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Receiving the title of CEO or CFO is fairly easy. Just incorporate your own business, and give yourself that title. On the other end of the spectrum is becoming a CEO for a company like Microsoft or Google. The larger the company, the harder it is to make it to the top. From what I have seen, most first time CEO's and CFO's have worked for their company for decades. It's an extremely slow process. The key is to find a company that encourages growth by giving tasks and projects that let you show your talent. Even in these companies, they will expect you to learn many parts of the business by being in many different positions before you make it to CEO.
Whether knowing the right people helps or not depends on the company culture. Some companies are extremely social-centric and promote the popular whether or not they are the right ones for the job. Other companies look only at performance and focus on finding the right person for the job.
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