Silly Things We Do with Job Titles

Something new in this year’s flock of business plans is the CSO: Chief Strategy Officer.

Hah! The silly things we do with business titles. When I started in business way back when — actually the 1970s — we had the president of a company and vice presidents. Or so I thought. The more sophisticated companies had senior vice presidents. Below the vice presidents, if you cared about it, there were directors, then managers, then supervisors.

Then we got the CEO and COO, the chief executive officer and chief operating officer. And then, more recently, the other “C level” titles including CFO, CTO, CIO, and CMO (for financial, technology, information, and marketing). My impression is that CEO, COO, and CFO emerged as popular titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, CTO came next, and the CMO is more recent. It used to be “VP Marketing” and of course Senior VP Marketing, now it’s CMO.

I’m starting to see references to “C-Level” people as part of the registration or admissions process for events. Here I thought sea level was a measure equivalent to no altitude, but C-Level means lofty heights. Sort of.

I was delighted to have the CEO and COO convention exist two years ago when I chose to change management of my company and name Sabrina Parsons CEO, and Noah Parsons COO. That was very convenient for me. I’ve been president of Palo Alto Software since I started it. I was president and only employee for a long time. So the CEO convention made it easy for me to keep my title but make it clear, at the same time, that somebody else is in charge. She’s the CEO. I report to her. And I don’t envy her the job description either, I’m much happier with mine: my interpretation of president these days means blogging, writing, teaching, and speaking. She runs the company.

So I’m amused by the business plans I see lately, in which these startup companies have only three or four people, but they are all C-Level people.

I’m particularly amused with the title CSO, or chief strategy officer. When I first started in business, the CSO was the client service officer, which was a sales position, reporting to the VP of sales.

I’m tempted to change my title: I want to be CBO, for chief blogging officer.


  • Rosa says:

    We have another C-level title in our office called the CNO, or the Chief Nagging Officer! This a rotating title, but oftens falls on me as the office manager!

  • Beccy says:

    LOL… exactly! And what about the era of off-the-wall titles… Head of People (I thought all humans had a head!), Wizard (is this a company or video game?), and Director of Fun (wow, back in pre-school!). Sometimes a simple amount of old-fashioned structure, presented in a straight-forward manner, is just what a company needs.

  • Kendall says:

    Amen! CxO titles have gotten out of control. Incidentally, I’ve met more CSOs whose titles stand for “Chief Sales Officer”, and CROs for “Chief Revenue Officer”. Remember during the dot com boom where everyone was called business development vs. salesman? That title continues. Using the “Salesman” title has gotten crazy: Business Development Manager, Regional Manager, Account Executive. Blah, blah, blah. If it sounds like a duck, walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

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