How to Become a CEO 🚀 Your Path to Chief Executive Officer

Dreaming of becoming a CEO? You can turn that dream into a reality with some sweat, smarts, and a whole lot of dedication to the climb. No matter what industry or company, you’re going to overcome many challenges while you position yourself to take a shot at the top.

We built this guide to help make the process clearer. No matter where you are in your career right now, you can start planning to become a CEO one day. We’ll cover:

  • What a CEO really is (and what it isn’t!) 
  • What skills and competencies you’ll need
  • The degrees you should strongly consider in preparation
  • The different paths you can take to become a CEO

We’ll break it down so that you know exactly what you need to do right now to take that next step forward. Ready? Let’s get started.

A Deep Dive into the CEO Role

As the CEO of a company, you’re the highest-ranking individual in the organization. You’re the final authority on any and all decisions made by other executives. The buck stops right there in front of you. And if you’re cut out for the mega responsibility associated with that, the thought of it should thrill you. 

Of course, it’s just as important to define what a CEO is not. There’s a tendency these days for entrepreneurs to call themselves the CEO of their startup. We’re not talking about that. Real CEOs are:

  • The point of communication between board members
  • The public face of a company
  • Elected by shareholders
  • Maybe the founder, but maybe not

In other words, you’re a real CEO when the company is bigger than your title and when you’ve got major responsibilities and a corporation to run.

Just What Are Those Responsibilities?

The CEO is often a visionary leader who guides the overall direction of a company. Your exact role and responsibilities will vary according to your company size. In large companies, expect to:

  • Draft high-level corporate strategies that your board implements
  • Manage overall resources and operations by authorizing the decisions of other executives
  • Set the tone and culture of the organization itself
  • Represent the company at civic and professional engagements
  • Research and make final decisions on company acquisitions
  • Evaluate the company’s overall trajectory and achievement of stated goals
  • Meet with other executives like the CFO and CTO for advice

In a smaller company, you might find yourself engaged in lower-level, hands-on responsibilities. This may include day-to-day functions similar to those handled by the COO

What Does a CEO Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CEOs earn $193,850 per year on average … or about $93.20 hourly. Of course, major companies can easily go well over that. Some of the highest-paid CEOs rake in over $100 million per year.

What you earn as a CEO depends on your ability to run a company and your experience. PayScale notes that skills like business strategy can increase your salary by another 10 percent, which you can gain through earning an MBA. After attaining those skills, most CEOs attain the average income level at around 20 years of experience. If you’re still early in your career (such as in the first ten years), PayScale puts the average income much lower at $132,000 annually.

The Three Different Types of CEOs

Three main types of CEOs exist, and they reflect the main paths that you can take to the position. Here’s an overview of them: 

  • Founder CEO. These are the people who founded their company. Founder CEOs can be extremely influential in a company’s trajectory. Research suggests that they tend to outperform non-founder CEOs because they consider the company to be one of their lifetime achievements.
  • Non-Founder CEO. A Non-founder CEO is elected or hired to become the CEO of a company. This can have several advantages, especially if the founder has other enterprises, or lacks the skills needed to truly be a CEO.
  • Successor CEO. Individuals who become CEO through succession are known as successor CEOs. According to Harvard, this normally happens when a CEO who is also serving as board Chairman steps away from the former role. However, successor CEOs may also be groomed and elected by a board of directors.

The Profile of a CEO: Skills, Education, Personality

The CEO position is unique among other executive roles because of the public role that you’ll take. You’ll be the public face in most cases. Should you become the CEO of a massive company like Facebook or Amazon, it’s possible you could become famous. If landing such a high-visibility position is a goal for you, consider whether you need to develop your abilities in areas like public speaking, and whether you have the right personality for it. We’ll cover both here.

