What is a CTO?


What is a CTO? CTO definition What does a CTO do? CTO training CTO Skills Required CTO Technical Skills

What is a CTO?

Chief technical officers (CTO’s) make sure their companies have the equipment, know-how, and skills to deal with anything related to technology. CTOs oversee programs in all sectors of their companies to ensure that the business and technology aspects work seamlessly. CTOs deal with data, networks, the Internet, the telephones and cell phones, and the company’s technical support sections, among other aspects. Chief technology officers also work with sales, marketing, and the CEO to refine the company’s strategy and game plan. A CTO has many faces, and they can handle many different jobs, all depending on the size of the company. No matter what their company’s ultimate goal is, CTOs ensure their companies have the technical expertise to make the mission happen. It could mean leading a team of developers, managing a division of software engineers or making technological choices as efficiently as possible. The CTO is there to align all technical strategies with business strategies, so they need to be experienced in the commercial side of the business as well. Through sharing their expertise, CTOs make sure that both important hemispheres of the company work in perfect harmony. Without their knowledgeable decisions, the company could flounder. They are the technological hive mind behind all the most important daily decisions that keep the company afloat. When it comes to the products themselves, the CTO is there to make sure that every technical area runs smoothly, from efficiency to reliability. A proper CTO manages all things technical while making sure the daily functions go as planned on a micro level as well as macro. Their expert knowledge from a variety of fields allows them to select the most effective practices needed to keep the business productive. Yet, the role of the CTO could mean something different from business to business. As the CTO oversees all the technological processes that a company undertakes, they are a company’s highest authority on technology. When recruiting for CTO jobs Companies vet CTO prospects to ensure they are capable of making tough decisions in a short time, all for the betterment and general efficiency of the task at hand. After all, a company’s technological needs can rapidly shift to match a campaign they’re undertaking. In this way, the role of the CTO has to be inherently fluid. Technology continually undergoes innovations, inventions, revolutions, and paradigm shifts. CTOs face near-constant change in what they need to know in their day-to-day jobs. The role of the CTO is all about providing solutions to problems. In today’s climate, business and technology have never been more intertwined. As a result, if one side isn’t holding up their end, it will affect the entire flow of the business. By making sure all the technical processes run smoothly, the CTO ensures that the business has the best chance of succeeding. Back to top

CTO definition

A CTO’s main objective is to consider the short- and long-term objectives of a company and make technological decisions to help them succeed in the most efficient way possible. This position has only grown in popularity in the modern digital age, as there was no real need for it before information technologies became widespread. As opposed to a chief information officer, or CIO, the CTO is more concerned with the day-to-day operations of the company rather than the sum of its parts. For example, a CIO focuses on the IT itself, while the CTO focuses on providing support for the programs. CTOs are seen more and more in businesses heavily dependent on modern technologies, such as developers, E-commerce companies, and programs of national defense. If there is a great need for smooth-running technical programs, there is a need for a CTO. They are the glue that allows all the different facets of a company to run cohesively and without fail. The critical distinction to make is that the role of the CTO differs between companies, so the CTO may not necessarily handle all of the IT programs for a business. There are other roles, such as an IT director or a CIO, that may supersede the CTO when it comes to technological responsibilities. In some cases, these are the people that the CTO reports to. Officials predict that these types of jobs will only increase over the next decade. Back to top  

What does a CTO do?

Generally, the CTO oversees the entirety of a company’s technological infrastructure. Depending on a company’s needs, the CTO takes care of several facets, including but not limited to:
  • Data
  • Network
  • Cybersecurity
  • Customer relations, basically acting as a middleman while delivering technical services to the target market
  • Technological strategies
  • Analysis and critical thinking skills related to the best ways to address the target audience
  • Working closely with the marketing and sales teams, while being in direct communication with the CEO
  • Creating in-depth business models and identifying weak spots to address
The CTO acts as both a planner and an executor when it comes to a company’s general strategic makeup. Their extensive experience in their given industry allows them to know what the best course of action is when a problem arises. They need to be extremely well-versed in the ins and outs of a business’s operations on every level. As they work extensively with the IT side of affairs and the business side, they continuously work to find new and innovative solutions to inbounding concerns. Back to top

CTO training

A CTO needs to be adequately trained on all levels of management and critical thinking skills, not to mention their proficiency in the field of IT technologies. Just being an expert at technical programs is not enough. They need to understand what it takes to oversee a group of employees, while still working together with higher-ups in the company. If they don’t see eye-to-eye with their business counterparts, it could spell serious trouble for the organization. There are many different training programs that CTOs can and will undertake before they earn their position. The responsibility alone calls for a period of understudy and extensive courses on everything from customer relations to negotiation to team building. A company will vet a candidate for this position over time. A current or former CTO may mentor them so they can understand the highly complicated nuances of the job. There are online courses, E-books, lectures, seminars, and conventions dedicated to this expanding field. The best way to train a chief technology officer is by immersion, mentoring, and careful study. CTOs learn the ropes while learning the critical skills it takes to think for themselves in highly complex situations with little time to delay. Back to top

CTO Skills Required

The job of a CTO is never set in stone. They must be able to adapt to changing markets regularly in almost every capacity imaginable. With something as delicate as the ever-changing field of IT, they need to be ready and able to always continue their education on a variety of technical topics like coding, software, and updates. Even so, there is so much more to the position than what takes place technologically. A proper CTO is a natural leader who isn’t afraid to make tough decisions on short notice. They must be able to consider several different factors at once, while still taking the time to express themselves well to the team around them. As the success of the company rests on their shoulders, they should be able to think both micro and macro when it comes to the decision-making process. If they can dedicate themselves to a method of continuous learning, exceptional interpersonal skills, and negotiation, they should excel at the position. Back to top

CTO Technical Skills

The CTO should be an absolute authority on all things technical in the company. As a result, they need to live up to their title. A CTO ideally will have an advanced degree or equitable experience in the field when it comes to competence in information technologies. CTOs should not only be able to efficiently diagnose and treat any problem going on their computer systems. They should be capable enough to deliver creative results for campaigns that further the company’s agenda on many different levels. CTOs need to be able to communicate and explain issues to their team. A CTO’s advanced knowledge may make it difficult for other people to understand the scope of some issues. A qualified CTO can expertly code and debug any system they get their hands on. Chief technical officers are the most crucial technological figure in the company. People rely on them to fix their mistakes before they do any more damage. Alongside their tech savvy skill set, they should be able to work seamlessly with the business side of things. They need to understand how to break issues down in layman’s terms and teach other people why their solution is the best possible answer to a problem. As a constant learner and a constant teacher, it takes a special person to be a CTO. Back to top

Written by Andrew Weaver

Andrew has 20+ years of executive level commercial and strategic experience. He has launched, managed, fund raised, bought and sold a range of businesses across sectors as varied as eCommerce, legal tech, property, travel & tourism, energy and professional services. He leads the Start Up accelerator programme hosted by Escape The City in London and regularly mentors individual entrepreneurs, at different stages of their journey. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

October 28, 2018


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