Great Chief Technical Officer (CTO) is quite a rare individual to find considering that, on top of being a good leader, such a person should have deep technical knowledge, a diverse spectrum of skills, and a ton of hard-earned experience. In addition, the battle-hardened candidate for a CTO position is well-aware of his or her value, has an intense drive to work on interesting projects, and has a privilege to be a picky person. Under the circumstances, the question 'How to find a CTO?' is a tricky one. If you want to conquer the loyalty of a potentially great CTO, you have to be ready to do some heavy lifting. However, with some perseverance, good approach, belief in a product you create, infectious drive, and the tiniest bit of luck, great CTO will soon be among the ranks of your company.
This article will elaborate on the importance of having a talented CTO and provide some insights on the best way to find a CTO.
The Mission of a CTO
CTO is a person in charge of a company’s technology needs and R&D department. The primary mission of such an individual is to make short- and long-term strategic decisions and investments to ensure a company’s technological development and that all tech requirements are met in time.
The essential thing to understand here is that CTO is, first and foremost, a manager, negotiator, and strategist who comes from a powerful tech/engineering background. Such a combination allows a CTO to be an efficient executive while staying on top of the relevant and promising trends, such as big data, machine learning, AI, VR, etc. Otherwise, it would be difficult for him or her to ensure a company’s tech prowess and prosperity.
Depending on a company’s specifics, CTO can perform different tasks and be responsible for different processes. However, some of the CTO’s roles are quite prevalent. These CTO's functions include:
- Working with stakeholders to determine current targets and ways of achieving them
- Ensuring that tech roadmap and associated investments serve a corporate purpose
- Working with business analysts to plan the direction of a product development to meet corporate needs
- Being responsible for the performance of development teams
- Ensuring that tech goals are achievable and relevant and negotiating the change of the trajectory if not.
- Preparing and adjusting tech budgets
- Being a link between the tech department and the other Chief Executives
Why Do You Need a CTO?
You may wonder, why do I even need a CTO as far as my company does well without one? Yes, it’s quite a probable and even a prevalent situation. And, of course, only companies that deal with tech in one way or another need CTOs. However, if you have a company that fits the profile and grows, the right question is not ‘Why?’ but ‘When do you need a CTO?’
So, what are the signs that your company is in need of a CTO?
- company is no longer on the initial stages of growth
- company has a tech infrastructure and expertise in need of the strategic development
- company has a sizeable tech team that may not require additional engineers at the moment but has a lot of the potential and requires leadership
- you want a secure future for the company’s relevance in the ever-changing tech sector
- company’s technical decisions enter the area of relevance of new features and efficient resource allocation
- or perhaps, the performance of your technology team deteriorates, and you look after a universal solution
If the company meets the requirements and still does not have a CTO, it has a glaring gap in its expertise and the executive branch. There would be an infinite potential for sudden failures without a talented tech leader who knows how to handle this sector of the company’s development. In this case, the next logical question is 'Where to find a CTO for your company?'
Interesting fact: Since 2009, the US White House has a CTO too, who’s official title is Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Currently, this position is held by Michael Kratsios, who “encourages the development of emerging technologies in the United States, empowers American companies to commercialize and adopt new technologies…”
How to Find a CTO: Step by Step Guide
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the number of openings for CTOs is going to increase. The competition for the best candidates is harsh and is going to be even harsher. Therefore, to ensure the success of the business, the company must be on top of their hiring game, implementing best practices, and not being afraid to act unconventionally.
These are the steps to finding and hiring a great CTO for your company. Also, this guide is great for entrepreneurs who have ever wondered, 'how to find a CTO for a startup?'
Step 1: Job Description
To ensure that you will attract the right audience to your job offer, you need a precise and appealing job description. Reflect on the idea of a perfect candidate and carefully analyze it. Ask yourself, what kind of person should he or she be? But be cautious and critical regarding your thoughts. Throw away irrelevant characteristics and nuances that are not that important or which do not matter for the company’s success. Leave just the essence. Don’t go over the top and be aware of your budget limitations. As for the experience, remember that a senior developer/engineer with a managing experience and a strategic mindset can be a great match as well. Overall, look for a diverse individual who is willing to juggle several roles and has a perceptive and cautious mind.
Afterward, don’t forget to defy ‘red-flags,’ points that signal that the candidate isn’t suitable. For instance,
- the absence of a critically important experience.
- the requirements regarding remote work and schedule (flexibility of a schedule can be a deal-breaker)
- should a candidate have the possibility to travel abroad?
