The New Tech CEO Archetype

When your tech company was in need of new management you used to go get a proven executive, like Lou Gerstner or Meg Whitman, who had experience running large companies.

But now, it seems, you go get a strong technical person who rose up the ranks of product management and knows how to ship great products.

The new tech CEO archetype is a computer scientist who got into product management early in their career, led large product teams at a big important tech company, is in their 40s, and has great taste in technology, tech talent, and most of all tech products.

Marissa Mayer, Satya Nadella, and Sundar Pichai are examples of this archetype.

It’s not really different from what we look for in startup founders. Most of the time, the founders we back come from product backgrounds. They have a track record of building and shipping products. They are technical and can go toe to toe with their engineering team. They understand where technology is headed and they understand how software products are made and evolve.

When young people tell me they want to start or run a tech company, I always tell them to go work in product at a big tech company. I believe that product is the heart and soul of tech companies, it is where it all comes together. You can’t build a great company without great products (or great people).

So it’s heartening to me to see that the next generation of technology leaders is coming from product management. I think that bodes well for those companies and the tech industry in general.