Critical Skills & Competencies

To competently drive your company in the desired direction, you’ll need to know how to do a lot. The skills and competencies you require will broadly fall into six categories:

  • Strategic management. You’ll need to know how to manage departments, processes, and people to guide your company to success. A strong grasp of organizational behavior is a must.
  • Business and corporate strategy. Knowledge of corporate-level strategy is imperative to understanding how your company functions and what it needs to succeed. 
  • Industry-specific technical skills. You’ll need industry-specific technical expertise. This is particularly important in the tech sphere, where your company will look to you to guide it through uncharted waters.
  • Financial skills. Competence in financial matters is critical for understanding the effects of your actions, and also what actions to take.
  • Ethics. As the primary decision maker in the company, expect to grapple with difficult decisions. Having a solid foundation in business ethics will make the right path clearer. 
  • People skills. Much of your role will be a public one. From negotiating to public relations, be prepared to polish those people skills until they shine.

Education Statistics

Unless you’re the founder of a startup, you need a degree. Likely, you need an advanced one. 

CEOs are well-educated. According to one survey by Study E.U., 97 percent of all CEOs worldwide hold a bachelor’s degree. Some 64 percent of all CEOs hold a master’s degree, while 10 percent hold a doctorate degree. 

There are also trends regarding what degrees future CEOs pick. According to a 2018 survey by LinkedIn of over 12,000 CEOs, some 35 percent of CEOs held a bachelor’s degree in computer science. The next most popular degree choices were:

  • Economics
  • Business
  • Banking and finance
  • Accounting

CEO Personality Traits

From Mark Zuckerberg to Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, CEOs often catch the public eye with their personalities. 

We aren’t saying you need to emulate any eccentric behavior. However, be aware of the research surrounding CEO personality and company success. For example, according to the Harvard Business Review, the most successful CEOs are: 

Introverted and Conscientious 

Companies headed by introverted CEOs or highly conscientious experience increased returns when the company makes riskier decisions.

Not Afraid of Failure 

All successful CEOs have made significant material mistakes, with 45 percent making mistakes that resulted in significant career setbacks.

Quick to Act 

High-performing CEOs are 12 times more likely to describe themselves as “decisive.”

Adaptable 

CEOs who excel at adapting are 6.7 times more likely to succeed in a venture.

Visionary

CEOs also spend 50 percent of their time planning for the long-term, compared to other executives who spend about 30 percent of their time.

Want to Become a CEO? You’ll Need an MBA

Although the Harvard Business Review found that as many as 8 percent of CEOs don’t have bachelor’s degrees at all, you’ll need one if you aren’t a founder CEO. Some 50 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have MBAs. 

Choosing an MBA program involves a lot of considerations. Fortunately, we’ve got a few thoughts to help you with that.

Best MBA Programs for a Future CEO

When it comes to MBA programs, you’ve got three main routes:

  • A traditional MBA from an accredited university
  • An online MBA from an accredited university
  • An executive MBA (EMBA) that’s either online or traditional

Online and traditional MBAs both have their advantages. People choose traditional MBAs when they need structure and have the time to devote to the program. They turn to online MBAs if they prefer the flexibility to continue working. (We’ve covered both in-depth right here.)

Given the nature of the CEO’s role, however, we strongly recommend that you consider an EMBA. These programs are geared specifically to professionals seeking to enter the boardroom. They emphasize core skills like:

  • Corporate governance. As a CEO, you’ll need to understand how rules, processes, and practices are used to manage a company.
  • Supply chain and operations. You should understand how supply chains impact business costs and profits to make smart decisions.
  • Advanced business strategy. This will allow you to make better decisions that affect the future of the company.
  • U.S. business law for corporations. Corporations may be subjected to special laws and regulations – you’ll need to understand them.

An EMBA is especially valuable if you’ve already got a background in business, or you’ve got a highly technical background with deep industry expertise. With so much hinging on your ability to lead an organization and make business decisions, this specialized MBA is uniquely equipped to position you for success. (Here’s a closer comparison of the two types of MBAs.)

The Career Path of a CEO

There’s no single path to becoming the CEO of a company. Historically, many CEOs were successor CEOs, usually the COO or another executive. However, in 2019, the Wall Street Journal noted that externally hired CEOs had become more common than those chosen from an internal pool. That means you’ve got more chances than ever at landing the role without spending 20 years at the same company.

