Most modern businesses are technology-driven and are intertwined with emerging new technologies. Thus, for these companies to succeed and stay ahead of their competitors they have to adopt the trends quickly.
The necessity to stay in-tuned with technologies and emerging trends has brought about a new executive position − CTO, which stands for chief technology officer. If you take a look at the leadership of any startup, you’ll see a CTO among the C-level executives. Even though they have become vital components for both established businesses and startups, they are one of the most undefined position among C-level management. Therefore, there’s always some confusion as to their exact role largely due to the fact that they are often tasked with pursuing abstract goals such as innovation. However, their main goal is to help the company come up with the best solution possible for its future growth by blending knowledge of existing and emerging technology.
Whether you’re looking to digitize your company’s working processes or create an innovative product, you should not underestimate the importance of having a CTO to run the tech side of your business. If you’re a tech startup it is even more crucial for you to fully understand the role a CTO in your company and what their responsibilities entails as they will be able to bring progressive ideas to the company and find advanced tech solutions. In this article, we delve into the subject and define the role of a CTO within a technology startup, from our experience as a provider of software outsourcing in sri lanka.
Role of a startup CTO
CTOs are never a cookie cutter role, they vary between companies and industries. They can however be categorized as the big picture executives of your startup, always looking into the future. Future of technology and the future of your company. An important distinction to keep in mind is that not all CTOs manage the IT side of a business, as discussed below.
When it comes to software companies, there are two leading types of CTOs.
The first type is
These specialists don’t usually come from a coding background, instead they have studied finance, project management, mentoring, and other non-technical skills. Because of their non-technology background, the CTOs who fall into Operational Management type usually manage organizational moments without solving any tech issues.
The second type is
The individuals who fall into this category often senior developers and have a solid background in providing software development services and leading engineering teams. For many tech startups, having a CTO with this background is extremely important to attract target audiences and investors.
Responsibilities of CTO
The CTO role is an evolving role thus their responsibilities change depending on the role they play and the type of CTO they are. In this article we have given two various lists for the two types of CTOs listed above.
The CTO Responsibilities and Duties for Operational Management Type
- Manage people and processes: first and foremost, A CTOs primary function is Team Management. They have to take into consideration the company’s goals and set required tasks to individuals and teams to achieve said goals.
- Establish a company’s strategy: Since they are seen as a tech leader in the company, the CTO needs to bridge functional abilities and other company’s resources to improve efficiency. They should also aid in streamlining your company’s inside processes and find innovative ways to make collaborations between your employees easier.
- Follow the trends: To facilitate the growth of your company, a CTO must keep an eye on the technological trends and decide which ones to implement within your company. They also look at what their competition is doing and the products they are releasing, in order to stay abreast on tech trends and to ultimately gain the competitive edge over your competition.
- Find solutions: The Chief technology Officer needs to provide several different methods to fulfill a task, thus they never resort to “we can’t do this” or “it’s impossible”, instead they are always looking for more than one solution to any given problem. Through their experiences and qualifications, CTOs can also determine exactly what kind of specialist is required to complete a task.
- Represent the company: Finally, but certainly not least, a CTOs also have to foster the relationship among your business partners. They become the public face of the company and thus they must embody your company’s innovation and creativity. They do this by attending various industry related conferences. At these conferences they can also keep an eye out for experienced and qualified talent to work with in the future.
The CTO Responsibilities and Duties for Technical Leadership Type
- Hire the IT Professionals: If you’re a startup, you know that finding the right specialist is no easy task. The CTO is tasked with interviewing candidates to check their technical knowledge and to see if they are a right fit for your company.
- Create a Minimum Viable product (MVP): This is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development. A CTO is responsible for the quality of the final product thus they need to know the tools and technology required for developing a successful MVP.
- Improve the architecture of the app: An App has to always be up-to date and on-trend; it is the responsibility of your CTO to generate innovative ideas for updates and improvements. If an app is outdated, no matter how popular it is, it loses its effectiveness, especially in highly saturated markets.
- Choose the tech stack: Web development stacks is a combination of tools such as programming languages and frameworks that are used while building a mobile or web solution. It’s critical that your company doesn’t underestimate the importance of a properly chosen web tech stack on a project’s success. This is precisely where your CTOs comes into play. Your CTO is the one who is responsible for selecting an appropriate mobile or web development stack for your projects and its maintainability, scalability and stability.
- Coach and mentor developers: Though this is not entirely a role written on paper, it is certainly a role that many CTOs voluntarily sign up to do. Because just like in most industries, up-coming developers often look at more experienced developers to mentor and guide them through their experience. The CTO therefore often takes on the role of a mentor for these novice developers and help expand their knowledge further.
