Chief Technical Officer

Estimated reading time: 5 min

I see CTO role as a bridge between business and technology - matching technical aspects of the company’s strategy to ensure alignment with its business goals.

CTO day-to-day job as making sure that our engineers have a productive environment to work in, and that the whole family of engineering is set up for success in the long term. I also see responsibility for making sure that the right technology roadmap is in place for company infrastructure and that that enables us to build the best products for our users in the years ahead. There is a necessity to hire well so the teams can scale while helping each other develop in the craft of engineering.

It is a good practice to think every day what is think you can work on, that has the biggest impact on the team & the company.

In most cases in CTO role you are responsible for number of areas, such as

  • Platform selection and technical design
  • DevOps
  • Team growth - Hiring
  • Cyber-security
  • QA and testing
  • Growth roadmap, keeping sync in latest trends and innovations

You have to master communication and negotiation. It is good to keep in mind that all your team members are watching you, you might not see it but It is important to stand the ground in difficult situations, it matters how you react especially in unpleasant situations.

There are multiple stages

of every CTO, it depends on the size of the team

Less than 5 people

  • you develop and work with the code every day, you know everybody top down, you deal with everything - full-stack product, design, growth, IT, watching logs, metrics..
  • You should not add any processes to the organization, optimize recruiting, or other tihngs - it does not matter yet, until the next stage
  • You have to be proactive, pragmatic and execute fast

10 - 20 people - most case where you start, except you’ll found a startup

  • Hiring starts to play a role - finding the talent, bringing it aboard and retain it
  • You have to start delegating, most probably you have already two teams under you, 2 team leaders reporting to you, but you are still part of everyday team’s operations
  • There is some variant of agile methodology in place, you are still part of planning, helping break down feature scope, architecture
  • You have to balance between product, technology, management and leadership - you should start mentoring people
  • Be careful not to micro-manage but have performance review process in place or at least have 1 on 1 regularly - you have to take care of employee engagement and retention
  • You have to design or update processes
    • Hiring
    • Onboarding
      • Make it as simple as possible to limit hand-holding of on-boarding new developer and existing one (you should account 10% of every existing engineer for onboarding of new one)
      • More people = less productivity = features usually ship slower

20 - 50 people - more management, promotions, pipelines and more delegation - you stop being part of everything happening in the teams

  • You stop digging into the code - you have different problems now - you have to manage managers
  • You get benefit - if you got good people, they create teams with good values, principles and goals
  • Everybody must understand ownership and responsibility, you have to keep everybody driving to the bigger goal to create space for teams to prosper and work effectively
  • The processes from previous stage starts to lag - you have to adapt and sometimes completely change them to fit the organization again

Hundreds of people

  • you do not know everybody personally anymore, you now have VPs that support you, they organize their teams how it is best for them
  • You deal mostly with strategy - setting guiding principles, repeating organization’s vales and vision
  • You are defining goals that will impact business 1-3 years from now

Books I’ve read and found interesting

Interesting business books

I strongly believe if it does not hurt - if you do not feel it, you do not grow. It applies not just for muscles but for the brain too.