What does a CTO do and what is their role? | AmazingCTO

Talking about skills, roles and responsibilities & what makes a great CTO


During the dot com bubble, I was a founder and startup CTO. At the beginning I wondered what to do as a CTO. There were many conflicting views on that position. From programming to vision, from technology to processes, from tools to people. After some time and more years at managing development teams and departments, my view on the CTO role is much clearer.

CTO Roles

What do others think about the CTO role? Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, defines four roles a CTO can have:

CTO Responsibilities

Many people have contributed to shaping the CTO role in startups. Indus Khaitan thinks the “5 Bare Minimum Things A Web Startup CTO Must Worry About” are:

I do agree with them, though I’m not sure Source Control is in my Top 5. Security depends on what you do and what framweworks you use, so this might not be an issue for some time into startup life. Availability gets more and more important when your customers increase and revenue over your plattform increases. Monitoring is a must from the beginning, it’s hard to add later - you lose especially a lot of insight if you have no monitoring, insight which is dearly needed in your first incident. Backup is often forgotten or underrated - do not forget to see if you really can get your site going again from a backup.

CTO Tasks

Eric Ries writes on the role of the CTO:

The CTO's primary job is to make sure the company's technology 
strategy serves its business strategy. 

with five specific CTO skills:

This is a great oversight of the CTO responsibilities, there is much more juice in that article, go ahead an read it.

How to be a Startup CTO

Tony Karrer ponders the question “Startup CTO or Developer”:

What worries me a bit is how often I read that 
startups should hire a developer / hands-on lead developer. 
I understand the desire for hiring someone who is going 
to product product. But often the result of a Founder 
hiring a developer or lead developer or even a 
VP engineering is a gap created between the founders and 
the developers. [...] By the way, I'm not suggesting 
that startups should hire a full-time Startup CTO who 
is not hands-on. Rather they should get a part-time 
Acting CTO who can help close the gap. 

I’ve distilled the (web) startup CTO job down to:

About Stephan

As a CTO, Interim CTO, CTO Coach - and developer - Stephan has seen many technology departments in fast-growing startups. As a kid he taught himself coding in a department store around 1981 because he wanted to write video games. Stephan studied computer science with distributed systems and artificial intelligence at the University of Ulm. He also studied Philosophy. Stephan aced all Diploma exams with 1.0. When the internet came to Germany in the 90 he worked as the first coder in several startups. He has founded a VC funded startup, worked in VC funded, fast growing startups with architecture, processes and growth challenges, worked as a manager for ImmoScout and as a CTO of an eBay Inc. company. After his wife successfully sold her startup they moved to the sea and Stephan took up CTO coaching. You can find him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @KingOfCoders

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