From CTO of multiple startups to PM. Not getting interviews?

New / Strategy vVhO41
Nov 8 23 Comments

7 yrs experience as CTO for 2 successful small businesses in Finance. Been applying to big tech companies as a Product Manager in Silicon Valley and not getting any traction so far, applied to about 50. Also applying to smaller companies and getting rejections. Even had a professional help draft resume and cover letter. Anything I’m doing wrong?

Can a small business CTO not make transition to Product manager?

comments

Want to comment? LOG IN or SIGN UP
TOP 23 Comments
  • If you were CTO to funded startups, why not take a position with a under a different portfolio company of some of your VCs? Also, why PM, why not EM role?
    Nov 8 6
    • That would mean you’re either a massive disappointment to the VCs or you were not exactly delivering the impact you believe you were. VCs are a small community and reputation gets around quickly.
      Nov 8
    • New / Product
      r3ds14k

      New Product

      PRE
      Pindrop
      r3ds14kmore
      Ha, possibly. To clarify, I was not a CEO of a a16z startup, only tech director.
      Nov 8
    • New / Strategy vVhO41
      OP
      Not a traditional vc funded startup. Essentially funded together with partners and ran positive cash flow. $xxM.
      Nov 8
    • Gotcha, that explains the lack of market demand. Consider applying for big tech, they’re more likely to be open to hiring. But I still think trying to be a PM from CTO of a finance (fintech?) company is going to be mad hard.
      Nov 8
    • New / Strategy vVhO41
      OP
      Yup, going for big tech. Haven’t used referrals yet, waiting for the right PM position. I wore a bunch of different hats, as most at startup companies do. Starting to wonder if I can even do the job of a PM with no interviews being offered. Gonna keep applying and stick to the plan. Thanks for your input.
      Nov 8
  • Amazon
    azmix

    Amazon

    BIO
    Here to share my experience and knowledge inspired by the support I got from minimsft.
    azmixmore
    There are not many companies out there that are looking for financial technology experience. With a background like yours, you’re likely to be viewed as an industry hire at L6 (FB, G)/L7 (Amazon), in which case you’re competing against very experienced PMs (10+ YoE). I’d suggest to try companies like Stripe, SoFi, and Amazon (the FinTech group). Your resume doesn’t read as a PM resume - it’s not clear what is your domain and scope of a problem. Do you have a mentor or a trusted contact in the PM discipline, if not, I’d suggest to find one. And get those referrals or direct 1-1 with recruiters before you apply.
    Nov 8 4
    • New / Strategy vVhO41
      OP
      Thanks for this, a lot of great info. I don’t have a mentor PM, I’ll look around. Tried for Stripe, accidentally applied for lower level PM, still rejected. Figured the resume was just a gateway into interview, so its got a broad scope. My interviews should hopefully go very well, naturally good at getting along with people and being trusted. Just need to get in the door. I’ll take a look at the companies you posted, thanks again.
      Nov 8
    • Amazon
      azmix

      Amazon

      BIO
      Here to share my experience and knowledge inspired by the support I got from minimsft.
      azmixmore
      Here is more info on Amazon’s team: https://www.amazon.jobs/en/teams/finance-technology
      Nov 8
    • New / Strategy vVhO41
      OP
      Seems right up my alley. Now to figure out how to tell the wife we’re moving to Seattle.
      Nov 8
    • Amazon
      azmix

      Amazon

      BIO
      Here to share my experience and knowledge inspired by the support I got from minimsft.
      azmixmore
      Haha, here is their engineering director (not the PM hiring manager though).

      https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelmckiernan
      Nov 8
  • Adobe / Product Xiang j
    Can you post the description of your last role? Sometimes, the big challenge is getting past the recruiter. They need to clearly understand what role you’ll be a fit for.
    Nov 8 3
    • New / Strategy vVhO41
      OP
      Sure. I have a summary up top, so tried to make experience highlight achievements and not dive into details, or it’d be 3 pages. Resume currently 1 page.
      Exp below:
      “Created visionary roadmaps for financial technologies to exceed those currently in use.
      Executed a strategic plan that resulted in the following:
      $400M growth of assets from $35M to $435M+ in just over 6 years.
      45% revenue 5-year CAGR.
      300% better productivity compared to competition.
      3x revenue produced per professional compared to competition.

      Consulted and managed attorneys, engineers and software providers to develop a revolutionary wealth management system.
      Architected, developed, and integrated all technology systems in place. “

      Summary:
      “Visionary leader for financial services and technology products with nearly a decade of experience. Deep background setting roadmaps and working with engineers, attorneys and designers to create innovative products and improve scalability. Analytical thinker adept at envisioning product features and developing strategic programs to increase productivity. Trusted senior-level advisor with excellent written and verbal communication skills who influences decision-makers and is successful in building teams, prioritizing and multi-tasking. Passionate about using artificial intelligence and technologies to improve [xyz industry].”
      Nov 8
    • Square / Eng FitbitHype
      To be honest, your resume has a lot of fluff.

