Diary of an Accidental CTO: Identify Your Daily Radar

"Identify your daily radar"

Another diary instalment from our great friend Mostafa Khattab, based in Dubai and experiencing at first hand the challenges faced by someone dropped into a CTO role ahead of their planned schedule aka The Accidental CTO.

For those interested in starting from the beginning, you can find at the footer of this article links to earlier segments from this series but for Part 4 in the series, please read on .....

"“I’m sure for all of us there is a risk of getting distracted by the many different things you are working on at the same time.  But another steep learning curve for me as an accidental CTO has been the sheer volume of potential distractions that come with senior management and how you need to understand very quickly how too prioritise, delegate or drop certain tasks. For those of us coming up through the ranks as engineers and perfectionists, it's far from easy to do"

I find it particularly challenging because I have always struggled identifying what should I be focused on each day. Everything always seems to the most important item on my list and I struggled often to see the wood for the trees. This really intensifies with the demands of management and leadership.

After stumbling around in the dark I gradually found a key to performing more effectively and efficiently as a CTO and that was by identifying my daily radar.

The Daily Radar

It took me some time to discipline myself into creating an effective daily checklist. Without it your productivity and impact is dramatically reduced. This seems simple to explain in hindsight, but thrust unexpectedly into this role I really suffered by a lack of daily structure and having to constantly fire fight.

But having an effective daily checklist also needs a deep understanding about your company, colleagues and solution break points around which you can build that daily radar.

Here's an example of my early morning radar and checklist:

  1. Is the system working fine this morning or was there an issue overnight?
  2. Has any data loss taken place?
  3. Is there any data or security breach?
  4. Is there any query or collaboration needed with other teams?
  5. Is there any bottleneck that I need to solve myself?

This is now my routine when "opening the shop" each day.

Then there are the wider, more ongoing checklists which include wider operational questions, such as ...

  1. Are we using the right technology in any new added service?
  2. Are we using the right architecture ?
  3. Are we good with current deliverables deadlines?
  4. How are we coping with the new technologies?
  5. Needing to understand team performance and their current load

The Radar Is Always Moving

That radar will always be changing as your team scales up or down. You need to update it based on the new status or deliverables for your company and how you are planning to work on it.

Your objectives will change as will priorities for the radar but it needs always to be consistent on what needs to be done to achieve target deliverables and how to focus your time on having the biggest impact to achieve them.

And you must always be honest with yourself about where a blockage might be (it could be you) and explore how to automate and/or delegate a process that releases you to spend more time focused on the new technologies and value add that your company has promoted you as CTO, maybe ahead of schedule, to achieve.

Avoid being bogged down in the weeds. Put controls and a daily radar in place to make your time most effective.

Mostafa Khattab, CTO, Wake Technologies, Dubai

January 2021

For earlier instalments ...

Diary of an Accidental CTO, Part 1

Diary of an Accidental CTO, Part 2

Diary of an Accidental CTO, Part 3

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