We’ll look at both the internal and external paths now:

Internal Selection: Working Your Way Up

If you want to be tipped for the role someday, prepare for the grind. It’s not uncommon for CEOs to start at an entry-level role and work their way to the upper echelons of the company. That’s what Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart, did. He started loading trucks as a teenager and became CEO 25 years later. Likewise, Chris Rondeau, the CEO of Planet Fitness, started as a front desk receptionist in 1993 before becoming CEO in 2013.

Working your way up has many advantages. You can:

  • Gain deep familiarity with the company
  • Make connections with internal mentors and champions who can help your advancement
  • Start working before you’ve gotten your degree or MBA (and often keep working while you earn them)
  • Establish a strong reputation and track record with the company

External Selection: Career Networks

Getting hired as a CEO is not easy, but entirely possible. To pull it off, you’ll need a proven track record in the position or within your industry. Generally, you can expect to hold one or more executive positions before striving for CEO – often at different companies. 

Consider Satya Nadella’s resume. Before becoming the CEO of Microsoft, he sat on boards for the University of Chicago, Starbucks, and Fred Hutch. Robert Buchsbaum, the CEO of Blick Art Materials, worked in roles ranging from financial advisory to non-profits for youths.

If you choose this route, it will take you between ten and twenty years. Keep these things in mind:

CEO Homework! 5 Books You Should Read

To round things off, we want to leave you with five of our favorite books that you should read on the road to becoming a CEO:

1. Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed. It’s a close look at the relationship between talent and effort – and why we should praise the latter, not the former.

2. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. Do you have a job or a career? There are two sides to organizations: management and labor. This book explores where you fall and how you can land where you want to be.

3. Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. Why do some companies make it, but many others don’t? That’s what this book explores. It can help you change your attitude toward business.

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. One of the best self-help books of all time, it can help you improve your people skills at work and in life.

5. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. A story of a CEO facing a leadership crisis, it provides thoughtful points for building a cohesive, effective team.

Summary: How to Become a Great CEO

Becoming a CEO isn’t quite like attaining other executive positions in the boardroom. You’ll need a rock-solid foundation in business, plus a visionary outlook that can guide your company into the future. That can make determining what to do a little tricky, but we’ve provided our best tips right here. However you choose to do it, make sure that you develop a strong understanding of the business world, cultivate the personality you’ll need, and choose your MBA program wisely.

The road to becoming a CEO requires vision, planning, and a lot of hard work. But whether you pursue the top role internally or externally, it’s entirely within your reach.

Happy advancing!

Build the Perfect Data Analyst Resume (5 Example Templates Included)

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
  • Data mining
  • Predictive analytics
  • 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.

Universal Skills

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.

If your resume does not stand out after a six-second scan, you may need to rework it.

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.

You may be competing against hundreds of other applicants to earn an offer, so make sure your resume makes an impression, and you have talking points 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:

  • Advanced mathematics
  • Study design
  • Calculating a sample size
  • Collecting data
  • Data cleaning
  • Modeling data
  • Analyzing data
  • Producing data visualizations
  • Reporting conclusions from the data

Job-Specific Skills

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.

Studies show that as many as 80% of positions are filled through networking, regardless of level. Our Quantic Career Network provides students and alumni with the benefits of networking during a job search.

Relevant Skills for a Data Analyst Resume

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.
  • Strategic thinking: Strategic thinking uses data analysis to look at the big picture and develop a business strategy informed by the data.
  • 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:

KeywordsPurposeExamples
Technical termsShow you understand concepts that underlie data analysis.Warehouse
Analytics
Model
Mine
Visualization
Forecast
Business termsIllustrate your approach to using analytics to advise business units in making real-world decisions.Report
Operations
Strategy
Action
Plan
Present
Propose
Recommend
Management termsHighlight 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.

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How to Become a CTO: Responsibilities, Qualifications, and Career Tips

Ready to become a CTO? In most cases, that’s the pinnacle of a tech professional’s career and there are a lot of challenges to get there. From identifying what degrees or certifications you need to figuring out what position you should hold next, you’re going to overcome a lot as you aspire to that executive status.

