Ben Wilson is the Chief Technology Officer – Energy for Google.
Little did Ben Wilson know that his first job out of college, working on the Space Station and Space Shuttle Programs, would lead him to become CTO – energy for Google. During his impressive, among other positions, he has served as both a CIO for an enterprise and CTO of a commercial software company. He helps define these often-confused titles and opines on the idea of being CEO of a product — though he is quick to note he has a different view of such a position:
“I see head of product as that kind of chief collaborator. How do I go and engage with those people more deeply? How do I understand their critical user journeys better? How do I understand, how do I hear them differently too? One of the things that I find challenging on a day-in, day-out basis is, each group has a way of communicating. And how do I position myself as an individual, as a leader, to hear their differentiated message? … Because if you don't hear that different message, then you're going to miss something, and that's something you don't want to do. And again, that's why I go back to this idea that the collaboration, coordination and communication is so important, and I look at myself more as a chief collaborator, rather than a product person."
In that role, he is constantly balancing the needs of various, sometimes competing, stakeholders, which he sees as a very broad job: “Stakeholder management is about not only rhythms of communications and how to go communicate, but being able to understand those audiences and those personas really well.”
Learn more about Ben’s take on defining the c-suite in product terms, as well as his advice on how to balance internal and external stakeholders on this episode of This Is Product Management.
Download the transcript of this episode here:
Here are the Highlights:
The differences between CIOs and CTOs: 11:51
Balancing internal and external stakeholders: 16:31
Traits of successful product managers: 28:30
Navigating the tension between vision and seniority: 34:31