often manage an organization’s finance or accounting departments.
However, unlike a controller, the CFO makes decisions that have an impact on the overall direction of the company. For example, a controller may review financial statements to audit them for accuracy and adherence to regulatory compliance. In contrast, the CFO reviews those same financial statements to analyze them before making recommendations to improve the company’s financial performance.
Nonetheless, you’ll sometimes see a CFO referred to as a top-level financial controller, where their primary responsibility lies in overseeing all cash flow and financial planning in an organization.
The Duties of a CFO
As a CFO, you’ll wear many different hats throughout the day. Expect to:
Lead, direct, and manage the organization’s finance or accounting teams.
Advise the CEO or other executive members on the financial implications of business plans or current events.
Review formal finance, H.R., or IT-related financial procedures to enforce policies or internal controls.
Manage or oversee independent auditors.
Plan, execute and oversee upgrades to financial systems, processes, or technologies.
Relate with investors or shareholders to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and expectations.
Provide data-driven analyses and recommendations related to the financial goals of a company.
Who Does a CFO Manage?
Traditionally, the CFO heads the finance or accounting department. Here, you may manage a range of professionals, including:
Investor relations specialists
However, any financial hierarchy within a company will fall under your leadership. In general, if any planning or analysis requires the input of an expert on the financial impacts, you can expect to be tapped for your advice.
The Skills & Qualifications of a CFO
Get ready to showcase your flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to be proactive in supporting sustainable growth. The CFO is one of the fastest evolving positions at the executive level thanks to rapidly advancing technology and shifting expectations about the way we do business.
But technology isn’t the only arena in which you’ll need to demonstrate competence. You’ll need a range of hard and soft skills to navigate your position effectively. You can break those skills down into four distinct categories:
1. Leadership and management skills. Almost everything you do as a CFO involves some form of leadership. Whether it’s managing a team to implement new financial infrastructure or getting other executives on board with a plan, understanding leadership fundamentals is crucial to success.
2. Accounting skills. CFOs are expected to demonstrate technical expertise in accounting and financial topics. Additionally, you’ll need to have a solid grasp on abstract subjects that have concrete impacts in the business world, such as the time value of money.
3. Data skills. According to Deloitte, businesses increasingly expect CFOs to handle business and financial analytics, using it to make highly data-driven decisions. At least 18 percent of CEOs who responded to their survey believed those responsibilities belonged solely to CFOs.
4. Strategy skills. The CFO is responsible for laying the financial foundation to help a company reach its goals. Expect others to turn to you when it comes time to find that uncontested market space that makes competitive and financial sense.
Deloitte identifies four key skill sets that CFOs must possess. They are:
Steward: Protects vital assets, closes the books correctly, ensures compliance.
Operator: Emphasizes efficiency and effectiveness in the organization’s finances.
Strategist: Develops long-term plans to improve the company’s financial performance.
Catalyst: Drives business improvement initiatives to keep the company competitive.]
The Most Common Degrees for CFOs
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to become a CFO. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the most common are finance, public accounting, economics, public administration, and business administration.
A master’s degree – usually in one of those same fields – also comes highly preferred due to the level of management you’ll demonstrate every day. Common master’s degrees include:
Master of Business Administration
Master of Science in Accounting
Master of Public Administration
Master of Accounting for Financial Analysts
Master of Accounting for Financial Managers
Getting an MBA Is a Very Smart Move
Strongly consider getting an MBA along the way. According to Russell Reynolds Associates, 62 percent of all CFOs hold advanced degrees, with the vast majority opting for an MBA. (Plus, executives possessing one can expect a pay bump by as much as 16 percent, according to research by Wayne State University in Detroit.)
However, an MBA is valuable because it increases the breadth of your business knowledge. Imagine trying to understand why a product is underperforming but having no grasp on whether it’s the product itself or the result of a failed marketing campaign.
Or, imagine leading a company restructuring to reduce overhead and improve cost-effectiveness, but proposing a recommendation that inadvertently cuts the company’s most valuable talent.
Both scenarios could break the company and end your career super-fast.
As a financial executive, your decisions and recommendations directly impact the course and wellbeing of the company. An MBA will help you expand your perspective to contextualize your decisions within the organization better.
Today, many different types of MBAs exist. Traditional MBAs can provide more hands-on guidance, while an online MBA is great for self-motivated people who want to work while they go to school. We’ve covered the advantages of each to help you determine which path is right for you.
Here’s a list of just a few of the elite-level CFOs who have earned an MBA:
MBAs are expected in the boardroom now. So, taking your education a step further can set you apart. An Executive MBA (EMBA) is specifically designed for mid-career professionals and entrepreneurs who want to keep working full-time while developing more advanced skills.
An EMBA curriculum is slightly different from a traditional MBA in that it emphasizes leadership and strategy skills in the context of a corporation. At the same time, you’ll still learn everything that you would in an MBA curriculum; an EMBA is explicitly geared towards professionals seeking an executive position.
Do You Need to Become a CPA?
Technically no, but many CFOs started out as CPAs. The position requires a solid understanding of accounting, so it will give you an advantage. However, according to organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, the percentage of CFOs who are also CPAs has fallen over the past decade. In 2014, some 46 percent of CFOs were certified public accountants. In 2019, that number had dropped to 36 percent.
