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Top 13 Qualities of a Successful CTO


Being an entrepreneur immersed in the business world, making the right hiring decision or partnering decision is vital to the success of your business. The right CTO can greatly improve your ability to fulfill your mission and create products and services that your customers will love, no matter what your industry is. Here are some characteristics to look for in such a partnership: 

1. Years of Experience.

Chief Technology Officers are integral members of many SaaS startups, medium-sized ICT companies, as well as large corporations. Do you think your company could benefit from a Chief Technology Officer? Experts with technical strategy and people-management skills are in high demand. Effective CTOs have learned from multiple years of successes and failures, and they have gathered knowledge that helps steer startups away from fatal rookie mistakes. This experience enables them to effectively manage people as well as processes.

In order to have a positive impact on the organization, tech companies or IT departments require good strategy and effective leadership. The complex decisions that need to be made such as which CMS to use, which software platform is suitable for a new project, or how soon to expand, can only come from having extensive experience of having team leaders with an appetite for continuous learning. 

2. Having Deep Technical Expertise

Most CTOs are educated in STEM disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. Experience is one thing, but maintaining exceptional performance requires skill. In the rapidly changing world of technology, technical certification is often a plus; staying up to date is a challenge.

CTOs with expertise and experience can avoid mistakes, such as failing to properly scope out projects and define key performance indicators (KPIs) when implementing new technologies. When an expert identifies a problem, they must also know how to handle obstacles like having an inadequate amount of resources. They use this knowledge to build solutions in challenging situations.

3. Network of Industry Professionals

It is impossible to know everything. A good CTO’s network will help in several aspects of running the business. The ability to maintain good relations with highly skilled professionals can always be beneficial for a CTO, regardless of the industry, when it comes to influencing decision-makers. In a study published in IEEE journal, Dongning Rao reports:

“Experiments showed that the social network sizes of CTO/CIOs in large companies are bigger than the social network sizes of CTO/CIO in small companies. Moreover, we discovered that the size of those social networks between CTO/CIO is a key factor of the difference of the company size”

To help fill any gaps in a CTO’s experience, they should have the ability to turn to peers in their niche for guidance. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison had a legendary friendship that is an example of how being around great minds can benefit you.

4. Communication 

A CTO must know how to communicate seamlessly with technical and non-technical employees since both are at the forefront of daily operations. When communicating publicly, communication skills can mean the difference between winning a deal or losing it. Joel Beasley of the Modern CTO suggests they be able to:

  1. Clearly explain how it works (Can I explain it to a child?)
  2. Fluently answer questions on market potential
  3. Navigate my way through my first customers
  4. Fully understand funding: seed, warrants, and Series A (if I’m taking the financing route)

5. Establishing Priorities

A leader’s task is to create a vision and mission for their company and set its direction. It is the CTO’s job to collaboratively create the technical reality of a company with its CEO, especially in the digital era where software tools are used to develop and distribute products and services. When a company’s core mission is unclear, there are dangers. These can be managed by a skilled CTO.

6. How to Hire the Right People

CTOs are able to assemble an incredible engineering team. Winning the tech war for talent through designing programs like employee referrals or making employee value propositions top talent can’t refuse. Attracting talent is often done efficiently through investing in best-practices. According to TalentLyft, “82% of talent say a negative interview experience can change their mind about a role they liked”. 

Providing a great interview and candidate experience is a fundamental part of growing a company. A CTO does all they can to attract, acquire and develop talent within their organization. 

7. Expertise in a Broad Range of Technologies

Knowing the product well in a company is important, but learning about the innovations of the competitors can help motivate innovation, which is a key element of employee engagement, happiness, and fulfillment. Furthermore, having a working knowledge of a wide range of tools could save companies time and money, so technologists must stay current on the latest tools. 

Scenarios arise when a company realizes there is no software on the market to meet the demands of the customer. In such a situation creating a new platform is essential, yet is subject to certain risks including “loss of time and money, scope creep, and lack of support if developers leave to work elsewhere.”

