What is the traditional career track for someone in business development? (If indeed one exists.) Clearly, one can work up to a title of 'Director of Business Development', but what comes after that? Admittedly the answer depends on the org. structure of the company in question. Generally speaking though, what jobs are those that hold the title of "Director of Business Development" looking for? CEO? Chief Science Officer / Director of R&D? CFO? Vice President of Sales & Marketing? It seems like business development may not be considered true ‘science’ work, nor true ‘sales’ work, nor true ‘finance’ work, yet it certainly may be a combination of the three, depending on the company. As a business development careerist, if you’re not considered a specialist in any of these areas you may not be qualified to lead these groups.
So - where do I want to go and what is possible? I am looking to move up the Bus Dev side of things and then go the CEO post. I look at Bus Dev as having to have your fingers in everything. I have to understand sales. I have to understand manufacturing. I have to understand the direction of the company. I, as you point out, am not a master of any of them. I am, however, familiiar with all of them. COO would be another position that would be possible, depending on you focussed yourself. CSO is unlikly as you have strayed too far from the research side of things. The basic thing that Bus Dev does is understand how the company works and then try and take it to the next level. If you bring in things that you can't manufacture, don't fit with your R+D team, or aren't aligned with what your sales reps can sell -> you haven't done your job. You won't be doing the basic thing of "take company to next level". You will have accomplished "burden people with stuff they can't deal with" which is not what you are supposed to be doing!
You then state
I'm looking at Business Development as an alternative to the research track, but I'd like to have a better idea of what my career options will look like in twenty years. On the science side of the house there is a clear progression as one becomes group leader, then rising to lead ever larger numbers of researchers. Eventually one can head the entire company’s R&D, then theoretically on to CEO. Less clear to me is the progression in Biz.Dev. – unless of course it’s common to make the jump directly from Director of Business Development to CEO.I don't agree with the CEO part from climbing the research side. I do NOT agree that CEO's should (or do) come fromthe R+D side of the house. It is a mistake (in my opionion) if they have been over there the whole time. A pure R+D focus will NOT prepare you to run the company. You know, if you have been over there the whole time, nothing about sales, manufacturing, marketing, or any of the other bits of the companies. I don't see the heads of any of the big companies (or any of the quickly growing smaller companies) as coming from the pure R+D side.
I think a good CEO is as I describe (and I am biased here as it is what I want to become) - well rounded. They HAVE to know the tech side of things cold. They can not be like John Scully at Apple - Pepsi guy trying to sell computers. Didn't work... Joel on Software has a lot more to say about that and says it a lot better than I do (you have to search his archives, as I am too lazy right now) but his basic point is "how can a CEO lead if he doesn't even understand what his company sells/makes/develops or the market they operate in. The cult of MBA has this illusiong that all companies are the same and that you just "have people for that" and they take care of things. I, and I think Joel, would pretty firmly disagree with that.
SO - they have to know tech, but that can't be it. There is also this sales and marketing thing. If you don't know about that you won't do it right and you will make errors. Operations (making sure the lights stay on, people have what they need, and the bills get paid) is a whole other thing that has to work. Basically - My view of the CEO has them knowing a bit about all of these things. In a pinch they can do them, but as the company gets bigger they just have to know enough to call BS when someone else lies to them.
SO = I have strayed off topic. BUT - I look at Bus Dev as having my finger in everything. This is, I think, good training for the step up. I look at Manager -> Director -> VP -> CEO as the progression. The names change along the way in that you may not be called business development and may get labled as "Corporate Development" or some such. Some Bus Dev jobs have a much bigger sales component than mine does, so your milage may vary.
Answer the question?