Head of Product

What does a Head of Product do?

A Head of Product is in charge of the entire Product Management division at a company, which encompasses building and scaling a product, plus growing a product team to carry out their vision alongside them. Head of Products typically report to CEOs or founders and spend their time building long-term strategies for the products their companies sell, and ensuring the success of a product in the marketplace.

How is a Head of Product different from other Product Roles?

A Head of Product is one of the most senior roles within the Product Management function, outside of perhaps a Chief of Product officer (although at many companies - a Head of Product and Chief Product Officer may be the same person!). Heads of Product are different from other individual contributor roles because they will often be responsible for hiring and growing a team over time to do things like carry out a product roadmap, oversee specific features of a product, help craft a monetization strategy, or more.

What is the typical background of a Head of Product?

A Head of Product is a senior leadership role at any company, and will typically require many years of experience (often 7-10 years) showing increasing responsibility along the way.

It's also worth noting that since a Head of Product needs to be so cross-functional, they will need to understand many different departments work within an organization - like marketing, sales, legal and operations. As a result, it can be helpful to hire Heads of Product that have experience in your particular field, since they may know the tangential, industry-specific requirements that need to take place in order to successfully launch a product.

For example - hiring a Head of Product at a Fintech company who used to work as a securities trader will help your team understand financial and federal compliance regulations you may need to follow in order to launch a new banking product.

What are some of the skills a successful Head of Product should have?

  • Ability to problem-solve: Having a Head of Product with great problem-solving skills may sound like a no-brainer, but possessing the skills to pivot quickly and think of creative solutions is essential to the success of a product team. When launching a new product, the list of unforeseen challenges can grow quickly - and seemingly small problems can end up having a large impact if they go unresolved. Skilled Heads of Product will need to push through doubt and frustration in order to achieve the best outcomes for their companies.
  • Ability to scale a product and it’s user-base: Heads of Product are often hired based on their past successes, and it’s important to make note of a candidate’s ability to scale and grow past products (especially if hiring for a startup). How do you grow your product from having 1 user, to 10, to 100, to 1,000, to 1,000,000? A Head of Product will know how to reach different milestones like these, borrowing on strategies and wisdom from past roles.
  • A deep understanding of product-market fit:  Heads of Product should have a solid understanding of product-market fit, and can spot what a team needs to change or build in order to achieve it. If a product matches the anticipated price point and is accessible to consumers - success becomes easier to achieve.
  • An eye for “stickiness”: A seasoned Head of Product will need to have an eye for “stickiness,” which in the product world refers to how engaging and valuable a product is to its users. Does your user base continue to return? A Head of Product can help make sure a product lives up to it’s “sticky” nature, attracting users.

What are some of the typical responsibilities of a Head of Product?

  • Time prioritization, for both their team and others within the company: A Head of Product will often not only be in charge of how their team prioritizes their time and projects, but their decisions may also impact how other departments within a company spend their time. For example, if a Head of Product decides to introduce a new feature - they may need to involve software engineering, marketing and sales teams to help build, market and sell their new project.
  • Customer persona and journey mapping: A Head of Product should have a deep understanding of the customer persona, beyond just demographics. What are the customer problems their company’s product helps to solve? What are the pain points a customer experiences, and what language does a customer use to articulate their problem?
  • Developing processes for product creation through launch: A Head of Product (especially one who joins a startup where they may be the first Head of Product ever), may wish to develop a clear process and set of parameters for their team to follow when building and testing a new feature. What does the initial briefing look like? Who are the stakeholders involved? What does testing look like - and how much of it does the team need to perform? How is the product released - is is released to beta users at first, and then to more customers over time? Heads of Product will need to help their teams answer questions like these in order to develop a successful, thriving Product organization.