What does it take to reach the top in the tech industry? Data company Paysa recently examined the backgrounds, educations, and experiences of C-level executives and tech directors to determine how they earned their titles—and their average salary of $229,000.
About 30% of C-level executives and tech directors have spent more than 20 years in the workforce, Paysa found. And despite ongoing industry efforts to diversify, 80% of C-level positions and tech director positions are held by men.
In terms of top job specialities, C-level executives list management as their No. 1 knowledge area, followed by leadership, startups, strategy, and software development. Meanwhile, tech directors also list management in the top spot, followed by project management, leadership, integration, and enterprise software.
C-level executives across the tech industry had varying levels of education and years in the workforce, Paysa found. More than half of executives in software development, hardware development, IT, and other online business sectors held bachelor's degrees. However, only between 32% and 39% of those in each area held master's degrees. Between 4% and 12% of C-level professionals held a Ph.D., with the highest percentage of those individuals working in security and networking.
"The longer you're in the workforce, the more that working experience overshadows any kind of educational experience you have," Chris Bolte, CEO of Paysa, told TechRepublic. "A lot of data shows the importance of higher education for non-tech-specific roles dwindles over time, because you're gathering that hands-on experience." However, education can often grant you more connections and opportunities that enable you to rise up the ranks faster when starting out, Bolte said.
Executives in the security and networking realm were the most likely to have spent the least amount of time in their position. The most tenured C-level workers were found in hardware development, Paysa found. The strongest female C-suite presence was found in IT and other online businesses—the only areas in the industry where women occupy more than 10% of the highest levels of company leadership.
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Bolte offered the following tips for tech workers who have their eye on the C-suite as a career goal:
1. Develop a rounded tech skillset.
"Technology is becoming so core to what everyone is doing and impacting every business—to have some idea about how software development works gives you the ability to apply it to your business," Bolte said.
2. Remember to hone your soft skills.
"Don't forget about skills like presenting to both a small and large team, writing, and articulating ideas in both in writing and speaking, and rallying teams around that idea," Bolte said.
3. Understand how your work fits into the broader picture.
Get to know each side of the company, and their challenges, including business, product, and tech, Bolte said. You should also get to know what your customers are looking for, and what the competition offers.
4. Build a strong peer group.
Understand your own strengths and weaknesses, and build a team around you that complements those qualities, Bolte advises.
"Not everyone is going to migrate to being a C-level individual, and not everyone should," Bolte said. "You should be an active steward in your career, and pay attention to what it is you like to do, and what you're good at. When you show interest and take the occasional risk, good things generally happen."
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Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.