“I think enjoying your journey is just as important as making sure it’s the right next step for you.” – Amory Wakefield
By: Kim Blight, Director of Product Operations at ActiveCampaign
On the latest episode of the Women In Product Path to CPO Podcast, Amory Wakefield joins us to discuss her career journey. As the current CPO of Aquabyte and former CPO at Hydrow, Inc. Her story helps shine a light on the steps she has taken to land where she is today.
As a current Director of Product Operations who hopes to someday be in a CPO role myself, this episode inspired and invigorated me to keep on the path in my career. Amory does a terrific job tying in her own experience with the skills and mindset shifts she needed to make the move to the next level. Below are some helpful points she discusses in the podcast and a few questions I am now asking myself as I aim toward this path in my career.
The Importance of Strong Connections with Your Peers
Amory has been a CPO twice now in her career. Meeting and getting to know each member of the executive team was really important to her the second time around.
“The second time, the thing I asked for was to meet everyone on the executive team before I started. So I wanted to meet all my peers, that the team of people that you’re asking me to work with to accomplish this is perhaps the most critical part of the job. And I would say it wasn’t that that was a mistake I made the first time. It was more doing the job at Hydro, I realized how critical my relationships with my peers were and therefore stepping into the next role, I wanted to know who those peers would be.”
Since the executives and board are who you will spend a ton of time with, getting to know their roles and how you can best support them is key.
Building Strong Teams and Getting Comfortable Being Further From the Work
Another aspect that Amory discusses is being a manager of managers for the first time. As you move up the career ladder, getting comfortable with that space between the day to day work is a significant shift.
Something in my own career that has helped me become comfortable with that space is regular team check-ins to ensure we are all aligned to the same goals and progress, skip-level meetings, and All Hands for the entire team to gather and celebrate together.
The Skills That Guide You to the Top
Finally, a big topic of the podcast is what skills it takes to land the CPO role. For every individual, this list of skills will vary based on past experience, current role, and what leadership looks like to you.
“I was really focused on my own leadership skills, why I go to work, what’s important to me about work, what impact do I want to have and what does that mean to be a leader in an organization? Is that even the right choice for me? And really focused on that. And that’s the last, gosh, six to eight years have been really focused on leadership skills and what kind of a leader I want to show up as.”
Lessons and Questions I’ll be Taking With Me
This episode helped to provide me with so much clarity in my own journey! After listening to this episode, I found that no matter what aspect of the CPO role you look at, how you handle and treat your relationships across the team and board is what matters most. Staying true to who you are and ensuring those around you know they can count on you is critical when moving into this space.
Additionally, a few questions I’ll be keeping in mind as I figure out my own personal path to CPO:
- Who will my peers on the executive team be?
- How can I be the best partner to both the executives and the board?
- What kind of leader do I want to be known as?
- How comfortable am I being a few levels away from day-to-day work?
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Amory! I’m curious fellow WIPers: what would be on your list of questions to help you prepare for the path to CPO?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Blight is the Director of Product Operations at ActiveCampaign. As an advocate for women in tech, Kim spends her time outside of work writing for various outlets and hosted a talk at this year’s Women In Product Conference. As a mom of two, she is a strong advocate for parents in the workplace and women in executive roles. Kim met her husband on Twitter and spent years talking sporadically before they met in person.