The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) not only offers technical leadership to developers but also makes sure the technology supports, helps and stays consistent with the company’s business strategies. Their duties and role are truly wide-ranging. The position requires not only strictly technical competencies but also soft skills.
The CTO’s role has evolved over time. I have no doubt that the importance of the person holding this position has increased in recent years. Once it was thought that it would be enough for a good CTO to have the technical knowledge and be able to program. Now, that is not enough. Some even believe that technical knowledge and soft skills are now of equal importance.
It is worth emphasizing that the CTO is also usually a person who works well with everyone in the company, so the post cannot be held by someone who is an introvert and unable to work with other people. The role of the CTO within the team is very important. They are really the second most important person in the company, after the CEO. In some cases, those two roles can be taken by a single person.
In the course of my experience in the IT industry, I have been able to observe how the position of a CTO has evolved. It’s this evolution that has inspired me to write this article. I would like to discuss the features a good CTO should have to be effective.
Let’s start with the most obvious feature. Ideally, the CTO has a technical background; simply put, they have been a developer and know programming languages. Certainly, we have frequently seen that people move across from a developer position to the role of CTO. Undoubtedly, hard skills are useful for a CTO position. They allow you to better understand the specificity of the software and effectively cooperate with a team of developers.
By the way, I have also come across some cases where the CTO has never been a developer, so this is also possible. However, the road towards effective performance is much more difficult in this case.
Good CTOs not only know the industry and technologies but have soft skills. These are very important, especially in the context of team management and communication, problem-solving, ability to work under time pressure, prioritizing tasks, and the ability to make effective decisions.
It may seem that these are less important features, but that’s not true. A CTO has to work with many teams and even departments. The ability to communicate effectively is therefore crucial. As confirmation of these words, I will show you the results of a survey carried out by Google. Their internal research shows that a good manager in the highest position is above all a good teacher: they give the team encouragement and create a good working environment. This is all included in the concept of soft skills.
The CTO should have the extensive technical knowledge and know-how it can be used in business. They must also be up to date with technological innovations and know-how they can improve the operation of the company. Without a doubt, the CTO is an entrepreneurial person who is not afraid of technological progress and the continuous acquisition of new knowledge.
You will know that in many companies, the CTO is responsible not only for technology but also for other aspects. It is good practice for the CTO to be interested in business news, have at least a basic knowledge of finance, and have experience in the implementation and development of business strategies.
At this point, I would like to emphasize once again that a good CTO is not only a person who knows technology but is also interested in other fields of knowledge. Such competencies only help in fulfilling the duties of a CTO more effectively.
And finally, one more feature that I think must be taken into account. A CTO cannot be a random person who does not know the specifics of the product they are developing. Therefore, it is often very difficult to recruit a good CTO who has had no previous opportunity to work on a given product.
Solid knowledge of the product helps you make better decisions. In the absence of such knowledge, problems will appear sooner or later. I will say more: the person should in love with the product and fully understand its business model. Without this, success will be difficult to achieve. In addition, the CTO should not only know the product from the inside out but also know how to sell and advertise it.
Perhaps, after reading this article, you are thinking that the role of the CTO requires unimaginably broad competencies. Keep in mind that I have presented the ideal model of the person holding this position, so even if some skills are foreign to you, you can always start working on their development to become an even better and more effective CTO. Good luck!