What is the secret behind a successful software startup? Our answer would simply be to have a great CTO at your disposal. Perhaps now you are wondering, what actually makes a CTO great?
You’ll get the answer to that question later in this post. In it, we’ll go into the 9 most important characteristics or qualities you need to look out for if you’re looking for a great CTO. Or maybe even want to become one yourself.
First things first, let’s take the technicalities out of the way. If you’re new to the software development industry, chances are, you’re still wondering what a CTO is and what they do. Fret not, we’re here to explain.
The chief technology officer’s job is nothing more and nothing less than to consistently execute a company’s (especially a startup’s) business strategy and thus ensure its successful growth. To do this, a chief technology officer must be equipped with skills usually acquired during previous work experiences. Many also hold degrees in computer science or engineering. Venture capitalists will be more inclined to invest money in a startup if it has a successful history, a competent CTO, and an equally competent development team.
It is hard to put into words what a CTO job description is because they are considered a jack of all trades in the company. Sometimes they work on the development of the product but then may shift to managing a team and making strategic technical decisions. In short, your Chief Technology Officer helps you turn your idea into an actual product. Admittedly, this is not an easy task, which requires not only the right training and experience but also a few essential character traits. We’ll tell you what those are in this article.
A Great CTO…
- is a Strategic Decision Maker
- Has Real-World Experience
- Has the Ability to Articulate Well
- Has An Eye for Design
- Knows When and When Not to Code
- Has Technical Business Insights
- Uses A Strategic Approach
- Has Exceptional Communication Skills
- Has a Large Network of Connections
1. A Great CTO is a Strategic Decision Maker
- reorganizing the development team,
- preparing a presentation of your startup hypothesis in front of a potential investor,
- or the migration of the technological infrastructure
the CTO is the one who makes these decisions. Thus, he is responsible for both long- and short-term technical and business decisions. In order to make these decisions with confidence, he needs experience and characteristic competencies. This fact brings us to the next point.
2. A Great CTO Has Real-World Experience
In addition to outstanding technical knowledge, a technical director must also have experience. Both leading a team and guiding it through appropriate technical concepts are crucial when it comes to making strategic decisions. He or she should also keep abreast of current technology trends and emerging technologies. Only then will a CTO always be able to structure the growth of the company through his leadership skills.
3. A Great CTO Has the Ability to Articulate Well
A technical director must keep up with the latest trends and breakthrough technologies while staying on top of market developments. To achieve this, he must have the rhetorical skills to communicate insights not only to the rest of his team but equally to often less technically savvy customers.
A successful CTO is able to communicate complex topics to a broad audience. This includes stakeholders, technically inexperienced colleagues, or, as already mentioned, customers who often need inspiration and coaching on the significance of the newly developed technologies.
4. A Great CTO Has An Eye for Design
One of the necessary qualities of a good CTO is also to see beyond the programming language. Your apps and websites may be the fastest, and you may use the latest technologies – but nothing eclipses the persuasive power of elegant design. That’s why competent technical directors understand not only the programming code on the back end but equally its visible, visual appearance on the front end. To that end, they usually have some experience as UX designers and can build on that to develop the right strategies for their product designers. It is always the CTO who ensures that the product looks as innovative as it works.
5. A Great CTO Knows When and When Not to Code
It may surprise you to hear this, but not all technical directors know how to program. They do, however, always know about how to run a fruitful software development effort. A good CTO knows when to dive into a particular project – and when to delegate their team members to do the work. The composition of the team is critical to the balance in development, and the CTO always has the big picture in mind.
6. A Great CTO Has Technical Business Insights
Of course, a CTO’s tasks are primarily technical – but he or she wouldn’t get very far without business insights. Not every new technology is really suitable for a particular company. In the digital realm, trends often come and go even faster than in the fashion world – and only an experienced technical director can recognize the true significance of market developments. And only if he also has the ability to put together an action plan that fits these changes will he impress customers (as well as his team) and achieve a positive ROI.
In practice, it is often virtually impossible to predict whether the technology will be a hit or miss. Here, the CTO must have a comprehensive understanding of how it could help the company and its stakeholders. Such an understanding includes both technological and business knowledge.
7. A Great CTO Uses A Strategic Approach
Again, CTOs must focus on the bigger picture, not just the individual lines of code. After all, a crucial part of their job is to find the balance between technical and business strategies.
A strong warning signal is when a CTO strictly insists on always using his own rules to get a task done. After all, if the team ever pushes to use a particular mobile app (or a new method like agile software development with the Scrum method), he may have to sacrifice his ego and his love for dearly held ways of working to make the individually optimal decisions.
8. A Great CTO Has Exceptional Communication Skills
Many companies neglect this very important detail. A successful technical director must be able to translate processes, technologies, and workflows between non-technical and technical people. He must communicate with your stakeholders about technical decisions that may have a broad impact on business objectives. Only by meeting the needs of customers, investors, and partners alike will you ensure that the project is moving in the right direction.
9. A Great CTO Has a Large Network of Connections
However, this does not mean that he knows everyone and anyone. A technical director who has an extensive network of contacts can easily fill in gaps in the development process through them if they need additional manpower or information. Here’s an example.
Imagine your company is in desperate need of an iOS programmer. Instead of going through the arduous process of hiring a full-time developer, it might be much more practical to tap into existing contacts on short notice. Therefore, a CTO’s well-stocked network usually includes trusted development companies, consultants, and engineers. Especially those who can answer detailed questions.
Even if it seems tempting to use our article as a checklist for finding the right CTO for your startup – you should never judge a book by its cover alone. This is also true when filling the position of technical director. Your ideal candidate may not have all 9 out of 9 qualities, but may still have what it takes to succeed in your company.
- Leading the team the right way,
- knowing exactly when to get his hands dirty and when to delegate,
- as well as always being up to date with the latest technical developments,
are just a few of the important traits of a successful technical director. While no one may be perfect, some are definitely better and more qualified than others. If you’re trying to be the best CTO of them all – or looking for that for your software startup – the above qualities are a solid foundation to build upon. However, not sole exclusion criteria.
Consequently, finding the perfect CTO is not the easiest thing to do and can cost a lot of time (and therefore money). With Rocketloop’s CTO as a Service, you can quickly start developing your product without spending time on the search. Meanwhile, as you move forward with your product development, we’ll find your ideal CTO, train your development team, and once everything is under control, we’ll seamlessly hand over responsibility to you.