      "Creates visionary roadmaps for financial technologies to exceed those currently in use.". This statement is 100% fluff and tells me nothing objectively.

      300% better productivity/3x revenue produced compared to competition - seems like hand picked numbers. These are fuzzy because a lot of times you define "competition" subjectively to make numbers better.

      "Consulted and managed ... wealth management system". Again, almost all fluff.

      "Architected, developed, and integrated all technology systems in place" - are you a developer?

      Then under your summary you do the same thing with some fluff. I didn't learn a lot about you or more importantly, what you brought to the table.

      Everyone is a visionary leader. Everyone is an analytical thinker. Everyone works with engineers.
      Nov 8
    • New / Strategy vVhO41
      OP
      Thanks for this. Any examples on how I can be more direct? I am partly a developer, wore many hats. Tech was my primary one, facilitated m&a activities, software architecture, built client portals, vendor choices, migrations of data, data mapping, integrations, created a lot of automation through scripts and integrations, customized a lot of things and created both internal/external systems, governance, laying out tech plans and vision, compliance, I can go on for a long long time. I’m not sure how to show this stuff in short and to the point format. Any tips?

      Numbers are from benchmarking studies from custodians with thousands of firms custodying assets (reputable studies). Didn’t want to put appendices on the bottom with a source.
      Nov 8
  • If you were a CTO you most likely would make a better TPM than PM.
    The CTO title might disqualify you because of assumptions around salary or hands on experience. People get a better response after changing their title to EVP, which is essentially the same thing.
    Tech companies are looking to hire people from tech companies so if you don’t have that, you need a referral at the very least before anyone would even talk to you.
    Do you need visa sponsorship?
    These are just some possible reasons without seeing the resume.
    Nov 8 1
    • New / Strategy vVhO41
      OP
      No visa sponsorship, born in California, and living in SF Bay Area. I thought they may think I will command a high salary due to exp (willing to take lower than I make if position will make me happy), interesting point on TPM and changing title. I’ve considered TPM, but fear that I don’t have enough coding skills that most TPM jobs are asking for at big tech firms.
      Nov 8
  • Netflix ElCamino🚗
    Summary section is weak. It’s filled with jargons and it’s not detailed enough. Remove words like visionary, analytical thinker, strategic, multi tasking, etc. Also I wouldn’t put communication skill in the summary section either.
    Nov 8 0
  • New / Product
    r3ds14k

    New Product

    PRE
    Pindrop
    r3ds14kmore
    I transitioned from CEO and technical director roles at startups and F500s. It took referrals and patience to even get an interview. Ultimately I got my subsequent contract roles via a referral (a real one from someone that knew me).

    Then I started a company as an outsource PM service.
    Nov 8 2
    • Yelp Barneyes
      Tell us more on the company ? How do you find clients? What does a pm service do ? Why won’t your clients just hire a pm leader instead?
      Nov 8
    • New / Product
      r3ds14k

      New Product

      PRE
      Pindrop
      r3ds14kmore
      All good questions. It was started because a lot of known and unknown companies were contacting me directly to help lead their product/tech business aspirations. Most often it's much less focused of an ask; it's usually a conversation of challenges they are facing as a business, and I advise them to the point that they say, hey just come do that for us.

      So, if that many people have the same problem, there is a reason, and I appear to have a micro captive market to figure that out with.

      We're currently an invite only org, and all my current customers came to us, or were referred to us by people (investors mostly) that know of me and my approach to business and product.

      Why us instead of their own resource(s). There are many good reasons, but of course that is coming from the person selling the horse. I'd quantify why below:

      1. Need for temporary innovation from an outside, and highly cross-industry, competent team to dig into a tough new or existing problem.
      2. Need advisory to transition the company from a technology-focused company into product-focused one, all without missing a step with satisfying current customer delight.
      3. Direct support for founders wanting a formalized framework for productization of their ideas in lock-step with their own self-discovery and self-development as being even capable to be scalable.

      In all cases, we focus on one specific value chain: we help teams and their ideas organize and materialize as a fully vetted product-centric opportunity. Our product is entirely the handoff of a viable product wrapped naturally and comfortably within product-excellence process.
      Nov 8
  • Amazon AIV
    Also keep in mind you’re in the middle of the worst time for tech hiring. Everyone is buttoning up for the holiday hiring freeze. It’ll thaw by spring.
    Nov 8 0

Salary
Comparison

    Real time salary information from verified employees