A Psychologist’s Take on Executive CPO Recruiting

The Path to CPO, Posts

“Getting the CPO that understands how to drive virality is, I think, here to stay and the primary job of a CPO.” – Ted Krantz

By: Dr. Erika Torres, Sr. Manager for AbleTo/Optum

We recently launched a new podcast series The Path to CPO in partnership with Rashmi Ramesh. This podcast shines a light on some of the talented women CPOs working today. Each episode uncovers insight into the path they each took, how being a CPO differs from VP, what it took to make the transition, and what are keys to success in the role.

When we conducted our study “The State of Women In Product Management: A Blueprint for Equity” the data told us that 60% of women seek promotion to leadership, but 68% of women see the career path as unclear.

Our community has so many talented, ambitious, and worthy women. This series is meant to not only break open the black box of what it takes to prepare for and land a Chief Product Officer role but also to launch a collaborative conversation among our community members.

As a part of this series, we’ve asked Senior Leaders in our community to listen to an episode, write their reflections, and pose thought-provoking questions for community discussion in our private Facebook Group.

Dr. Erika Torres, Sr. Manager at AbleTo/Optum listened to our episode with Chris on the Executive Recruiter’s approach. 

Erika’s Takeaways

I am a storyteller and someone who appreciates context just as much as I value checklists. I know, it may seem contradictory, but hear me out. It is not. Below are my interpretation and takeaways from this episode. 

Listening to this episode was inspiring. Some of the information shared, I have heard before. For example, the ongoing pipeline challenge we have with women in technical roles moving up the ladder. And, other information I filled in the blanks and took the liberty to interpret. 

Some of this may feel familiar and some may be brand new. Hang on to your hats. Here is a short and practical extrapolation in the form of a checklist to get you started:

Identify where you want to go. This will require reflection and introspection as well as support from your personal and professional communities. 

Document and track: If the CPO seat is what you are aiming for (or whatever it is for that matter), map it out. In product terms, roadmap your way there. Ask yourself, how many steps do I need to get through between where I am now and the CPO office? 

Build a relationship with recruiters through LinkedIn and other venues, and be selective keeping your vision top of mind.

When recruiters reach out to you, take a stance and ask many clarifying questions. Be intentional and honor where you want to go. 

Those elevator pitches and storytelling skills will come in handy, and they are not the only thing that will get your foot in the door. Make sure you can articulate and have evidence of your accomplishments and relevant skills.

If you want to join a large company, be ready to demonstrate transferable and applicable skills for how to scale and bring business value to the company.

Dust off, or learn new leadership skills. You need to demonstrate an ability to grow and develop others (that is a major part of scaling products, or anything else, IMO), and sadly an often underlooked skillset. It is also easier said than done as people are complex creatures. 

Consider whether you want to join companies with male-only or mostly white-male leadership. Yes, I know, shocker! Are you ready to tackle the additional emotional effort that this may likely require on your part? 

If you are a woman of color, you already know that reaching the top will be much more complex to navigate, but you also know it is not impossible. You are a hustler and you got this! 

Find models, sponsors, mentors, and coaches along the way to help you sort through the clutter and navigate the journey. 

I hope you find these tips helpful and feel inspired to listen to the episode. Peace! 

Here are some reflection/discussion questions to get you energized:

  • Where do I want to be in my product career in 6 months, a year, 5 years?
  • Where do I need to start my professional roadmap? What are 3-5 KPIs and OKRs? 
  • Who are 3-5 people that I need to connect with now that will support my journey?
  • What questions do I have now about my career choices? Who can help me answer them?



Dr. Erika Torres, Sr. Manager at AbleTo/Optum, A Psychologist’s take on Executive CPO Recruiting

Dr. Erika Torres

Dr. Erika Torres is a licensed bilingual psychologist, educator, and scientist turned clinical program/product manager in mental health tech. She is passionate about the intersection between the use of technology for the greater good, health equity, and DEIAB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Belonging).

She is currently a Sr. Manager for AbleTo/Optum, leading bilingual and culturally responsive clinical program (product) development and health equity efforts.