Vice President (VP) of Product

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6 min read

VP of Product

The Vice President (VP) of Product is an executive-level position and supporting role to the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). The VP of Product's primary responsibility is creating a product roadmap for a company's product managers and user experience teams to follow.

A VP of product usually reports directly to the CEO and works closely with the CTO and the VP of Marketing to ensure the company's vision is on the right track.

What Does a VP of Product Do?

The VP of Product's job is to take a CEO's vision and create a product roadmap for the company to follow. Where the CTO focuses on "how" to build a product, the VP of Product must strategize "why" and "what."

To outline an effective product road map, the VP of Product must have a thorough knowledge of the market, the customers, and the product. They also need a clear understanding of their team's roles and the limitations of the company's resources.

The VP of Product must understand how to implement and track KPIs to measure the company's product roadmap performance.

The Customer's Voice

In some sense, a VP of Product is the voice of the customer within an organization. They have to know what the customer wants right now and predict how the customer's demands might change in the future.

For this reason, a VP of Product must ask the hard questions and challenge teams to push beyond what's possible to deliver constant innovation without losing sight of the company's vision.

Team Management & Development

For a VP of Product's vision to succeed, they must ensure they have the best talent. Executing a company's product strategy means a VP of Product must stay on top of recruiting, training, and coaching, especially where a company is working at the highest level of innovation.

The VP of Product is a visible member of the organization, constantly engaging with team members. To effectively manage people, a VP of Product must be an excellent communicator and motivator capable of delivering clear direction for the company's product road map.

While a VP of Product won't necessarily work directly with team members, it's their responsibility to ensure team managers understand the company's product goals with the resources to execute each step of the product roadmap.

The Skills of a VP of Product

Core to a VP of Product's skillset is project management. They must know how to formulate and communicate the company's product roadmap.

Other vital skills a VP of Product must have include:

  • Strong Leadership: The VP of Product must have strong leadership skills and often lead under pressure. Even those new to the role will have a proven track record of successfully leading product teams.
  • Strategic and creative: A VP of Product must think strategically to develop a product road map with the creativity and confidence to adapt their plans when challenges arise. On top of this, they must be innovators capable of staying ahead of the competition while never losing focus of the customer's needs.
  • Customer-focused mindset: A successful VP of Product can empathize with their customer's needs, wants, and desires. They have extensive knowledge of user experience and how to design products to meet demand.
  • Excellent communicator: The VP of Product is one of the most visible individuals in an organization. They must be excellent communicators capable of motivating multiple teams towards a common goal. A VP of Product also connects with the company's leadership and therefore needs the business acumen to communicate at the highest level.
  • Talent Scout: Exceptional products come from exceptional talent. The VP of Product must work closely with HR to find great talent and encourage personal growth and training, so employees continuously operate at the highest level.
  • Financial acumen: A VP of Product must know how to work within the constraints of a budget while driving growth and innovation. They will have a sound understanding of how product delays affect the rest of the organization and have plans in place to mitigate risks.
  • Networking & Collaboration: To keep the product roadmap on course, a VP of Product must know what challenges other departments face and how that will affect their vision. They need to pay close attention to the technical strategy and collaborate with technical management to overcome potential hurdles.

How to Become a VP of Product

The foundation to becoming a VP of Product is a bachelor's or master's degree in a business or technical field. VPs will be experts in product design and development and usually have at least ten years of experience in product management.

By the time a candidate is ready for a VP of Product role, they will likely have held several managerial positions, including, but not limited to:

  • Assistant Product Manager
  • Product Manager
  • Senior Product Manager
  • Director of Product

Product managers eyeing a VP role must not underestimate the importance of networking and collaborating outside of their department. Executives will discuss your promotion with other managers and leaders to determine how you will be received across the org chart.

VP of Product Salary

According to Zippia, the average VP of Product salary is $186,409 per year or $90 per hour. The top 10% of VPs make over $238,000 per year, while the bottom 10% make around $145,000 per year. Zippia also predicts that the VP of Product career will grow by 8% and produce 21,800 jobs in the United States between 2018 & 2028.

The top five states that pay the highest VP of Product salaries include California, Kansas, Montana, Washington, and New York.

What About the Chief Product Officer (CPO)?

In most companies, especially early-stage startups, the CEO and CTO share the responsibilities of a CPO. A company will only look to fill a CPO role when the product team splits from the technical team. This split typically happens when a company reaches a particular maturity or the product is specialized and complex.

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