Over the last few years, we have seen the trend of unconventional titles being issued. While we can all get a good laugh from titles like Tax Wrangler and Wizard of Light Bulb Moments, the serious issue still remains … what should a net-new hire be titled?
As a niche recruitment firm focused on finding product candidates for venture-funded startups and scale-ups, we are often tasked with recruiting first-time product leadership hires. And just as often we get the question (from our CEO/Founder clients) “what should I call them?”
To simplify title selection for any early-stage tech CEO or Founder, here is a quick checklist of the basics to help you determine which of the 3 most probable titles you should choose when hiring someone to run Product Management:
- Reports to the Board and/or Founder/CEO
- Board involvement
- Participates in raising capital
- Often hired to participate in a pivot/reset or to scale the business to achieve an outcome/exit
- Focuses on the business objectives, market opportunity, product vision, and architecture to get there
- Owns the overall roadmap
- Global scope
- Leads other leaders
- Functions reporting into this role may include: product strategy, product management, agile delivery, program management, GTM, and product marketing
VP Product Management
- Reports to a CPO or CEO/Founder; depending on the engineering history or Co-Founder situation, they might also report to a CTO
- Participates in company "town halls" as the functional leader
- For most startups, a VP Product is their senior-most product leader
- Moves across strategy and execution seamlessly and can "roll up their sleeves" when necessary
- Owns the roadmap and responsible for its delivery
- Often leading a team of individual contributors: product managers, product owners, and designers
- They are tasked with developing the "path to revenue" and launching products into market and their peer is the VP Engineering
Does this sound like your hire? Here are the important questions to ask when hiring a VP Product.
Head of Product
- Reports to the Founder/CEO who will still own the roadmap and remains the "product visionary"
- Hands-on and often have a scrappy persona
- Usually the first product hire or first product leader hire
- If they lead others, it is often a small number of Product Managers or their "leadership" is of the pod/scrum team. Because of this, they work closely with tech teams
- This title typically comes from young modern tech startups and can be applied to attract a senior-level individual contributor, or as part of a retention strategy.