You can do it. We believe in you. We even put together this guide with the answers to every question you might have.

We’re going to break down the steps of how to become a CTO, take a look at the skills you must possess, and show you how choosing certain education paths over others will deliver the biggest advantages in your career. 

Read on to indulge that inner strategist and get planning the next big step in your career. 

What is a CTO?

A chief technology officer (CTO) is an executive-level position that oversees all of the technology that an organization uses. His or her primary responsibility is to make sure that the hardware and software an organization uses are secure, helpful, and supports business effectively. 

Sometimes known as a Chief Technical Officer, or Chief Technologist, it’s among the highest-ranking IT positions in business. A CTO keeps pace with technological advances, then uses their executive powers to make decisions and investments that further the objectives of the company to stay competitive in the 21st century. 

For example, organizations bring a CTO on board during or immediately following digital transformation. This process sees the wholesale digitization or update of business processes and may change the way a company is organized. It requires the oversight of a professional who can plan and execute such a process, in addition to identifying whether a technological solution is appropriate, cost-effective, and helps the organization meet its goals in the long run.

The CTO vs. the CIO

CTOs typically work with CIOs (Chief Information Officer), but the roles aren’t the same. A CIO typically has a much more hands-on role in the IT department. For example, they may work directly with IT staff to innovate and develop solutions that keep things running on a daily basis. 

In contrast, the CTO is much more business minded. They will make decisions regarding the overarching technological infrastructure. (The CTO is considered one of the three heads of engineering leadership in a corporation.)

In the example of digital transformation, a CTO may develop the overall plan for upgrading a company’s technology in a way that will help the company adapt to the future. A CIO may handle the details on the ground-level, overseeing the implementation of specific technology. 

The Career Outlook for CTOs: Necessary and In-Demand

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information system management occupations are growing by about 12 percent annually (that’s twice the average growth rate for all occupations). This category includes CTOs, who are becoming increasingly desirable in corporate leadership. 

Technology is increasingly taking a front and center role in business, making technological disruption both a threat and opportunity for any organization – and they’re taking note. According to The 2020 State of IT report by Spiceworks, 44 percent of companies have increased their budget for technology in 2020, compared to just 38 percent in 2019. That trajectory is expected to continue through 2025. 

Despite this, most companies do not consider themselves prepared for the major technological shifts already occurring in the world. A survey by McKinsey found that as much as 79 percent of North American companies consider themselves “not ahead of the curve” when it comes to such shifts. 

All of that puts CTOs in demand – big time. According to McKinsey, every company needs one if it wants to adapt, innovate, and thrive.

What Does It Earn? CTO Salary Statistics

CTOs are valued in their company, and it shows. 

According to PayScale, the average salary for a CTO in 2020 was $159,419. Salaries compiled by Glassdoor generally concur but note that some executives earn as much as $240,000 per year. 

CTO Responsibilities & Roles

According to Gartner, four different “types” of CTOs exist. They are:

  • The Digital Business Leader: The person who emphasizes digital business strategies over manual ones.
  • The Business Enabler: The person who ensures the technology operates as intended.
  • The IT Innovator: The forward-looking person who leads the company in staying competitive by using technology. 
  • The Chief Operating Officer of IT: The person who helps keep it all running (often working with a CIO). 

Those “types” overlap with each other and even with the role of the CIO. That often leads to job descriptions full of vague descriptions of key duties – it’s not uncommon to see the CTO role tasked with responsibilities such as “driving innovation” or “identifying disruptive technologies.” 

Those descriptions aren’t super helpful for those of us unraveling how to become a CTO. However, understanding what these job descriptions hint at can help us build a plan of action to eventually land the position.

Ultimately, it’s the CTO’s duty to align technology with organizational goals. A solid executive bridges the business and technology worlds to help a company move forward. Depending on the company, a CTO may find themselves accomplishing that by: 

  • Leading technology teams for a variety of goals.
  • Managing technological research and development.
  • Planning and implementing infrastructure.
  • Working with the CIO to enact a digital transformation.
  • Allocating resources and overseeing funding for technology investments.
  • Guiding strategic business decisions from a technological standpoint.
  • Monitoring technology management and conducting reviews or audits.
  • Overseeing technology compliance requirements.
  • Engaging in thought leadership. 
  • Brainstorming customer-focused technology solutions. 

