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The formula for the perfect CTO

When we think about a startup’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), we imagine an entrepreneur sitting behind a stack of high-tech devices or programming algorithms. But the needs dictated by the entrepreneurial world have turned this role into much more than that.

The CTO’s performance is also key to developing the startup’s business idea. This professional isn’t just glued to machines, but also to people: the ones they’re in charge of, the ones at their level within the company, and external stakeholders.

According to GeeksHubs Academy Director Chaume Sánchez, technological skills only account for 40% of a strong CTO’s profile. Their skills in team management are at the same level (another 40%). And you also want your CTO to have a business mentality, to make sure their department constantly pushes for innovation, foresight, and transformation. The perfect formula for defining the best CTO? 40% technological skills + 40% soft skills + 20% business vision.

To get to these percentages you need to work on it step by step. To begin with, the person in charge of tech may be focused on exactly that, with the responsibility for the company’s future falling on the CEO or perhaps the CMO. But if a project goes ahead and has customers and funding, the technology director will need to create a strong team, be able to communicate to them what they want and know how to manage it, and will also need to speak to stakeholders outside of the company. This is where technology specialists can falter: speaking in public, according to a survey of software developers by GeeksHubs Academy. This is why their CTO bootcamps focus on this skill and on reaching that 40+40+20. To get to the total percentage, GeeksHubs Academy looks at each category individually.

CTO 1 - insur_space by MAPFRE

If we look first at tech skills, according to Sánchez, a tech director needs to know all about the following – as well as other areas.

  • Successful trends in development.
  • High availability infrastructures.
  • Microservices architecture.
  • The importance of using design patterns and testable coding.
  • The various type of testing (TDD, ATDD, BDD).
  • Methodologies for scaling apps and services.
  • How to scale-up for different countries and languages, together with domain architecture.
  • How to lead the implementation of continuous delivery systems.
  • How to evaluate advantages and issues with infrastructure as code and having a data centre Vs cloud infrastructure.

In terms of management skills and HR, the CTO needs to be ready to:

  • Effectively manage tools, resources, costs, and lead times to reach objectives.
  • Have a business vision for the department, with KPIs and dashboards leading to informed decision-making.
  • Be on top of tech trends, and bring them into the organisation.
  • Know about managing high-performance teams.
  • Lead the workflow using agile methodologies.
  • Create a culture of productivity and continuous learning.
  • Be emotionally intelligent and have the empathy to lead a team.
  • Define a department’s internal culture, and select and retain tech talent.
  • Have social and communications skills to perform their managerial role.
  • Know how to speak in public – reliably and with control over non-verbal language.

In terms of the team mentality, the CTO must:

  • Be on top of open innovation trends.
  • Be a driver of growth who adds value to the company.

The great majority of these skills aren’t taught at university where learning is focused on technical knowledge and skills, and less on attitudes. But with the enormous need for tech profiles that the digital economy and society are driving, these skills are now essential for any tech professional who wants to be an active and crucial member of a business.