8. Practical Thinking

Sometimes companies need to make technical compromises to meet market demands. CTOs are responsible for ensuring that technical strategy matches business strategy. Sometimes due to fierce competition executive teams may choose to push a product to market earlier than desired. A CTO should be able to provide a solution to deploying a product earlier than desired, however, they ideally understand and mitigate business and security risks that come with each decision.

9. Innovation out of Digital Disruption 

Education, financial management, and even healthcare is all undergoing digital disruption today. A disruption can create an unpleasant change moment for those forced to abandon their traditional ways of doing business. It might seem that disruption appears overnight, but it doesn’t.

Technological advances and competition often influence disruption. A consumer-centric offering such as PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy is disrupting healthcare by offering retail-like health and wellness services tailored to meeting and exceeding the expectations of today’s healthcare consumers.

10. Fostering a positive Workplace Culture

Fostering a positive workplace culture can not only increase employee retention but also increase efficiency and productivity. Keeping a people-centered culture while pursuing excellence is possible. Employing the right people, rewarding them, and recognizing them can all improve employee retention, as well as offering suitable benefits.

Millennials have been criticized for their apparent unwillingness to continue the corporate norms established by older generations when they entered the workforce. It is crucial that CTOs have a keen understanding of their employees’ pressure points in order to attract and retain top talent. Talent turnover could harm sustainability in the long run.

11. Strategic Thinking

It is important that the CTO does not just focus on individual lines of code, but rather on the big picture. Ideally, they should focus primarily on product development and technology. With the CTO’s responsibilities stretching from implementation to cybersecurity, it can be intimidating for the individual. Thus, we believe that such a wide scope of responsibilities should fall to a group and not just an individual. 

12. Staying up-to-date with Tech Trends

Patients expect doctors to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in medicine so they can provide the best care. An excellent CTO is likewise expected to be familiar with the latest tech news, and at the same time deter uninformed colleagues from falling victim to an obvious blockchain scam, or worse. In a start-up environment, colleagues should be able to look to the CTO for trusted advice on the technical direction of the company. 

13. An Understanding of People

A strong CTO needs to see how technology enables people. And, despite their own technological prowess, they need to see where others may have challenges with adapting to new technology or ways of doing things.” – REID CARR

In other words, knowing when to adopt new technologies and whether the staff can adapt to them is crucial to maintaining efficiency. CTOs should be able to manage communication channels effectively, oversee the transition to new systems, and maximize the security of the organization in general, during mergers and acquisitions. 

Work with a Fractional CTO

What are the benefits of working with a fractional CTO? Many startups and medium-sized companies have challenging choices to make in organizing their budget. In terms of payroll and essential operations, it may not be possible to hire a CTO at competitive rates. In addition, a limited talent pool makes it difficult to identify talent. 

Fortunately, these obstacles can be overcome, and no company should be held back from advancing its mission. Working with a fractional CTO helps save money and provides the added benefit of having a group of experienced industry professionals fully capable of communicating with you to provide a strategic roadmap from idea to launch. The complexities of product development can be managed by a network of professionals, which can allow companies to focus on other priorities.

Hire a fractional CTO for your organization by exploring NuBinary’s services. By taking advantage of our competitive pricing, you can get started on your project with confidence and efficiency. Our services will: 

  • Fill startup CTO position
  • Excel in product development
  • Shorten the time to market
  • Develop a sound product roadmap
  • Strategize your fundraising

Contact us to find out more about other services we offer

Venture Jumpstart:

  • Product Development Process​
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Go-to-market strategy
  • Positioning for dilutive and non-dilutive funds​

Product Development

  • Full product development
  • Augmented R&D team
  • Identifying best R&D grant programs
  • University collaboration

Related: What can a Non-Technical Co-Founder do before approaching a Chief Technology Officer?