The Most Critical Skills for a CTO

The range of responsibilities and roles a CTO may fulfill demands an array of hard and soft skills. You’ll need to demonstrate technical expertise while proving you are versed in business skills and leadership. Here’s a closer look at each.

Technical Skills for a CTO

A CTO needs a strong grasp of a range of technologies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that most CTOs possess around 15 years of experience in the IT field before even being considered for the job. Likewise, many CTOs start out as engineers in their chosen field, working their way up the ranks. 

Either way, expect to require competencies in topics that may include:

  • Cybersecurity and information security management
  • Network architecture
  • Big data engineering and architecture
  • The Internet of Things
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Industry-specific disruptive technologies

CTO Business & Management Skills

On the day-to-day scale, a CTO may find themselves engrossed with activities related to business management. That’s because they’re tasked with making decisions that will fundamentally impact the company’s future. To ensure those decisions are sound, CTOs need a firm foundation in the following: 

  • Finance, statistics, and marketing. Like all executive-level professionals, a CTO will read reports and business documents, make financial decisions regarding resource allocation, and use metrics to track the success of an initiative. These are core business skills that directly affect the success of a company.
  • Strategic and visionary thinking. CTOs are concerned with top-level business strategy. They help drive the company into uncontested market spaces where they possess the greatest advantage.
  • Data-driven decision-making. A CTO should know how to apply insights from data and statistics to plan and execute decisions. 
  • Team management and leadership. Working with teams represents a core responsibility for any CTO. A solid grasp on organizational behavior and team management facilitates success.
  • Communication and diplomacy. While much of the CTO’s duties will focus on customer-centric technology initiatives, skills such as negotiation are also critical.  A CTO can expect to manage vendors, meet the needs of external key stakeholders, and occasionally work with clients or customers directly.

Who Will the CTO Manage? Positions Under Their Supervision

Although the CTO executes plans and initiatives at a top-level, they’re also sometimes the head of a department or active participants on task forces. Expect to manage:

  • Software architects
  • Senior developers
  • DevOps engineers
  • System administrators
  • Security specialists

Talent management is often one of the biggest challenges for CTOs. For example, the connection between a CTO and software development might not always be obvious. Unless the CTO demonstrates strong technical leadership, engineers or developers may create challenges during project management, especially if they’re accustomed to operating a certain way. 

The Steps to Become a CTO: An Executive Career Path

Becoming a CTO is no small feat, but with the right education and experience, it’s attainable. Generally, anyone who wishes to become a CTO will need to: 

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A four-year degree in a computer science-related field will lay the technical foundation for becoming a CTO and give you that critical entry into a preferred industry or field. 

2. Gain Relevant Work and Industry Experience

All CTOs boast strong technical skills as well as deep industry insight. For most, that develops over a decade or longer – very often at the same company or within the same industry. For those just starting out:

  • Take on projects at your job that allow you to expand your skills and leave you with demonstrated expertise on your resume.
  • Consider leadership opportunities on special teams and projects as they arise.
  • Embrace continued education through certifications, regular training, and courses applicable to not only your technical specialty, but also business.

(Also consider joining a career network to start developing the connections you’ll need.)

3. Pursue a Master’s Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, C-level executives increasingly have master’s degrees. A 2019 study from MIT found that over 50 percent of respondents had a master’s degree or higher. Business-related degrees are among the most popular, followed by public administration, law degrees, and occasionally, liberal arts.

4. Take Steps to Prepare for an Executive Position

Consider things like social media presence, civic involvement, digital brand, and other features that can reflect well or poorly.

Education Requirements for a CTO

Quantic CTO, Ori Ratner received a timely heads-up about a business education for technical specialists: “Early on, one of my mentors suggested that developing a sense of ‘business acumen’ would be just as important as growing my technical skillset.”

