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5 Tips from VPs of Product on Breaking into Product Leadership

Connie Kwan (CPO, Product Maestro) recently sat down to chat VP of Product at ZipRecruiter and Auth0 to discuss their experience transitioning into leadership roles. Learn the 5 takeaways from these seasoned product leaders.

As a product manager, how do you move up the career ladder?

Product management is a versatile job calling for a versatile skill set. In many cases, product managers experience burnout before they experience promotions. That’s why Connie Kwan (CPO, Product Maestro) recently sat down to chat with Daniel Francisco (VP of Product, ZipRecruiter), Nick Wade (VP of Product, Auth0), and Shira Ronen (Founder & CEO, Spectrum Consulting SR) to discuss their experience in transitioning into leadership roles. Read on to learn the 5 takeaways from these seasoned product leaders.

Takeaway 1: Learn to Love the Journey 🧡


It may sound a little cliche, but hear me out. The first thing the panelists were asked was if their expectations for their career matched their reality.

For Nick and Daniel and much like many others starting out in the workforce, they started working out of necessity to afford things.

Their blue collar upbringings taught them to gather one of the most important skills to moving up the product ladder, learning on the job rather than via theory.

Nick describes himself as “still enjoying his career path even today”. From the start he didn’t have clear expectations for his career and still does not feel like he does. He just knows he likes learning and likes talking to people interested in the same problem sets.

A lot of his career path has been variable because he didn’t know what he wanted to do and still doesn’t know. For Nick, his favorite stories as a child were the Hardy Boys series. A novel about 2 brothers Frank and Joe Hardy solving mysteries together. Nick recognizes the books as a defining driver in his work mentality and approach. It instilled in him a willingness to learn and showed him how much he enjoyed learning. The learning mentality inspired by the series sets the foundation for his his career success.

”Trying new experiences, meeting new people, those were all really important learnings. As an adult, these days, we don’t get enough permission to learn. You’re trying to eradicate the mistakes and become experts. Instead, keep learning.”  -Nick Wade

Takeaway 2: Career Paths are non-Linear 🐍


The second takeaway is that there is no clear path to product leadership roles. Although that may seem intimidating, it can also be freeing and comforting.

Although all 4 panelists reached executive level, they all came from diverse backgrounds. It is a testament to the versatility of the product management role and the non-linear nature up the career ladder.

If you need a pulse check, Daniel Francisco challenges us to ask two questions.

  1. Am I learning?
  2. Am I surrounded myself with people who teach me things?

Why are these questions important?

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