Stairway to CEO

By Jennifer Eng | October 18, 2016

What does it take for someone to become CEO or reach an executive-level position? A recent study conducted by LinkedIn revealed that leaders who have experience in more than one functional area of a business, such as marketing and engineering, are just as likely to become senior executives as those with three extra years of experience, and experience in four different functions was nearly as impactful as holding an M.B.A from a top five program. CEOs need to have a deep understanding of how different functions of their companies work and how employees do their jobs, and having experience in multiple areas provides that valuable insight. The New York Times’ Neil Irwin profiles several nonlinear paths of successful executives. NetApp CEO, Georgie Kurian, has been in engineering, product management, and sales and marketing. Blue Mercury CEO, Marla Malcolm Beck, used core analytical skills to learn almost every function of the company she built and successfully sold, including information technology and inventory and supply chain management. Nationwide’s Mortgage Division President, Kai Monahan, worked in accounting and consulting, then risk management, and eventually auditing. These executives succeeded by acquiring a diverse set of skills and having the ability to learn about different fields. Irwin states, “The key to navigating [the path] is being able to learn from others all along the way.” Indeed.

Jennifer is the Digital Marketing Manager at Practice. She has a publishing background and taught high school English in Takamatsu, Japan through the JET Programme. Jennifer was a creative writing major and currently volunteers with literacy/gender equality nonprofit Room to Read.

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