By Elizabeth Ames, Chief Executive Officer, Women In Product
I am thrilled to be debuting the first interview of our new podcast series, The Path to CPO podcast, with Alex Hardiman, Chief Product Officer of The New York Times.
This new podcast begins to break open the black box of what it takes to prepare for and land a Chief Product Officer role. You’ll hear directly from women on their path to CPO, the pivots they took, the key skills and experience they gained, and what it takes to succeed in the role.
Alex has been a keynote speaker at the Women In Product Conference, and she has given back to our community in a number of ways. She’s spent time guiding product leaders in our community, she is warm, thoughtful, and shares her vulnerabilities.
I’m delighted to share my conversation with Alex on being a part of a community and how it’s shaped her career, her most proud career moments, and the advice she has for recruiters and CEOs to find great CPO talent.
Elizabeth: You mention in your podcast episode that Women In Product didn’t exist when you first got started in your career. How and when did you first get involved with Women In Product?
Alex: Women in Product has been such an important community for me. I first got involved with Women In Product in 2016 during one of the big transition moments in my career. I had just left The New York Times for Facebook and was in a new role, in a new industry, where I had no real network. It was daunting, but I was lucky enough to attend the first Women In Product Conference during my first week on the job and meet an incredible number of brilliant, ambitious, and refreshingly honest female product leaders.
Like many product managers who are 20+ years into their career, I discovered product serendipitously and found the leadership path to be pretty isolated and lonely. Years ago, when I first moved into a product role at The New York Times, I didn’t even know that Chief Product Officer was a role, let alone the right path for me. Joining Women In Product was the first time I felt connected to a broader product community of allies facing similar challenges and opportunities as me, and who weren’t afraid to tackle them head on together.
Elizabeth: Why is being a part of the Women In Product community important to you and how has it helped you advance in your career?
Alex: Women In Product gave me access to a new network of peers, mentors and mentees who I have deeply appreciated as I’ve taken on more senior-level product roles and managed my career trajectory with increased intentionality. We all benefit from having an objective sounding board at various moments in our careers, whether it be unpacking an ambiguous business challenge or navigating a new professional opportunity.
One of the things I admire most about Women In Product is how you are creating broader access to mentorship opportunities and support for women and non-binary people in product at all levels and across all industries. This type of access didn’t exist 10 years ago, and it’s an absolutely critical step towards increasing the visibility of diverse product teams and leaders. That’s why I really try to take on that responsibility to help others, too, and pay it back and pay it forward.
Elizabeth: At Women In Product, we like to celebrate all of our community members’ accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Can you tell us about a moment that stands out to you in your career? What moment made you feel the proudest, what made it special?
Alex: I love this question because I love hyping my team at The New York Times. Our ability to deliver on our mission of helping people understand and engage with the world is only as good as our people, and they blow me away every day with their creativity, optimism, and resilience.
One of the more memorable moments that comes to mind was the way we radically reprioritized our product roadmap at the start of the pandemic while our journalists were covering the story and while all Times employees were living through it themselves. What was so stunning at the time was that we saw that other institutions were not stepping up to help people understand the basic facts about what was happening, so we very quickly mobilized huge parts of our newsroom and product team to meet the moment.
We built a comprehensive public dataset of Covid-19 cases, launched new live formats and data tools to make our journalism as easy as possible for people to follow, made our most important Covid-19 coverage free to all, as well as made our internal safety guidance for reporting available to all journalists. In a moment of crisis, building purposeful products made that difficult era feel not only possible, but promising. And what validated our work was how the country responded: in March 2020, more than half of all Americans turned to The Times for reliable information.
Elizabeth: Chief Product Officer (CPO) positions are growing. They are relatively common in technology companies, but they are becoming more common in other industries like media and financial institutions. As the CPO position emerges more across different industries, what tips would you give recruiters and CEOs when hiring?
Alex: There’s not one linear path to get to CPO and no two CPOs look alike, so the most important tip I’d give is to look for range. And by range I mean experience leading multiple product portfolios and business lines, a track record of overseeing multiple functions beyond just product, the ability to apply their skills across different industries and contexts, and more.
The most effective CPOs I know are true executives who can operate at the top of the company and know to inclusively and decisively bring their peers and teams along with them no matter the challenge. I’ve found that someone’s range tends to be one of the best predictors of their ability to do that effectively.
We’re so excited for you to hear all of Alex’s insights on this week’s episode!
The Path to CPO is a 14-episode series that interviews female-identifying CPOs
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.
This podcast shines a light on some of the talented women Chief Product Officers working today. It offers insight into the path they each took to Chief Product Officer, how CPO differs from VP Product (Management), how these individuals made that transition, and what are keys to success in the role.
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About the author
Elizabeth is the Chief Executive Office of Women In Product.