When Marissa Mayer left her 13-year career at Google to take the corner suite at Yahoo, it made news headlines around the world. For some, rising to the C-Suite means jumping ship but that’s not the only way. Here are three tips to make it to the top while staying put.
1. Become a well-rounded executive
Some companies with a laser focus, such as microprocessor giant Intel, value engineering skills above all else. This shows in the calibre of the people chosen to lead the organisation, such as current chief Brian Krzanich, who began his career with the company in 1982 as a process engineer, moving through various roles including plant manager, overseeing supply chain and eventually taking the role of chief operating officer before getting the nod for the top job. While he started as an engineer, the roles he held gave him a total view of the way the company operated and these skills put him in good stead to manage the company as the market moves from being about desktop PCs to a focus on everything mobile.
The first key, then, to getting a seat at the big table is to move around, absorb everything possible about your organisation and prepare yourself for the eventual global view at the top.
2. Become a well-educated executive
A good education is one thing. Ongoing executive education, however, is another stepping stone to getting a seat at the top. If you’re a high-flyer at your company, stop by the HR department and find out how they can maximise your leadership potential. Chances are the HR director will have a list of courses, from short-courses focused on a single aspect of the business, through to an MBA at a reputable university.
Don’t disregard the opportunity to engage in courses outside of the business either. Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, is famous for enrolling in online courses in everything from computer intelligence to languages. The fact he has a masters in computer science and an MBA from the world-renowned Booth School of Business probably didn’t hurt his chances of landing the top job at the software giant either.
3. Become a travelling executive
Sometimes the only way to reach the C-Suite is to move into another organisation. This could be because there’s a logjam of executive talent at your current employer, or you’ve recognised there are better opportunities elsewhere. One of the most famous recent examples is Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer, who started as an early employee of Google, moved into executive management, but found herself chafing for additional responsibility. A call from internet giant Yahoo to oversee its rebound put her into the top office at just the time she was looking for a new challenge.
Broaden your skills, continue your education and don’t be afraid to grasp opportunities elsewhere and you’ll be on the right path to a seat at the big table.