What’s the most common trait of a successful tech firm? They all have an experienced chief technology officer (CTO).
The CTO is a challenging role for modern businesses because technology is constantly changing, and in many cases, a company’s technology development is its entire business. What makes the CTO unique and essential to a business compared to other executives is that the position requires the highest level of technical proficiency within a company. For the right IT talent, each candidate would have acquired a substantial amount of observation and learning to become a successful hire.
The skills boasted by CTOs are necessary to guide their respective employers not only in the short term but also for the future. In a way, the CTO is akin to a company’s true long-term visionary. While most high-level officers and directors at big tech firms shine in the spotlight, we rarely hear about the names of their technical leaders even at branded names like Microsoft and Amazon.
Would these tech giants still be as successful without masterminds like Kevin Scott or Werner Vogels? Possibly, but what they have brought in terms of innovation and value is evident in our society.
So, what attributes do these successful CTOs share? Here are some of them:
- Strong technical knowledge and discipline: An exceptional technology officer should offer both the technical expertise and practical experience to carry out each project. A key differentiator between a ‘good’ and a great ‘CTO’ is that the latter does not rely on consultants or other employees make the crucial decisions when building a new software. A great CTO also does not make assumptions about another professional’s skill set and will step in when necessary to avoid the compilation of “technical debt” within the organization.
- Industry experience: All CTOs should have accumulated years of experience in managing people and projects to be up for the task. In addition to technical knowledge and know-how, the ideal CTO would have assembled a repertoire of skills through successfully leading previous projects.
- A large, diverse network: As in almost every industry, whom you know can be just as important as what you know. Sometimes, even the best CTO would need to consult with others in the industry to optimize tech development. With the right connections – whether it be an IT consultant or engineer – a CTO can get the answers to niche questions that can take his or her business to the next level.
- Strategic thinking and versatility: The best CTOs in the world are able to focus on the technical aspect of the business while being flexible enough to contribute to other areas including overall business strategies. More importantly, the overall direction of a company involves knowing what future trends will emerge in the tech industry – and the CTO is the only one who can identify how the business will benefit from these opportunities.
- Communications: In any business environment, communications can be regarded as one of the key ingredients in driving tangible results. A CTO must be able to work with both technical people and people from other departments, taking on the responsibility of translating the technical choices that can affect business goals to stakeholders.
Appointing a CTO for your tech business is unlike hiring any other position. That person must have a combination of unrivalled qualities, as well as the knowledge, integrity and vision to guide the entire organization forward. Whether you are looking at hiring someone from a competitor or grooming that role internally, the potential rewards can be transformational.