The Exec who leads your Tech: What makes a great Chief Technology Officer?

The Exec who leads your Tech: What makes a great Chief Technology Officer?

by Startup Montréal
15 September 2022

Are you an aspiring Chief Technology Officer (CTO) looking to lead your company’s tech strategy? Or perhaps you are a fast-growing business looking to make sure your technology is up for the challenge? The exec who leads your tech plays a critical role in your company’s development and growth. Here’s what you need to know about what makes a great CTO.

During a period of hypergrowth, a scaleup’s tech strategy becomes increasingly important across the entire company, whether it’s in marketing, sales, production, or human resources. As such, a CTO may be one of the most important additions you make to your team, one who is both tech savvy, with the ability to stay on top of new tech trends, as well as people savvy, with the ability to inspire and lead a team through a positive technological transformation.

What exactly does a CTO do?

The primary role of the CTO is to develop and implement long-term technology goals in line with the company’s overall vision, mission and values. Keeping abreast of the latest trends, a CTO comes up with the best possible tech solutions for the company’s growth, establishing the core network architecture, leading the teams who implement it, and managing user expectations.

Seven Skills and Traits of a Great CTO

A successful CTO is a combination of IT professional and management exec, with a wide range of complementary skills in tech, strategic thinking, communications, and customer service. Here are seven skills and traits of a great CTO:

1. Leadership

As a member of the executive team, a great CTO has leadership skills, including the ability to inspire their team, delegate responsibilities, and ensure a positive technological transformation. A great CTO is just as comfortable sitting at the same table with the company suits as they are coding with developers and geeks. They make sure everyone is on the same page and headed in the same direction.

2. Tech Knowledge 

CTOs require strong knowledge of and years of experience in network architecture, data engineering, software development and application, including operational capabilities and constraints, such as speed, security, compatibility, scalability, and useability. In a rapidly growing field, with new tech emerging almost daily, great CTOs have a finger on the pulse of the industry, with the ability to recognize the tech that fits best with their company’s needs.

3. Strategic Thinking

Understanding how a particular technology will align with a company’s goals and making sure it is implemented in a strategic and systematic way is key to the successful scale-up. One of the most important qualities of a great CTO is the ability to anticipate upcoming trends, to plan ahead and provide the company with direction. This requires bold, forward-thinking, agility and creativity, someone who can use technology to improve the organization and increase business.

4. Communication Skills

Knowing how technology works is essential, but it is also important to be able to explain the value of technology to those who are not so tech inclined. A successful CTO is able to clearly communicate both in tech terms to their tech team and in lay terms to the tech users, whether CEOs and executives, employees or customers.

5. A Hands-on Approach 

A hands-on, collaborative approach goes a long way to ensuring a positive tech experience. A CTO exec will work with many different people across departments and sectors and will need to understand, empathize with, and guide their team through any challenges they may face in each stage of tech growth. These people skills are just as important as tech skills.

6. Education 

A great CTO will have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as IT, engineering, or cybersecurity. CTOs have tons of experience as a lead engineer or developer. They are passionate about learning beyond any formal education, hungry for the latest in new tech, with a knack for problem-solving on the go.

7. Customer Oriented  

In addition to being tech savvy, a CTO must also have people skills. A great CTO can anticipate customer challenges and needs, point to the various tech solutions available, and explain their benefits in lay terms. Open to customer feedback and continuous improvement, a CTO will ensure the best possible product and service for your customers, on time and within budget.

It is the combination of all of these skills and traits that make for a great CTO. While every CTO is different, ranging from very technical to very personable, they are an important addition to your team and will help you navigate the complexities of scaling up, making sure your hypergrowth experience is a smooth and positive one and boosting your productivity along the way.

Listen to CTO Luis Amat discuss the role of a Chief Technology Officer in this video.

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