As businesses make advancements, they’re relying more and more on technology to streamline processes and have more effective workflows—thereby saving them time and money. So it makes sense that companies are recognizing the importance of having someone oversee those technological strides, and Chief Technology officer hires are on the rise. Historically, it’s been the least-defined role in the C-suite, so we’re breaking down what you should be looking for if your company is hiring a CTO.
1. Strong EQ
Many folks with tech backgrounds have a solid technical IQ, but more often than not, they’re typically more comfortable being behind a computer screen all day than engaging with their team. You’ll want to focus on candidates that really have the necessary emotional intelligence and leadership skills to corral the troops and build solid internal relationships, especially if you’re a public or larger company. A strong CTO won’t be influential if they aren’t able to get collective buy-in from other executive leaders. Getting this buy-in requires the ability to sell a vision, influence people, and build foundational relationships.
2. P&L Mindset
While it’s not surprising that many tech leaders have great foundational knowledge about what technology will help make your company more efficient and your employees’ lives easier, very few are able to embody that skill set through a profit and loss lens. You’ll want someone who is able to show you how to leverage tech in order to cut costs (via automation or outsourcing), or increase revenue.
3. Cultural Fit
Companies hire on resumes and fire on personalities. Remember, resumes are documents which embellish someone’s strengths and track record, and leave out any blemishes or mistakes. You need to dig deeper, far beyond the resume, to figure out if a candidate is a right fit. Having an internal document outlining company values, and testing on those values in interviews, is a great way to ensure this happens.
4. Experience Developing Talent
All tech talent is expensive, even early-stage tech talent. Many of them will have the technical skills for the job, but will need coaching to understand the business context. If you can find someone who knows how to mentor, develop and create more loyal early-stage tech talent, you’ll save yourself a significant amount of money in recruiter fees and energy spent on recruiting externally through lower employee turnover.
5. Customer & Product Focused
If you’re at a B2C company (especially one that targets millennials as a client base), you’ll want a Customer and Product-Focused CTO. Someone who is focused on the user experience and interface—making things look good and easy to use. They may even be a certified scrum product owner, a product certification in maximizing value through product development.
6. Experience at a Company your Age & Stage
Are you a Venture Capital or Private Equity-backed early-stage company with aggressive growth goals to hit? A company at this stage will require someone who’s comfortable being scrappy, getting the job done themselves and not delegating to larger teams. Someone who thinks beyond their role description, is able to recognize if they can be helpful in other functions, and are ready to dive in. Or are you a public company with a bureaucratic environment? The ability to be innovative in a bureaucratic environment like a bank is definitely a skill—albeit one that’s completely different from being innovative at a startup, which promotes a “fail often and fail fast” mindset in order to scale.
7. Industry Experience
While not an absolute must, if the person has industry experience, they’ll have a much better contextual understanding of potential problem areas, and what software (and even outside contractors) they’ll need to leverage in order to solve them. For a company that leverages customer or industry data to determine their strategy or product roadmap, industry experience can be extremely helpful as these data sets can be complex. For example, if you’re a financial services firm, finding a tech leader with experience leveraging Bloomberg time series data, or alternatives like Factset and Koyfin, can be helpful. If you’re a healthcare firm, finding a tech leader with experience around electronic health record data, whether it be shAIp, Analytics IQ, or another software your firm uses, is important. Finding a CTO who understands the industry lexicon will also give them much more credibility with internal business leaders and be better equipped to solve the specific needs of the business.
8. Vendor Negotiation Skills
Because IT vendors are often much more skilled in the art of negotiation than the tech executives they negotiate with, hiring someone who has invested time into cultivating this skill will save you money in the long run. Making sure candidates exemplify flexibility and thoughtfulness in their approach, and the ability to not get tied down to only one solution too soon, will help mitigate suboptimal contractual agreements that leave your company without the upper hand.
9. Experience with your Software Development Methodology
How does your company approach project management? Does it take a more team-led Agile approach—prioritizing customer experience, allowing for more flexibility in accepting changes on the fly? Or do you employ a Waterfall approach, with a more clear, but rigid, process and end goal? Having a CTO with a successful track record in your preferred methodology will ensure expectations are aligned from the start.
10. Experience with your Tech Stack Tools & Databases
Finally, your new CTO should have experience with the platforms your products are built on, whether that’s Angular, React, Aurelia, etc. Generally speaking, the more closely your potential CTO can be aligned with the tools you already employ, the better.
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Managing Director & Technology Practice Leader