- is there a minimum duration of a contract?
- other company-specific peculiarities
Job description for a CTO position should be as captivating as the first season of GoT and as straight to the point as a three-point basketball goal. Thus,
- avoid cliches, and too general statements
- be clear, concise, and direct
- overall, make sure to sell the position, including unique features and benefits your company provides
There should be a tangible character in the CTO’s job description. A person should read it and think, “That sounds like me and like a company I want to work for.”
Note: you may also decide to find a fractional CTO, which will work for your company part-time. You can be uncomfortable with such ain idea, but don't neglect it. A part-time CTO can be an ideal solution, which is less expensive and yet sufficiently productive.
Step 2: Promote a Vacancy
After the ultimate job description is ready, it’s time to promote it. It’s quite likely your candidates wouldn’t be actively looking for a new job but rather be passive observers who entertain the idea of career growth and change. Therefore, casual platforms with vacancies, such as Indeed, or Glassdoor, may not be the best option for promoting the job opening (Of course, you should not neglect these platforms. However, if they are your main focus, you may struggle to find a sufficient number of suitable candidates).
Instead, aim at places where your audience spends time surfing or communicating. Social networks, such as Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook can prove useful. Hell, even Reddit can be a powerful tool for reaching the right candidates. Explore niche tech groups. If possible post your job opening there and wait. If viable, pay for ads to promote the vacancy in those groups. Listen to people and explore the environment. Let the marketing team (if you have one) to exercise all their creativity and skills on this task, lift the limitations off. It can yield amazing results.
Of course, nothing will beat a good personal network and recommendations. Ask for advice and recommendations from your peers. If they don’t have relevant information to share, perhaps, they can connect you to people who, in turn, can provide you with advice or introduce to great CTO candidates. Pull the strings of your social network to the best of your ability. You never know about the hidden Gems until you start searching.
Finally, consider local or national tech events. The talent pool that attends them can be significant, and a properly positioned announcement can win you a lot of candidates.
Step 3: Cultural Fit
In the best-case scenario, you will have few good candidates for a CTO position to choose from. The urge to pick the one with the most impressive experience and an arsenal of technical skills can be borderline irresistible. However, remember that you need a perfect fit for your company and not just a great professional. CTO is such an important, central figure to the company’s well-being that the cultural fit is essential. A person that shares similar values, work ethic, and passion will be much more successful at bringing your company to the next level. In addition, such a person will be more likely to stay with the company for longer. Therefore, if you have to choose from several good candidates, prioritizes cultural fit, motivation, integrity, and moral qualities over other characteristics.
Step 4: Irresistible Offer
When the deal gets to offer, it’s up to you to decide what unique benefits, salary, and special propositions the company can deliver. There are always options regardless of the company’s size and maturity. While established enterprises can offer great benefits and insurance, startups can offer equity and a possibility to play a central role in the creation of something new and interesting. If it’s viable, offer more than the candidate’s expectations. It will demonstrate to him or her the seriousness of your intentions. Make the offer in person and be sincere. It’s quite likely that the candidate will have other offers as well, so you will be in a competition where your passion and interest in the person’s abilities play a decisive role.
The rest is up to the candidate. If there is that special entrepreneurial chemistry between the company and a probable CTO, you will have a new executive in no time.
Alternative Step: CTO as a service
If you don't feel like starting an epic quest of finding a CTO or simply lack resources and/or time, you have an alternative. In this case, you can aim for CTO as a service for startups or established companies. What is CTO as a service? Some organizations provide CTO services, offering their business and tech expertise, advice, counseling, and strategies on achieving business needs for sale. Often, CTO as a service is the best way to find a startup CTO.
CTO can be an invaluable business and tech partner, steering your company in the right direction and ensuring that investments are well-spent, tech requirements met, and the company is competitive technology-wise. However, finding a suitable candidate and hiring one is a difficult task that requires dedication, patience, and a carefully measured approach.
However, hiring is not the only option available to people who require the immediate help from a CTO or simply a temporary solution for a period of unrest. In this case, you can also partner with a technically-savvy company that can provide some guidance or offer CTO as a service. We, actually, suit the profile. KindGeek is a full-cycle software development company with diverse experience, which includes helping startups to make their ideas a digital reality and managing products to achieve success.
P.S. If tou feel a need for additional inspiration before going on a CTO quest, perhaps, our article on Top Interesting UK Startups will boost your morale a bit. The creativity and drive behind the startups are infectious.