> (b) I would think that having a PhD would help qualify you for the top-level executive roles. Although, frankly, I've looked at company websites, and top-level executives with PhDs are not _that_ common, even in software companies. But yeah, I mean, there _should_ be a top-level decision maker who is _at least_ keeping a close watch on any research related to what the company does (I'm talking software companies here, not companies that _use_ software)... and the vast majority of people who have the necessary skills will be people who did PhD-level research. Anyway, this person should be able to advocate for how the company can leverage new research, and this should not just be left to lower-level (hierarchically) technical folks who have no true strategic voice in the company.
I think there might be a correlation causation thing happening here. :) A PhD doesn't necessarily give you leadership ability, you might join at a higher position and move up in a shorter time frame (because you joined at a higher position).
> Do you think this is true even of CS PhDs? I feel like in my research group, there is a real chance for any of we (students) to do this, but AFAIK I am the only one who has ever really thought about it, because my colleagues tend to keep their noses in the books and focus on narrow technical concerns, whereas I'm really a big-picture thinker. So: in my case, plenty of opportunity, just not much interest among actual PhD students.
My experience is mostly of C.S./Machine Learning PhDs. Let me give you an illustration. Say you spend your entire PhD figuring out one specific problem in recommendation systems, like for example, building optimization algorithms where the error rate is 6% or so. This is incredibly cool stuff but when you go out into the real world, you don't necessarily need that fancy algorithm inorder to solve problems. Really simple stuff works and the way production code works, keep it simple stupid is an important thing!