Imagine being a software engineer for a startup, and you walk into a meeting with an angel investor to give a presentation on an app your team is developing. When the conversation turns towards financials and business growth, you’re lost. What happens if there are follow-up questions within this new context? 

The higher you move up the ranks of a company, the more likely you’ll face situations that require skills and knowledge outside of your technical expertise. From managing horizontal teams to deciphering marketing lingo, get ready to evolve your skillset if you intend to take it to the next level. 

Here’s a closer look at what education a professional requires to be considered for the CTO role.

What Degrees and Certifications Do CTOs Have?

According to Indeed, CTOs typically hold numerous degrees and certifications. These include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a technology field. 
  • Industry-specific software certifications such as Certified ScrumMaster or Google Developers Certification.
  • Project management certifications such as CompTIA Project+ or PMI Agile.
  • An advanced degree.

When the position of CTO gained prominence in the early 2000s, it was estimated by InfoWorld Magazine that around 12 percent of them held advanced degrees. By 2019, research from MIT suggested this trend has reversed, with most CTOs holding master’s degrees or higher. Among the most common master’s degrees for CTOs, however, include:

  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology
  • Information Technology Management

Shane Emmons | CTO @ TeamSnap

Why an MBA is a Smart Move for the Future CTO

Like our CTO said, developing business acumen sooner rather than later can give you a major leg up in your career.

An advanced degree in business can provide a competitive edge when pursuing the CTO position. Besides strong technical skills and deep industry knowledge, a CTO must demonstrate the ability to bridge the technical and business worlds. An MBA does exactly that.

We’ve also found that many professionals initially overlook the value of an MBA. Many potential CTOs start with a technical background with the intent of becoming an engineer or other specialist. It may not have occurred to them to seek out business, finance, or marketing education. However, without these holistic business credentials, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to move into the upper echelons of a company’s management. Notable CTOs with an MBA

What to Consider when Choosing an MBA Program

There’s a lot to weigh when making the decision to return to school. While pursuing an MBA is certainly a commitment, doing it without quitting work is paramount for any professional in a technology field. Some questions individuals might consider include:

  • Is the program flexible enough to continue working full time? Unlike other fields, STEM professionals don’t have the luxury of putting a career on hold to pursue an MBA.
  • Is the program broad enough to cover several skills? Many technology specialists return to school because they’re lacking the business skills they need to advance professionally.
  • Are online options available? Online courses can eliminate burdens on a schedule and improve access to education.
  • Is an executive MBA appropriate? An EMBA lets professionals develop their leadership skills beyond what an MBA will offer.
  • Is the program in touch with current technology? Programs that reflect a technology-driven future will best prepare their participants.

How to Become a CTO with an Online MBA

Finding the time to get the knowledge and credentials to move forward can be tricky, but that’s where an online MBA shines. An online MBA can:

  • Deliver the information in a way that works for you. Whether business administration from a technical background without the vocabulary or tackling your greatest achievement, a good program will meet you where you are. 
  • Promote holistic business and leadership skills. Enjoy a well-rounded education that promotes long-term professional growth by exposing you to topics you might not have considered. 
  • Inspire networks and connections. Take advantage of the digital space to create a network to draw upon and connect with other professionals. 

Summary: Which Degree is Best for Your Career Growth?

As more and more companies embrace sophisticated technology, the position of CTO is growing in prominence. We’ve taken a closer look at what it takes to become one, and what sort of education potential executives can expect to pursue.  

The long road to becoming a CTO requires planning – it doesn’t happen overnight. However, with the right combination of skills and credentials, it lies within your reach.

How to Become a CFO: Responsibilities, Qualifications, and Career Tips

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:

  • Accountants
  • Controllers
  • Tax professionals
  • Analysts
  • Human resources
  • 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:

Consider an EMBA

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. 

Your competition probably has an MBA, but remember that not all MBAs are created equal. Check out the differences between an online MBA and an advanced EMBA right here. 

2. Gain Broad Financial Experience

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. 

Happy advancing!

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