Newsletter #105 : Accidental CTO and Do What You Want

June 14, 2021


CTO Academy deliver tailored leadership skills training and career development services for global tech leaders.


Do What You Want To Do

Hey everyone, if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that you really should be doing what you want to do in your life and certainly in your work.

When I mentioned this to Bianca – she immediately came up with a video quoting Bob Dylan and the  wonderful @guspower.

We’re rejoined this week in the newsletter by Mostafa Khattab and his latest blog post on the steep learning curve of an Accidental CTO.

Elsewhere it’s more insight and wisdom plus, only two weeks until our next Live Masterclass with Zoe Fragou looking at The Art of Negotiation, and How to Always Win: Win.  As a CTO your life is full of negotiation so really useful to get her expert insight on what can make the difference.

As ever, it’s been a busy week so make sure it’s the weekend you want.
Stay safe.


Accidental CTO, Reflections on Before and After

Today the latest instalment from Mostafa Khattab, CTO at Wakecap Technologies in Dubai and his Diary of an Accidental CTO blog, or as he calls it “The Ahead of Schedule” CTO.

“I have tried to detail in this blog specific changes in my role as I took on this new status as CTO and the challenges I personally faced. This week I’ve been reflecting on how my life looked before and after.

When I think about the fundamental change that took over my working life when becoming that accidental CTO, it wasn’t directly a change of tasks (though they do change of course) nor that my focus dramatically altered in what I was trying to do and achieve but the real psychological impact was knowing that now I was responsible for everything and of course, I was also now responsible for everyone in these technical teams…..”

You can read the full article here.

Articles That Caught Our Eye This Week
Beyond VC: The fundraising alternatives for Europe’s startups... After three years of bootstrapping, Guillaume Moubeche, the co-founder of French email software provider Lemlist, announced in February that his startup was looking to raise capital. Over the course of a couple of weeks, he received two separate offers, for $20 million and $30 million. He didn’t intend to take either.

“When you look at the [VC] community and the media, they only talk about companies that have raised money, and there’s so much pressure as a founder to take funding even if you don’t need it,” Moubeche said. “I wanted to send a message that fundraising should not be the definition of a startup’s success and that you can succeed on your own terms.”

VCs have no shortage of dry powder to deploy, with Europe on track for venture investment to hit new heights. Q1 2021 saw a record amount of capital invested, with €17.6 billion (about $21.3 billion) spread across more than 1,900 deals, according to PitchBook data. But for many startups, taking VC investment comes at a cost: control.

Calm’s Will Larson On How To Build a Technical Leadership Career There are plenty of resources and advice on unlocking the secrets of the engineering management career path. But what if the manager role is not for you?

That question has been on Will Larson‘s mind for a long time. For those who don’t know him, Will has over 10 years of experience in the likes of Yahoo, Digg, Uber, and Stripe, and he’s currently the CTO of Calm, the mindfulness app that helps millions of people to lower their stress levels and sleep better. As it turns out, he’s also quite the writer – since 2018, he has published not one but two books on engineering.  Brian Scanlan, the Principal Systems Engineer of Intercom, sat down with Will to talk about all things staff engineer – what it is, how to get there, and what happens when you progress beyond a senior engineering role.

The Architecture of Uber’s API GatewayAt the most abstract level, a gateway is yet another service serving data through APIs. Gateways come in many flavours and cover a wide spectrum, from low-level load balancers acting as API gateway, to a very feature-rich, application-level load balancer that operates on the request and response payloads in those APIs. At Uber, they developed a feature-rich API gateway that is capable of complex operations on the incoming and outgoing data payload across multiple protocols. At the most abstract level, a gateway is yet another service serving data through APIs.

Gateways come in many flavours and cover a wide spectrum, from low-level load balancers acting as API gateway, to a very feature-rich, application-level load balancer that operates on the request and response payloads in those APIs. At Uber, they developed a feature-rich API gateway that is capable of complex operations on the incoming and outgoing data payload across multiple protocols.

The Engineer’s Guide to Career Growth – Advice from My Time at Stripe and FacebookRaylene Yung likes to say that her path into engineering management was in some ways gradual, and in others, a wild ride full of challenges at every twist and turn. Her first taste of life as an engineering manager came at Facebook in 2011, on what she describes as a tiny team. “It was three people — including myself,” says Yung. “The day-to-day wasn’t all that different. I was still diving into code, but balancing that with learning how to recruit and hold 1:1s.”

Then the wild ride began. Yung had to strap in as her team took on more in scope, growing from three to thirty, and beyond. “I moved on from reviewing code to owning company metrics and building teams in multiple offices,” she says.

By the time Yung left Facebook in 2015, she was the youngest engineering director at a public company with over 10,000 employees — several rungs up from where she had started, as a new grad at the then 700-person startup.



It’s a classic this week …. But it’s a goodie

“The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People  It comes up time and again in some of our sessions so we thought we’d include it as a Book of the Week.

This classic presents a principle-centred approach for solving both personal and professional problems. With penetrating insights and practical anecdotes, the late Stephen R. Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity – principles that give us the security to adapt to change and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates. This book has been the key to the success of legions of business leaders and individuals the world over.

“This book suggests a journey to become effective people. The author gives a clear vision: build your private victory by being proactive, have a set of values and principles that deeply touch with who you are. Only after that build synergy with the people around you by listening with the intent to understand first and then thinking Win-Win. Finally, keep practicing the entire journey again and again”.



Steve Jobs…The Speech That Won’t Be Forgotten 



CTO Academy Live Masterclass – 16th June

A few places left for our next live masterclass looking at The Art of Negotiation and How to Always Win: Win – and due to take place 16th June 2021.

Seats are limited so that everyone gets the opportunity to learn, engage and share with the host and cohort.

For more information about the June masterclass – click on the image below or the link above.



The Power of Group Coaching … 

CTO Academy Tribes is our group coaching and peer-2-peer support programme.

It’s a powerful way to learn and share knowledge alongside like minded peers, facing and negotiating similar challenges to you.

New tribes forming towards the end of June with cohorts based around established, recently appointed and aspiring CTOs

Come and find your tribe ….

Download Our Free eBook!

90 Things You Need To Know To Become an Effective CTO

CTO Academy Ebook - CTO Academy

Latest posts

IT Manager: Role, Responsibilities and Optimal Skill Set with Average Salary Breakdown - blog post cover image

IT Manager: Role, Responsibilities, Required Skills and Average Salary

An IT Manager (a.k.a Information Technology Manager) oversees and manages IT operations, systems and infrastructure. Additionally, they serve as a connection between technology strategies and the broader goals of the organisation. As such, they a) ensure the efficient, secure operation of IT resources and b) nurture the overarching objectives of the business. Common types of […]


What’s the Value of a CTO?

As many of you will be aware, one of our key missions at CTO Academy is to see a CTO on every board. A part of that mission is to research the real value of a CTO. Now, we can all agree that it is nonsensical not to have deep technical knowledge at the board […]

Field CTO in action - blog post cover image

The Field CTO – An Explanation

In this post, we explain the relatively new Field CTO role and how it differs from a more traditional Chief Technology Officer role. We will see how a Field CTO job description determines the type of person suitable for the job. We will take a look at the job prospects and, of course, the average […]

Transform Your Career & Income

Our mission is simple.

To arm you with the leadership skills required to achieve the career and lifestyle you want.