A CFA Can Become a CFO
A chartered financial analyst shares some of the technical expertise of a CPA, but a CPA typically has a much stronger grasp on accounting, taxes, audits, and other skills a CFO needs. That said, if you’re a CFA, you’ll stand the best chance at becoming a CFO by pairing your current degrees and certifications with an MBA. To take this route, look for an MBA program with a strong emphasis on accounting fundamentals to gain the technical skills you’ll need.
The CFO Career Path
If serving as a CFO is on your professional bucket list, be prepared for the long-haul. According to one interview with a CFO, potential prospects typically have around 10 years of related background and experience before seeking the position. If you’re laying out your career planning early in your professional development, you can take steps to accelerate your trajectory – such as picking out a business school with a proven track record in helping students achieve their career goals faster.
How to Become a CFO
Attaining the top position in the financial role takes careful preparation. Whether you’re just starting or are looking to advance your career, here are a few tips to help you out.
1. Choose Your Degrees Wisely
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree. Most likely, you’ll also need an advanced degree to carry you forward. Pay special attention to degrees and programs that give you a solid grasp in accounting plus other financial skills.
Actively choose jobs that broaden your financial experience. In addition to accounting, consider positions that demonstrate budgeting, analysis, risk management, investing, and more. The more well-rounded you are, the stronger candidate you become.
You can do this in a variety of jobs, or you can work your way through one company. If the former, it’s wise to stay in the same industry to deepen that experience as well. Many people also pursue a CPA license for this purpose.
3. Take on Roles that Expand Your Skillset
You’ll need to know more than just finances. Look for opportunities to widen your customer service experience, business and operational expertise, technological literacy, and leadership skills.
4. Join a career network.
Career networks can put you in touch with the right people when you’re ready to become a CFO. Join one sooner than later to begin forming connections. Consider the presence of network opportunities when you pursue your MBA or advanced degree. Some programs have career networks which you can leverage while you study.
5. Pursue Board-Readiness Training
Done everything above? Think about sharpening yourself with a board-readiness program. Deloitte recommends that professionals seeking an executive position attend board-specific training to develop a deeper understanding of what’s expected of you in the C-suite.
Summary: How to Become a Great CFO
The Chief Financial Officer is a staple in the board room, playing a vital role in keeping the company compliant and profitable. Yet, the route to achieving that coveted role can seem confusing, leading many people to feel as though it remains just out of reach.
With the right preparation and strategy, you can absolutely become a CFO. We’ve outlined what it takes to become one, the skills you will need, and provided some pointers in the steps you can take right now no matter where you are in your career.
Two Smartly content authors join forces to give you this sweeping ode to statistical correlation: The Correlation Song.
Here at Smartly, we’ve purposefully built a team of polymaths: our business knowledge and experience extend from corporate governance to market research to advanced statistics and beyond. Our educational backgrounds are equally broad: we’ve got a Ph.D. linguist and a Ph.D. mathematician cum classicist, a philosopher, a handful of historians, a quartet of computer science wizards—the list goes on. We even have a Ph.D. archeologist (Indiana Jones, anyone?).
So I guess it’s no surprise that our team’s other skills and interests also run the gamut: from marketing associate Karina’s expertise in fashion to co-founder Alexie’s mastery of Italian to content creator Ray’s homemade doll houses.
For Ellie and I (both members of the content team), our other skill is music: Ellie as a shredding bassist and gifted singer on the San Fran scene, and I as a Latin Grammy-nominated recording engineer and composer (hi, Mom!) based in LA.
Last week, we joined forces to give you this, The Correlation Song. Ellie, our top statistics author/editor, was so inspired by her love of stats that she wrote and sang this sweeping ode to correlation. I am honored to have simply helped bring the track to life. We hope you enjoy these warm—and educational!—vibes from the West Coast. And don’t hesitate to share this song with others: being social and being successful are strongly correlated.
Here at Pedago, we take a hard look at the performance of our applications so that our users don’t have to experience any troublesome hiccups (or “jank”) that might otherwise sour a sweet learning experience.
While “performance” can cover a wide array of metrics, we tend to be extremely critical of browser overhead (script execution, rendering layout, and painting). While others have covered optimization of these metrics in great detail, we came across an unlikely jank-vector that we thought was worth mentioning.
When analyzing CSS performance in relation to browser lifecycle, there are a few notorious styles (eg: border-radius, box-shadow, transform, backface-visibility, etc) that tend to slow down frame rate. Some of these are obvious as they dramatically influence the rendering process or add additional calculations for stylistic ooomph. One might be extremely likely to overlook the rather mundane text-transform while focusing on that list, though.
We had several elements each containing a finite number of additional elements that all were performing CSS-dictated uppercasing on their text content. Now, this might not be a significantly intensive operation in itself, but combined with some excessively spastic scrolling, it degraded the user experience somewhat significantly. After we updated the content to be rendered in uppercase without the need for CSS text transformation, the improvement was obvious.
Here’s how things looked on a common mobile platform, prior to the change (FPS is the key metric, with 60FPS as an ideal target):
As you can see, we were barely hitting the 30FPS threshold and often even missing that window. Here’s what we observed after we removed the relevant text-transform styles:
As you can see, we’re now closer to consistently hitting that golden 60FPS benchmark! Granted, we were probably abusing a CSS style that was intended for narrower application, and the DOM of this particular page meant that there were a lot of them, so your mileage may certainly vary. However, this might help serve others in the war against jank!