Friday, April 17, 2015

So you want to be a VP?

I am periodically asked about becoming a VP.  That is the wrong question. An appropriate question is, "How do I increase my organizational, customer, or industry influence?" Recognize that our interests are not what drive other departments.  They want to execute and grow a business.  For them, technology is a means to an end.  To influence them, seek to understand their world.   

I recommend three groups with whom you develop relationships. 


Find ways to visit customers, attend customer events, or join calls with customers.  Set aside time to learn about your industry (in my case, healthcare).  The more you understand your customer's business and industry, the better partner you become.  It will improve your product decisions, as you will have context for how your customers use your product and the problems they are trying to solve.

Business partners

Your business partners include departments like sales, support, services, and marketing.  Take time to learn how they do what they do.  For example, learn how a salesperson gets quota credit (you do know what quota credit is, right?) or when and how your services team recognizes revenue (you do know what revenue is, right?)  Once you learn these concepts, you will have a better appreciation for why June 30 is significantly more than one business day away from July 1.

Finance and accounting

Learn how the money works in your organization.  There are critical concepts like capitalization, R&D Tax Credits, and so on that impact your company financial statements.  These in turn impact your ability to hire or to buy software. Financial management is as much a software development executive function as is shaping engineering practices and technology choices. 

I have never met a customer or business partner that refused to teach me.  They greatly appreciate your interest.  In turn, you will be surprised at how much you teach them about product development.  Spend your time here, and the question of "How do I become a VP" will take care of itself. 

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