- These two lists are certainly not a comprehensive list of every duty and responsibility that fall under the job description of a Chief Technology Officer. However, this brief look at the major roles and responsibilities of a CTO is enough to conclude that the CTO is responsible for any and all technology-related issues within your startup. Their duties will change depending on technological trends, projects and the overall landscape of the industry. It is however important to note that while not all CTOs come from an IT background, they are still required to have some technical knowledge along with leadership skills.
Required skill set of a CTO
Technical talent without proper leadership is one of the most toxic environments for a startup, thus it’s vital you don’t underestimate the importance of social skills required for a CTO position. Even though the job role of a CTO is undefined, a required skill set for a qualified and experienced CTO is rather distinctive. Here we have listed down few key required skills to consider before you onboard the perfect CTO.
- Leadership Skills: First and foremost, we believe every C-level manager, including your CTO, requires exceptional leadership skills to motivate and inspire their team.
- Communication Skills: excellent communication skills are required of all employees and every C-level manager, and a CTO is certainly no exception to the rule. A Chief Technology Officer often has to delegate and explain tasks and deadlines to the team; thus, it is critical they can effectively communicate with their team. Good communication skills will also help increase the team’s effectiveness and ensure tasks are completed on time. Additionally, excellent communication skills will be prudent when they attend conferences and meet business partners. The CTO should be able to explain technical aspects to a non-technical audience in an engaging and captivating manner.
- Technical background: to fulfill a CTO position you have to be bringing in valuable experiences, insights and technical knowledge that your company and clientele can benefit from. The ideal candidate should be bringing in about 10 years of working experience in the IT industry.
- Strategic Thinking: Integrating new tools or innovations for your company cannot be done blindly, instead it requires a prepared strategy. Since there are many moving components, such as developers, designers, and project managers working side-by-side to complete a task, The CTO should take the company goals and then map out the practical steps leading to those goals for each part of the process.
- Problem Solving: One of the CTO’s primary responsibilities is finding different solutions during the development process. Your CTO has to be able to evaluate problems objectively and find the perfect solution.
- Time Management: CTOs have to always be hungry for knowledge. Technology is constantly evolving; thus, it is vital that they are able to quickly absorb information about advanced or innovative technologies, analyze it, and then determine whether to integrate it your company’s process or not.
- Mentoring: The experienced CTO is instrumental in helping your team and the company grow. Even in your company’s earliest stages, the ideal CTO should devote time to mentoring and evaluating future leaders of the company. Thus, the CTO must have enough technical and engineering expertise to enhance the novice talent and provide constructive feedback when necessary.
- Constant Education: The CTOs have to always be hungry for knowledge. Technology is always evolving; thus, it is vital that they are able to quickly absorb information about advanced or innovative technologies, analyzing it, and then determine whether to integrate it your company’s process or not.
- Creativity: Last, but not least the CTOs will come across many different obstacles, and they have to be able to look at issues from different angles and come up with creative solutions.
When you look at this list you will notice that the perfect candidate for your CTO position should have sound technical knowledge along with interpersonal leadership skills.
What your CTO should focus on
As you read through this article you have probably noticed that the CTO’s duties are rather diverse. To help you narrow down your search and foster the growth of your CTO we have listed down four main aspects we think a good CTO should continuously work on improving.
- Timing: They need to have enough knowledge to understand and evaluate when to embrace the technology and upgrade a product. This is always evolving; thus, they must always be aware of trends and technological advancements.
- Tech: Because of the many years of work experiences they bring to this role as the CTO, they should provide the team with the right technology stack.
- Team: A CTO can’t function alone, and they depend heavily on a resourceful team. They monitor the pool of tech talents and recruit. After hiring, the CTO should continuously mentor and inspire the team to ensure growth.
- Tools: The CTO should always be on the lookout for new and advanced tools to empower the team and streamline the working process.
A Tech startup CTO is the link between strategy, tactics and technology goals. A good CTO should look at business goals and translates them into projects and advice their team on specific technology that they will need to deploy to get there. To summarize, they will be responsible for all technology related challenges within your startup.
The job role of CTA might be undefined, but one thing is for certain, the future plays a large distinctive part in the role of a CTO. They need to constantly be looking at the big picture even if that means they are thinking six months ahead of where the company is. This will help provide your company with direction. The CTO needs to constantly stay abreast on industry tech trends. Hiring a professional CTO, however, can be a real challenge. We’ve mentioned the skill set required from a CTO, and you’ll probably agree it’s a rather extensive list. Thus, it’s no surprise that the average salary of a CTO in the US is over $120,000 per year.